Review | Shadow Complex
//Shine a light
This armour is upgraded throughout the game, adding double- and triple-jump abilities, supersonic speed and the ability to breathe underwater. Each of these upgrades allows you to explore different parts of the complex, finding new guns and power-ups along the way. Using your flashlight, you will notice that certain parts of the scenery glow a vibrant colour. Anything green can be destroyed with grenades, anything orange broken down with bullets; there are more to be found, but spoilers would be unfair.
I will, however, say that you’ll use missiles and, interestingly, a foam gun, which shoots foam bullets that rapidly expand to detonate to break open air vents and the like. Using your equipment allows you to pass through these sections and find armour or health upgrades, boost your grenade capacity or even piece together a key card for secrets to be taken.
This is what serves Shadow Complex so well in being an arcade game. It’s all about these simple game mechanics that push you to explore, that force you to remember a green air vent that may hold a secret, or find shortcuts through the scenery so that you’ll arrive at your destination with more speed. Looking in the rafters for a glint of colour signifies that you’re on the right track, and that maybe, if you look hard enough, your armour will take more hits before you expire. So explore you will. The map is huge, passing through woodland, lakes, underground barracks and futuristic laboratory complexes, and you’ll want to soak up every inch of what Chair and EPIC have created.
Considering its size and distribution method, it’s not a short game either, with an average length of four hours and plenty of replay potential to keep going back again and again. You’ll want to beat your completion time and appear on leaderboards, find the full hundred per cent of items, or even attempt to complete the game with only a handful of power-ups.
Then there’s the challenge mode, or Proving Grounds, that tasks you with getting from goal A to goal B using limited suit upgrades – watching your friends’ times all along, of course, and doing your level best to beat them. There’s a wealth of content to be devoured, all of it simply outstanding.
//With great power
From start to finish Shadow Complex is an achievement – for being such a vast and high-quality game to be delivered as a downloadable from XBox Live; for stunning visuals that big-name developers would be envious of; for portraying characters you genuinely care about; for being a masterpiece, a work of art that wows you, plays with your sensory emotions and stimulates all parts of the mind. Claustrophobic, dark caverns envelop you, as you progress in the hope that there’s light at the end of it all, vast vistas hinting at freedom soon dashed by the prescence of yet more danger. Shadow Complex makes you feel that it’s you stuck in this situation, that you need to get to the bottom of this drama.
It’s displayed best in the climax of the game, providing you with one last hurdle that feels so high you may not make it, triggering panic, sweaty palms and a real edge-of-seat sensation that sets the hairs up on your neck.
There’s barely a niggle in the entire game, and the few that do exist be forgiven in the scope of what has been delivered. Yes, a few of the rooms may look slightly bland compared to others – but it is only a few. Yes, the AI is patchy in places, and walking into a room and standing still for three seconds in front of a guard is a bit silly – but it’s a rare occurrence.
Indeed, these small issues are hardly ever a bother, and looking at what Chair and EPIC have together given us they can easily be overlooked. Shadow Complex is something very special – a game that will break boundaries for design in a bite-sized format. It’s a game that oozes charm, and one with action that’s simply breathtaking. Chair have great ambition, and it’s lucky for us that they do, as it’s resulted in the greatest game in XBLA history. Bravo.
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