Role-playing games haven't changed much: magic, beasts and twentysomething virgins oh, my! That is, until now. FASA Studios created, and recently released, a first-person shooter based on the cyberpunk (you know, high-tech, low-life) cult pen-and-paper fantasy game from the '80s. The game also marks Microsoft's first attempt at cross-platform gameplay between Xbox 360 and Windows Vista users yeah, you can play on either the 360 console or the PC.
Set in the future in the fictional city of Santos, four races have emerged, split between two opposing sides (dividing the races equally stomps out any fictional racism) of the Republic the corporate security "RNA Global" and the pragmatic terrorist group "The Lineage"; it's the classic blue vs. red format. With these races (human, elf, troll and dwarf all of which have different qualities) an emergence of magic occurs along with the emblematic warfare of SMG's, shotguns and rifles presenting gameplay equal parts Lord of the Rings and Total Recall.
Shadowrun is, primarily, an online Xbox Live or Windows Live game. There are three online game modes in which up to 16 players can vie; attrition, raid and extraction. In attrition, the players compete to kill all of the members of the opposing team in traditional FPS format. The other two game modes are glorified capture-the-flag combats in which the opposing teams must gain control of the "artifact" and escape one of the nine maps alive. Conversely, the loading time to enter a battle is long, minutes long. But, while other games are subject to constant glitches and server drops, Shadowrun's multiplayer gameplay is seamless, making the extended loading time worth the wait.
The RNA and the Lineage battle each other and survive with a variety of supernatural talents. Gamers can teleport through walls, resurrect their fallen teammates, summon a beast to guard a designated area or even plant a "Tree of Life" that fills the life bars of those beneath its cover. Players must purchase these powers at the start of each match with moneys gained from previous performances and can only utilize three different abilities in each match. Shadowrun's inclusion of magical might propels the First-Person Shooter experience to levels that the standard and extremely popular Halo series fails to recognize. The new and innovative layers to Shadowrun's multiplayer format provide a benchmark for future releases not only to the Shadowrun series, but to the entire industry.
However, aside from the six essential training sequences, Shadowrun offers nothing to those without one of the said memberships. Shadowrun is somewhat of a tease with no single-player action. Let's hope that the next version is more expansive because FASA Studios left the game incomplete for its $60 price tag.Dustin Walsh is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]