Microsoft Game Studios’ Shadowrun, since it was first announced and demonstrated at E3 2006, has been a source of controversy among video game enthusiasts and dyed in the wool pen and paper zealots. A multiplayer FPS designed alongside the MechWarrior boys FASA, the game takes elements from the popular role-playing franchise and distills them into a purely action oriented experience that skates across the surface of the source material rather than dives right in.
This alone makes the game hard to love for those with fond memories of the of the traditional game, let alone the 16-bit incarnations for both the SNES and Genesis. In comparison, Shadowrun for the Xbox 360 is hardly recognizable and a different beast altogether. Not to say this is a terrible thing, just…well…different.
So what is Shadowrun?
Set in and around Santos Brazil in the year 2031, Shadowrun tells a story of struggle between two opposing forces, namely the RNA Global mega-corporation and the Lineage, a 5000 year old secret society dedicated to defending a magical power that was recently unearthed by RNA Global.
As a game, Shadowrun is played over a series of rounds involving up to 16 players, 8 versus 8, at a time. During the first 30 seconds of each round, players have the opportunity to buy additional weapons, magic and tech, spending the money earned during play for winning rounds and for actions during gameplay, including killing opponents, carrying the artifact, and using certain abilities to help the team. Players on the losing team also earn some money between rounds.
The winning team is the first one to win six rounds. Each round is four minutes with the possibility of one minute overtime, and the method of winning is determined by the type of game being played, including Raid, Extraction and Attrition. Sounds a bit more like a sport than a bitter conflict, eh?
Three types of gameplay you say?
Shadowrun‘s three different gameplay modes each offer something different, and each require different conditions for victory. The Raid game type requires the attacking team to capture a magical artifact and deliver it to the extraction area. The defending team must stop the attackers from escaping with the artifact. The artifact always starts in the same place and only the attackers can carry it. If it is dropped and not picked back up, it will eventually return to its initial location. With one side on offense and the other on defense Raid is the more tactical of the game types, often feeling like a high speed chess match with magic and machine guns.
With the Extraction game type, the artifact starts in the center of the map. Both teams can pick the artifact up. Each team wants to bring the artifact to a separate extraction area on the opposite side of the map from where they start. Extraction is the more fast paced and frantic game type, as both sides are after the same thing so combat happens at a more brisk and frenetic pace.
Finally, Attrition is basically a game of team deathmatch, however there is no respawn. The only way to come back into a specific round is to be resurrected by a teammate.
So…how do I kill things?
Shadowrun offers an array of weapons for the discerning shopper, from explosives and swords, to the tried and true shotgun. In total, the game offers nine different weapons for players to purchase between rounds, including close range guns such as the pistol and SMG, medium range weapons such as the minigun, and guns to pick off your opponent from across the quad, such as the sniper rifle and rocket launcher. Each player also starts with two grenades per round and can carry two weapons plus these grenades at any given time.
In addition to these, Shadowrun players also have access to both magic and tech to help give them the upper hand. Magic and tech give a player the ability to do game-changing things and are usually the key to a team’s winning or losing a round. These elements work against each other, however; Essence is required to cast magic and tech reduces the amount of Essence available. Because of this, a player can choose to rely exclusively on magic, only on tech, or can try to balance a little of both.
Note that neither magic nor tech can be used while carrying the magical artifact. Attempting to activate a tech or cast a spell will force you to drop the artifact. Any passive abilities granted by magic or tech also do not function while carrying the artifact.
Essence is the magical energy needed to cast spells. A player begins the game with a full pool of Essence represented by a column of circles in the lower left of the screen, and every spell that is cast takes its cost from that pool. Over time, the Essence pool will regenerate, filling back up to its maximum.
However, having tech assigned for use will reduce the maximum size of this pool. Each tech has its own Essence penalty associated with it and assigning multiple techs will reduce the available Essence by the total of these penalties. Tech penalties are shown at the top of the Essence bar. Certain spells will also temporarily drain a portion of the Essence pool while they are in effect. This is called investment, and investments are shown at the bottom of the Essence bar.
What are the different magics?
Shadowrun features seven different magics than can be used by players, as detailed below:
Tree of Life: Creates a magical tree that heals anyone, friend or foe, that stands under it. The tree is a physical object and provides cover and some concealment, though it can be shot and destroyed. It can heal a limited amount of health, after which it is destroyed. Healing your teammates with a tree of life will earn you money.
Resurrect: When you cast Resurrect it brings back to life any dead within a short radius, tying them to you. This is a powerful ability and will cost you some essence as an investment if anyone is actually resurrected. You can resurrect multiple nearby players in a single cast and a single investment by moving over multiple bodies while casting. You will make a portion of any money that the resurrected player earns.
If the resurrected player dies, they will not leave a body and cannot be resurrected again and you will regain the invested essence. Destroying enemy bodies will prevent the enemy team from resurrecting dead teammates.
If you die, any players that you have resurrected will start losing health at a fairly rapid rate. In this state, they can be re-resurrected by another teammate and saved, but if they are not, they will likely die in short order.
Strangle: Creates magical crystals that damage and drain essence from players that run into them. The crystals also attract and trap players for a short while, though the individual crystal is destroyed by this. Each cast of Strangle costs you some essence as an investment. When all of the crystals from a particular cast are destroyed, you will regain the invested essence. The crystals are useful for blocking routes and slowing enemy passage.
Gust: Creates a strong gust of wind that will disrupt enemy aim and send them flying, potentially off of ledges and to their doom. Gust is useful in denying opponents access to an area and also damages players that are smoked (see A