Shadow Complex Hands-On PreviewBy Sterling McGarvey - Posted Jun 10, 2009
It’s no secret that Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski is a huge fan of side-scrolling action games like Super Metroid and Castlevania. So it’s appropriate that he made an appearance at Microsoft’s E3 press conference to show off Shadow Complex, a new title in the vein of those aforementioned classics. We checked out a short demo of the game in action, and it could be one of the biggest buzz generators of the summer.
Chair Entertainment, an Epic subsidiary, has teamed up with legendary sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card to deliver a new game under the umbrella of Card’s Empire universe. Based on what I previewed at E3, this could be a great introduction for many gamers to Card’s newest works. The gameplay hook is certainly there. Shadow Complex evokes a similar sense of revived nostalgia for side-scrolling adventure that I felt for classic arcade shooters when Geometry Wars dropped at 360’s launch. If the rest of the game holds up as well as my ten-minute taste, gamers are going to be very happy.
The demo started (in true genre fashion) with a supremely badass super-soldier mowing through waves of enemies, then finding himself stripped of all of his powers. The action cut to a hiker and his girlfriend in the forest. After a day of hiking, the couple settles in to relax when the young woman is abducted by mysterious men. It’s up to the hiker to follow these grunts and rescue his girl. He tracks them down to an underground bunker filled with security guards and drones. Plotwise, the lead-in is fairly textbook stuff for gamers.
I entered the complex and quickly discovered that being unarmed has its disadvantages. If you’re spotted, surveillance cameras will block your access through the facility. It took some careful maneuvering, but after a few minutes, I discovered a sidearm. From there, it looked like Nathan Drake stepping into Samus Aran’s shoes. All of the side-scroller acoutrements, from 8-way shooting to the map system, felt totally familiar and intuitive. I discovered that the hiker’s flashlight also exposes areas that you can shoot your way into, such as ventilation shafts. After fighting my way to an escape route, I found the door blocked by a giant robotic arachnid. In classic Symphony of the Night-esque fashion, it took up a big chunk of the screen, and I wrestled to stave it off with an assortment of hand grenades. Once it was defeated, my time was up, and the demo wrapped five minutes ahead of its self-contained fifteen minute limit.
Presentation and execution seem to be the key for Shadow Complex. It’s a great-looking homage to an era that’s been inspirational for game designers. Although the cutscenes show off some generic-looking characters, the side-scrolling action looks fantastic. Also, many of the game’s elements, from 8-way shooting to platforming and even the map system, all crib ideas from great games past. In other words, if you’ve been playing the DS Castlevania games of recent years and loving them, this should certainly grab your attention. I fully expect to see gamers ranting, raving, and tweeting about this one in a few months.