Shadow Complex was the last title released as a part of Microsoft’s second annual “Summer of Arcade.” There is the old saying about saving the best for last and Microsoft sure did that this year. Shadow Complex is an amazing title on its own merit, especially for an arcade title. Chair Entertainment and Epic Games have created an XBLA masterpiece with nods to classic titles such as Super Metroid as well as current titles such as Epic’s own Gears of War 2.
Shadow Complex is set in the world of Empire. The basic story is that a militia is trying to overthrow the U.S. government and cause a second civil war. The game opens with you trying to save the vice president, however, he is soon killed. After that you find yourself in the woods assuming the role of Jason Flemming. You are on a date and getting set to explore some caves. Your date goes on ahead of you and before you can catch up to her, she gets kidnapped by the militia. Now you have to save her before it is too late while at the same time trying to figure out what you have stumbled onto.
As soon as you start playing you will immediately notice the comparisons between classic titles such as Super Metroid. You start off with almost nothing and as you progress throughout the adventure you will slowly level up and acquire new skills. There are some areas that you will not be able to access until you get a specific item. An example would be that any red door you come across requires missiles. You won’t get missiles until later on in the game so you wouldn’t be able to get in that door for the time being. There are collectibles laying around everywhere throughout your adventure and you will have to find different “packs” to upgrade your equipment. When you first get an item your ammunition will be extremely limited until you find more packs. Once again with missiles when you initially get some you will only be able to carry four until you find another pack that will allow you to carry eight and you will continue to build up your arsenal as you progress through your adventure. You also have a melee attack where you can quietly dispose of enemies if you don’t want to alert others in the area. Although sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t which brings up one of this game’s few shortcomings, the enemy AI.
The enemy AI in Shadow Complex is sporadic. There are times when you enter an area that the enemy will quickly notice your presence and you will either have to take them out quickly or find cover before you get taken out. There are other times though where you can shoot an enemy that is a part of a group and the rest of the group won’t notice that one of their guys has been shot. Now when that happens it makes it easier to take the group out, however, it kind of takes you out of the moment. There were also times when I seemed to bump into an enemy and they still didn’t detect my presence. This was not a regular occurrence, however, it did happen from time to time. Shadow Complex is a 2D game drawn in 3D. Your character can only move on a 2D plane, however, enemies can come at you from all sides and places. At times it can be tricky to aim at enemies that are in the background, however, you should get more used to it as you progress.
Earlier I mentioned how you can upgrade your weapons and the same is true for your character. As you progress you will find different pieces of armor, a hookshot, a propulsion pack that will let you jump higher and various other items. Utilizing these items will allow you to explore previously inaccessible areas, which will in turn allow you to find brand new items. Outside of the main campaign you will also have some “Proving Grounds” to go through where they will provide you with increasingly difficult challenges that you need to overcome. There is even an achievement for successfully completing every challenge. The achievements themselves are fairly easy to come by and you keep track of your status similar to how you did in Gears of War 2. There is an achievement where you need to headshot fifty enemies and every so often you will get a status update telling you how many more enemies to go to get that achievement. It quickly appears in the lower right hand of the screen exactly how it did in Gears. It also keeps track of what your friends did and how close you are to surpassing the next person on the leaderboard, similar to how Geometry Wars 2 did it.
Overall, Shadow Complex is a really fun game and a great way to end the second annual “Summer of Arcade”. It has a couple of problems but they don’t take away from the enjoyment of this title. Shadow Complex takes a classic formula and brings it in to the high definition era giving us a beautiful experience, in more ways than one. It is well worth the asking price and a title that everyone needs to try out. Be sure not to miss out.
Originally posted on Totally Gaming Network