Hands On: Shadow Complex

Shadow Complex hits you like a missile, pushing you into the middle of a short, tense and hugely exciting battle with no training and no preparation with just a smart transistion from real-time cutscene to jaw-dropping player control contradicting everything you previously thought about downloadable production standards. Yes, this is built on the Unreal Engine but it moves with such ferocity and speed that you’ll think you were playing the game in fast forward, and the way the game engine throws changes in perspective is quite astonishing considering you’ve not needed to go anywhere near a shop to purchase it.

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Naturally, once the brief introduction is over developers Chair Entertainment rein back the action, slowing down the pacing and introducing you to main character Jason Fleming, an obvious fan of Nathan Drake (complete with under-the-belt-buckle shirt fashion) but with enough of his own attitude and charisma to fully engage the player. Without the arsenal of a small country in his backpack Fleming, equipped with just a torch at first, slowly makes his way through the game Metroid style upgrading along the admittedly linear (albeit one filled with twists) path, in the pursuit of girlfriend Claire in a tale penned by comic book writer and Star Trek novelist Peter David.

So, after three or four hours with the game we’ve been through underground caverns on our knees, sniping for head shots in clinical white laboratories and diving underwater in massive outdoor areas trying to escape a particularly angry helicopter. Shadow Complex, if nothing else, likes to keep you on your toes and to be honest I’ve not felt as captivated by a game, downloadable or not, this generation – it’s literally a rush, every single screen throwing you onwards whilst continuously challenging and rewarding in equal measure. Gameplay wise, it’s a delight.

Visually, too, it’s incredibly slick. The textures indicate the delivery format, but only up close, and although there’s the odd pixelated tree or rock stolen from an N64 game overall Shadow Complex is stunning to look at, with everything flashing past at a fair old clip with some impressive lighting and distinct changes in palette as you move between areas of the game – we’ll save the finer details until the full review, though. Sound, too, is superb – there’s full voice acting throughout and everyone from the main protagonists to the background NPCs have plenty of well delivered, clear (and often funny) dialogue.

There’s literally nothing I don’t like about Shadow Complex so far. The game has continued to throw new mechanics at me without ever diluting the core ‘rules’ of the game and the drip feed of weaponry, powerups and new abilities is perfectly executed to keep you playing through. Boss battles are a delight, it’s technically superb and as far as we can tell represents extraordinary value for money – the downsides? It’s only single player, and although there’s loads to collect and find the story won’t change on your second playthrough. Regardless, Shadow Complex is the dog’s.

Look forward to it next Wednesday.

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