It’s one of the most protracted tutorials you’ll ever play, but ifs also one of the most promising: regenerative golden trees straight from an Aronofsky film; magic-sucking grenades that weaken minds and Trolls’ armored hides; energy monsters summoned from the place between worlds; brain gear that lets you spot enemies behind walls—and juju that lets you teleport through those walls. Work your way through Shodowrun’s offline training missions, and youll begin to believe its tagline’s bold claim that by gum, the rules of engagement have been rewritten.

But. as with most magic tricks. Shadowrun turns from *Ooh!” to “Oh’ once you spot the ace tucked up the prestidigitator’s sleeve. That summoned beast from beyond? Well, he’s pretty much a turret The noble Tree of Life? A health dispenser placed by another game’s medic. Enhanced Vision? Teleport? Developer-sanctioned wall hacks. Derivation is no sin by default of course—so why does this shooter wear out its welcome so quickly?
Maybe it’s the game types: You basically get only two versions of Capture the Rag and one version of Deathmatch. and that’s it Maybe it’s the waiting; Click “Play,” and it can take up to five minutes to find your first game, assuming you haven’t messed with your game-type preferences (to be fair, once you’re hooked up with a party, play moves smoothly from match to match…unless a server goes down; then it’s back to square one).
Maybe it’s the maps—complex anthills of zigzagging corridors and crisscrossing ramps, with multiple high roads for gliding types, underground tunnels for folks who prefer to crawl up ladders the old-fashioned way, and compound layers to mitigate the tactical trump card of X-ray vision and teleponation. The magical backdrops hang together belter—both structurally and thematkally—than the unappealing shantytowns and warehouses, and so only half of the nine maps really qualify as much fun. Maybe it’s the overall lack of variety: Many single-player shooters (or their free mods) have more multiplayer content than this stand-alone game.
Or maybe it’s Shadownjn’s ultimate solution to cross-platform play. Depending on how you look at it FASA has either given Xbox 360 players luxurious aim assistance (get your enemy in the big pizza-sized targeting circle and you’re set—or purchase Smartlink technology for even more tracking help), or they’ve gimped PC players by eliminating the advantage of pixel precision. As in some other tactical shooters, moving temporarily widens your cone of spray, which would be fine if most weapons weren’t hugely inaccurate even when you’re crouched and statue-still. Only the sniper rifle takes much advantage of the mouse. Even hotkeys are gimped—you can purchase a large number of powers over the course of a game, but you can map only three at a time (exactly the right number to fit on the 360 controller’s bumpers and triggers). PC shooter buffs will rightly resent this—and FASA’s succeeded in making a PC FPS that will appeal mostly to people who don’t like FPSes. That kind of paradox would normally stop a game’s development cold on day one.
This is also the first time I’ve seen Live Achievements actively work against a game. In public matches, team tactics vanish as folks spam Trees of life (“I’m trying to get my Healing Achievement'”) or run rampant with swords simply so they can finish up their MMORPG-ish quota of 100 katana kills. I know this because people announce these intentions over Live chat as often as they yell, “Rez me! Rez me! Rez me!’

The PC version of Shadowrun does come with its own unique joy: Your rare arnval in a game lobby is treated like the return of a lost astronaut, the discovery of the last unicorn, or the birth of a messiah. The heavens open; the fatted calf is slaughtered Achievements unlock in your wake. The Live voices stop jabbenng and whisper, awed. “The Vista player…he is here’

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