Super Metroid is arguably one of the best and most memorable games in interactive entertainment history. At the time of release back in 1994, it had unparalleled gameplay and depth, a great story and so much replay value that its still booted up in the old SNES regularly today. What Chair Entertainment's Shadow Complex manages to do is take every and all elements that made Super Metroid great, improve on them in every way, throw a little modern day weaponry in there and render some of the most unflawed graphics of this generation, making for what could very well be the greatest XBLA game ever created. Read on to hear more...
From the first action filled prologue to the dramatic climax of the game, Shadow Complex will have you tightly in its completely addictive grasp. When Jason Fleming, whom you take the role of, and his girlfriend Claire take a cave exploring day trip, all hell breaks lose. Claire happens to get kidnapped by a group of terrorists planning to take over the United States, and its up to you to find and rescue her before its too late. This story is loosely based on the story of the 2006 novel, Empire, penned by Orson Scott Card, and the games script is written by the great comic book writer Peter David.
Shadow Complex makes use of a 2.5 dimensional game world, where the player can see and shoot in the games completely 3D world, but can only move in 2 dimensions. This keeps the action very fluent and enjoyable and helps the game appeal to a very broad range of casual gamers, yet still attract the attention of the hardcore gamers who enjoy a classic looking arcade game. This said game world is in fact very large and players are free to explore it as they wish, or alternatively rush through it, and the story as they please. However, rushing through the games immersible story line will leave you starved for weapons and upgrades which you will have to explore the many vents and crevices of the underground military base to discover. But to keep you from getting too frustrated by trying to find that one last grenade upgrade, the games map comes equipped with a little question mark in the areas with a hidden goodie, and although this may seem like its making it too easy, you will still have to creep around and locate this bundle of joy.
Gamers will be attracted to Shadow Complex's easy pick up and play look and feel, but will stay for its addictive story and action. The games controls are very easy to learn, and while they may seem simple and the gameplay straight forward, when mastered, you will be able to pull off some very daring maneuvers and tricks. Said maneuvers will come in handy when faced with multiple opponents and trying to get to those hard to reach places to find some of the hidden unlikable.
At times throughout the game main adventure mode, you may think to yourself 'is this too easy', and the simple answer to that is yes, it is quite easy, but what else is relatively easy is changing the difficulty in the main menu. If you do find yourself dispatching the opposition a bit too easily, try playing on a harder difficulty. But while playing on a higher difficulty may not - apart from the one for playing on the 'Insane' difficulty - earn you any achievements, you will surely not go unrewarded for your daring expertise. The higher your difficulty level, you more XP you earn to level up to the games maximum of 50. Trying to get this magnificent milestone will provide many hours of fun exploration and entertaining action.
Despite the games adventure mode being a very addictive blend of action, stealth, character driven story and exploration, you may find it suiting to take a break from the risky run-n-gun lifestyle and try your hand at Shadow Complex's Proving Grounds. The Proving Grounds are a series of mini-game like challenges in which the player must complete or reach his objective as fast as possible. There are 21 challenges sorted into three Challenge Packs, and individual leaderboards for each and every challenge. This can make for some fun friend rivalries as you desperately try to beat that high score that's just a tad ahead of you. This also gives the freedom for some downloadable challenge packs in the future, which could also prove to be very effective, but well just have to wait and see about them.
The aforementioned leaderboards and challenges don't quite make up for Shadow Complex's lack of multiplayer, which, although would have been quite hard to execute well due to the games style, could have been a neat and enjoyable experience, co-operative in particular.
As mentioned earlier, Shadow Complex features very note worthy graphics. Whether your executing one of the cinematic close combat moves, or watching one of the games cut-scenes, you will notice these amazing graphics and sometimes even forget that your playing an XBLA game. Shadow Complex's stunning graphics not only show-up all other LIVE arcade games, but they stand-tall against most full-priced Xbox 360 games. The attention to detail of the games backgrounds and character models is great, and the animation of the cut-scenes is realistic to an extent that it feels as if you're watching an animated movie. Another feat the games graphics department is its lighting effects and extremes of the transitions from light to dark. An example of this is how well the flashlights beam works while crawling through the pitch black air vents. It spreads the light in a very realistic fashion and reflects from the polished metal.
Shadow Complex has a very detailed gameplay structure and amazing graphics. But these aren't all this great game has going for it. The sound effects of the guns and the detailed sounds for every reload and bullet hit and miss make the action even more intense. And while underwater, the heart pounding sounds enemies bullet, rockets and even grenades make as they pass through the water and explode have the hair on your neck standing up. But while all these explosions and bullets whiz through the air, one cannot help to notice the games score, or lack of in this case. Apart from very certain places and moments, Shadow Complex lacks a full sound score. Although this is just the sound part of the game, it still is required in fully setting the atmosphere and getting players deeply involved in the game, and its absence is very disappointing.
Shadow Complex also features some great voice acting. But great acting cant support its own weight for long without a solid script to land on, so its a good job that this game also has the best writers in the business, as Peter David provides a wonderful script full on tense, thrilling moments that suit the setting and related novel very well.
Lately, many large scale, time consuming titles have been released on the XBLA, namely Battlefield: 1943 and Trials HD, and Shadow Complex isn't any different. It only sets you back a measly 1200 Microsoft Points, and provides many, many hours of gameplay and much replayablility in the adventure, not to mention the unforetold amount of time you will spend trying to best your friends high scores in the Proving Grounds. But where Shadow Complex stands out from other arcade titles is that the amount of hours of enjoyable gameplay it provides is more than a lot of retail games.
For just 1200 Microsoft Points, your getting one of the most playable and memorable games on the Xbox 360. For that price, you cant go wrong, but with Shadow Complex, you're not just getting a great arcade title, you're getting a game worthy of being in any gamers collection and a game that will forever be remembered as one of the best games on the Xbox 360. No arcade game has ever graced the 360 with such amazing graphics and gameplay, and theres a good chance that none will for a long time. Shadow Complex is a nearly flawless game which could have only been bettered with a larger musical score for the core gameplay and some variation of a well thought-out multiplayer. Although there is no denying that Shadow Complex will always be compared the the Metroid series, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It does show a lot of similarities, but that was in no way accidental. It is essentially a Metroid for the modern gamer, and it does the genre justice. This is what XBLA and 360 gamers alike have been needing.
AAG Score: 9/10
1. Amazing Graphics
2. Great Voice Acting
3. Huge map to explore
4. Many features to keep players interested
1. Not much of a Musical Score
2. Lack of multiplayer
Reviewed and Written by John Elliott