First Looks// Shadow Complex

...the best of both worlds.

Posted 11 Jun 2009 15:50 by
One of the biggest little surprises to come out of this E3 was the announcement of the Xbox Live Arcade game from Epic, makers of the Unreal engine and Gears of War. The game? Shadow Complex. Seeing Cliffy B. at an MS conference was no surprise. Seeing a 2D Metroid-style platformer that looks like a side-scrolling Uncharted was quite a pleasant shock.

Because it was announced midway through a press event that was jam-packed with announcements and flashy trailers I feel like it may not have got the attention it deserves. The line to play it on the show floor was woefully short. Lucky me though, and lucky you as I can now, very happily, inform you that Shadow Complex looks amazing.

Many companies have tried to take advantage of the nostalgia we older gamers feel towards the good old, golden age of games; most specifically the time when the world was ruled, in nearly equal parts, by the Super Nintendo and the SEGA Genesis (MegaDrive). One of (if not the) most beloved games of that bygone era is Super Metroid. While Iíve not played nearly enough of Shadow Complex to hold it up next to what some would consider to be the best game ever made. I can assure you, dear reader, that the people designing this game must LOVE Metroid.

The controls feel nearly identical, in a wonderful way. Even the map screen looks like they ripped it from a ROM of the SNES classic. Though, as was noted to me by one of the developers, the map screen grid is not an exact 1:1 for the proportions of the game world. Thatís because the entire game is actually rendered in real time, rather beautiful, 3D, by the Unreal engine 3. While I am a sucker for great hand-done 2D sprites, seeing the quality of image and animation that UE3 can put out, in an XBL arcade game no less, I am now quite fond of the 2.5D concept.

The all too brief demo I played started off with our main character, some explorer looking guy (hence the earlier uncharted reference), trying to find his missing lady explorer friend.

After a brief bit of wandering about in some very moody caves I came across some 'climbing gear'.

'Double jump' Mr Developer says to me. My first power-up! Iím now able to grab on to ledges and scamper up to higher places than I previously could. My only other tool is my trusty flashlight which, at first, doesnít seem to do much.

My developer tour guide (I really should remember to do a better job of noting people's names) then pointed out that it highlights certain objects in different colors, which is how you can tell how to interact with them. Orange highlighted items, for example, can be shot.

I then began to notice all kinds of things that, if I'd had a gun of some sort, I could have explored. Not only exploring caves, but I was only five minutes in and I was retracing steps to visit areas I couldnít visit before my latest power-up and now with the use of my flash light (visor) I was able to see even more potential paths that Iím quite sure I will have to revisit again at some point in the future.

At first glance you wouldnít know it, but this game feels so much like Metroid that Iím sure someone at Nintendo must be trying to figure out if they can sue. Though, for my part, I must say that I really hope they donít.

In a world where people are so desperate to relive their 'classic' gaming memories that they actually think Mega Man 9 was a good thing, this is just the sort of thing we really need. Mega Man 9 did well because it still played just like the game you loved, and gave you a whole new series of levels to explore. Street fighter 2 HD and Bionic Commando both succeed by taking the same old game youíve played possibly literally a million times before, and giving it a new paint job.

Shadow Complex, however, is the best of both worlds. It feels like Iím playing the same sort of game I already love so much but in a marvellous modern engine. This not only allows for some amazingly huge boss fights but also enables a few new tricks that make the world feel so much more alive than the hardware of 1994 ever could. The only thing that might make me more excited for this would be to have Samus in it. But I guess sheís busy being a ninja now.

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rjb 23 Jun 2009 23:10
looks great but I wish they had more info available on this game, doesnt seem like it really is gonna be available this summer.
the company chair doesnt even list it as a current project if so it has yet to update it title from the older working title of empire
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