Shadow Complex Hands-On

The terrorists may have the girl, but we have the awesome suits and weapons in this action platformer.

by

Xbox Live Arcade has a hot list of games this summer, and Shadow Complex--an impressive-looking 2D action platformer set in an expansive nonlinear 3D world--wraps things up right before the kids go back to school. Donald Mustard of Chair Entertainment, owned by Epic Games, came by to show us what a modern day Super Metroid/Castlevania-inspired game would look like with updated graphics using the Unreal Engine 3. We also had a chance to play with a preview build, and from our experience, Shadow Complex feels very much like an old-school side-scroller that lets you mess around with plenty of fancy high-tech gadgets and fun weapons.

The opening scene is a bit of a teaser because you play as a colonel in the US military who is trying to protect the vice president of the United States from terrorists. You're armed with a nice arsenal of weapons and protected by special armor that you stole from the enemy. This intense and chaotic opening sequence thrusts you into the midst of a gun fight, which gives you a chance to shoot some bad guys in the face and even take down a chopper before the scene ends. You'll immediately notice that even though you're playing a 2D side-scroller, you can shoot enemies on a 3D plane. A laser will help guide your aim, so you'll not only have to watch for enemies up ahead or behind you, but you'll also have to keep an eye out in the background. This brief opening will only give you a taste of what's to come because, unfortunately, you're not going to start the game with missiles and a special suit of armor.

Shadow Complex is set in Orson Scott Card's Empire universe, and the script is penned by comic book author Peter David (Spider-Man, Star Trek). The story follows Jason Fleming, a hiker who happened to stumble upon an underground terrorist facility while out exploring with his girlfriend, Claire. Unfortunately, Claire gets snatched up by this rogue paramilitary group, which is known as the Restoration. As the story unfolds, your primary goal is to, obviously, go rescue Claire, but as you navigate deeper into the enemy's base and overhear top-secret conversations, you'll learn that this fanatical group is intent on setting up a chain of events that will cause the United States to collapse into a civil war. On the bright side, though, these terrorists have a ton of cool gear that you can try to steal.

Finding all 120 power-ups in the game is going to be a challenge, but each item you do find will increase your abilities by either making you stronger or faster. We didn't get very far in the game on our own, but Donald showed us some of the fun stuff that you'll come across later. One piece of gear that we were just dying to get a hold of was hyper speed boots, which will let you run so fast that you can cruise right over water and run up walls and ceilings. As long as you keep your momentum, you'll continue running. The terrorists have somehow managed to build an incredibly elaborate labyrinth in the woods, so there are plenty of places for you to explore by running, jumping, or swimming. We saw the foam gun in action at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, but it was fun to see the different ways you can utilize foam. You can use it to create a platform for yourself or freeze enemies with it and then detonate them with a grenade. A hook shot and thrust pack were just some of the other useful pieces of equipment we saw that would enable Jason to climb to hard-to-reach areas. Even with all these gadgets, some acrobatics are required on your part to make these difficult climbs.

The perks of having a foam gun.

Initially, you don't start off with very much. You're armed with a flashlight until you find Claire's backpack, which will immediately give you the ability to wall jump, so you can nimbly pounce from one ledge to another. As you progress, you'll come across various weapons that will help you break down doors and access areas that would be otherwise unreachable. You'll gain experience point by doing just about anything. Each time you enter a new room, kill an enemy, or pick up a power-up, you'll gain XP. Giant mechanical bosses will periodically come after you, and if you can exploit their weaknesses, you'll earn more XP than you would by using your handgun and plinking them to death. As you level, your character will grow stronger, so it's a good idea to explore every nook and cranny to try to find those hidden power-ups. There are also 12 gold bars in the game, and we were told that if you can find them all, something "very cool" will happen.

There will be a lot of backtracking, but at least you'll be armed with a map that will highlight the areas you've explored. In our demo, Donald zoomed out of his almost-complete map, and the layout of the place was huge. Luckily, there will be enough variety to the place so that you won't feel like you're only exploring an underground warehouse or tech lab. We got a brief glimpse at the obligatory mine cart level in which you can jump in and ride carts from one end of the area to the other. Gameplay should last anywhere from 10 to 12 hours on your first play-through, but chances are, you probably won't be able to find everything on the first try. After you've gone two-thirds of the way through the game, you should have acquired some sweet upgrades, so you can spend a good amount of time storming the facilities like you own the place and just have fun with it. Later in the game, the shotgun will send people flailing across the screen, so we're looking forward to getting our hands on that fine piece of machinery.

Donald emphasized that the game is really about exploration, punctuated by combat. With no real loading times--except for in the beginning--you're basically free to explore this 3D world in a 2D way. At 1,200 Microsoft points, it looks like Shadow Complex could be a great way to end the summer. Be sure to check back next month for our full review when the game is released on August 19.

Discussion

99 comments
jvsexy
jvsexy

wow...this looooks soooo awesome....after Trine, this will be the next best 2D game !!!!! KEEP IT UP EPIC !!!

rohr2
rohr2

The Shotgun sounds like it's complete awesomesauce.

RavenXavier
RavenXavier

Can't wait for this to hit...gonna be Epic!!!

Urik_187
Urik_187

i know it doesnt seem to be in the works but would 2p co-op story be awesome?

PS2Dude89
PS2Dude89

This game looks great. I'm looking forward to trying it out.

svendepino
svendepino

Looks good. Hope it comes to PC like Trine :D

josephtdavey
josephtdavey

At least some people here realize the potential of this game... I think a handheld version of this game should be made.

tmoo23
tmoo23

ayy this game looks kinda hot

JoJoStarFire
JoJoStarFire

I would love to play this game, the graphics look awesome, and it has that OG feeling to it. I would definetly get this arcade game.

xbriggs
xbriggs

this maybe the first arcade game i buy it looks that good.

splendormk7
splendormk7

its damn good.. I really would like to play it. and i will...

captainwonton
captainwonton

"Something really cool will happen" : Achievement unlocked: Gold Digger!-25G

Unheard-Volume
Unheard-Volume

This game looks sick! Graphics look real sharp for a XBLA game. Just wish that it wasn't $15. I'd more readily buy it at $10

juraii
juraii

YEAHHHHHH cant wait

1Gigabyteofram
1Gigabyteofram

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

jettpack
jettpack

This game makes me wish i had an xbox in addition to my pc. maybe they will release it on steam. super tight.

jadefury27
jadefury27

It's like bionic commando: rearmed, but dosent suck.

newb16
newb16

Its a B.A(Bad A**) sidescroller/ FP shooter yaya.

bennae66
bennae66

i dont spend 1200 points lightly, but this is on my radar. its an: 'i will definitley check out the demo the second i come home from work' game. certainly not an: 'uh honey can you please get this game for me so its downloaded when i get home in an hour? ...just add more points ...yes i want the full version, ...yes but i know im buying this one, ...yes i know i buy alot of games but this ones important!'

famguyfan2685
famguyfan2685

This game looks great. The effects all look very cool, and the lighting looks awesome. I just wish it wasn't a 360 exclusive..

Urik_187
Urik_187

this is a classic idea redone very nicely by the looks of things,....

moby107
moby107

im going to keep an eye on this game... looks great!

graavigala
graavigala

i hope this will come to toher platforms too :D

nerd_assassin
nerd_assassin

Nice...I kind of want that. Too bad I still don't have a 360. Darn...

PNOIDSCHIZ
PNOIDSCHIZ

this game looks great, looking forward to play. it does remind me of flashback as well metroid/castlevania titles.

wargraymon
wargraymon

hey realase on my b-day, maybe i should get

wargraymon
wargraymon

reminds me more like contra then castelvania

Buffalodude
Buffalodude

Sweet some of my favorite games are 2D this looks great. We need another good 2D game on the market.

Drumtasticnick
Drumtasticnick

I saw this at E3 and was impressed, but I guess that's the idea at E3...try and impress the fans. Looking forward to it being modesty priced on XBLA.

Bradley7777
Bradley7777

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

55592
55592

@cocomacoco: I'm not defending a developer, I want you to point out to me a bug you found in a video, and elaborate where you saw lack of polish. It's hard to see things from your perspective without those two bits of information.

cocomacoco
cocomacoco

@55592, it does look buggy, and the way I give opinions is just my own, nobody else. I trashed this game because I'm tired of the whole trend of doing mediocre and put of fashion games and put them on marketplace at a steep price, and then if your xbox brakes you can't many times get this content you paid for back, specially with Epic released games, don't defend developers, they don't defend you, they just want your money. Yeah, we love games, we are fans of certain developers, but we should always come first as consumers and we spend the money, without us, developers are nothing.

yaniv1050102
yaniv1050102

i only prey it will go out for the pc as well!!!

onthe_dl
onthe_dl

oh man, I wasn't sure at first about this game at e3 but that looks amazing

truedog80
truedog80

I WANT IT NOW!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!!!!!!

mach-stem
mach-stem

Empire is a great story. Ender's Game as well. Orson is a great sci-fi author, and this game looks like it could be great fun...but doubtful that it will keep to the story. ;)

0239666
0239666

I thought Crash Commandos was good. This looks alot better. Wish they'd port it for PS3. The cost of putting it on PSN would be a fraction compared to how many people would buy it. btw. Its a 3D game but the player is locked on a rail in the foreground.

XxorigxX
XxorigxX

this game have achievment tracking system..nice, and looks great as well:)