Shadow Complex is a perfect homage to the Metroid-Vania games it tries to live up to.
Shadow Complex starts you out like most Metroid games do, with phenomenal cosmic power, and before you get too use to having it they tear it away from you and start you out with nothing. This is where good storytelling comes in. In most Metroid games you tend to just get hit with some sort of explosion that ruins your suit but in Shadow Complex, who you start as is different from who you end up playing. You play as Nathan Drake, after taking a break from the Uncharted saga he's decided to hit up spelunking...Okay you don't actually play as Nathan Drake, you just play a guy who looks and sounds exactly like him. You and random girl from that bar from last night are out on a date spelunking when you come across a underground base, girl gets kidnapped and our hero takes it upon himself to be the knight in shining armor. The story has been told a thousand times over and to be honest between the cliche hero complex and the random daddy issues that you keep flashing back to, its quite bland. Metroid always had you inferring Samus' stories and Castlevania games have had twists and turns in plot that were actually interesting, not just because you cared for the story but you were interested in the characters. Shadow Complex's characters aren't interesting and the story doesn't give you any reason to really care for them.
But story isn't really the driving force behind Shadow Complex, and it even seems like the game realizes that when it stops having story plot cutscenes very early into the game. What's selling the game is the platforming action exploring game its trying to be. Starting with the platforming, the world is vast but for the most part you'll find yourself running through hallway after hallway, and even more so air duct after air duct. The problem with a underground base is that it loses character, anytime your not inside the base you screen is filled with rich environments that look natural and disturbed, inside the base however its always the same cold steel look. Bases are designed with the idea functionality, so while platforming is still there, its not as exciting as one might have found it in other games of the genre.
To go with the platforming there's the exploring and there's a lot to find in Shadow Complex. Although what I learned after beating it was how you pretty much had two options to go about doing things in the game. For instance if you found all the missile ammo upgrades they would grant you unlimited missile ammo, but if you level up to a certain level, they grant you unlimited missile ammo regardless. There was also the fact that you can unlock a room with every weapon in the game inside, before you've gotten every weapon in the game. The problem with having this sort of system is that it's pretty much saying, sure you could waste time scouring the map for all the hidden items, or you could just level up. It's like they're trying to persuade you to not explore there exploration game. The exploration isn't perfect either, with areas either hidden to the point where unless you knew it was there you'd never find it, to places that only become available after a cutscene, leaving you wasting time trying to figure out why you can't get to places on your map.
The action brings up the tail end of the trifecta. It's not that its bad, its that you never feel underpowered. The guns tend to get upgraded in small damage increments to the point where its hard to tell if the new assault rifle was better then the last one. I never once found myself against a enemy or boss where I thought I could die, nor did i ever come close. Most of my deaths came from running into explosives or radiation or those few times the gun would aim off into the z axis. To clarify that statement, enemies can go in and out of the backround and you can shoot at them while they are there, but there are times when the game decides the one guy way out in the backround's horizon is more important then the squad of guys in front of you so when you fire that grenade or missile and realize you've done nothing, lets just say its rather irritating.
Although each component of this game tends to be lacking or bland or boring on there own, when combined it works quite well. The one thing that I really liked was that although single player, they had leaderboards and the game would constantly tell you how good you were doing compared to your friends. That little competition and a overall well put together game makes for a great little arcade game on XBLA. Although there were faults, it was never enough to make you stop having fun and that's truly what this game is about.