Shadowman: 2econd Coming Preview

While the original Shadowman was primarily an N64 game, the game's sequel is exclusively for the PlayStation 2 at this point. We take an in-depth look at Shadowman: 2econd Coming.

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Like Acclaim's other lead action hero, Turok, Shadowman has his roots in the world of dark comics. The original game, based on the comics, was released in 1999 for the N64 and shortly thereafter for the PlayStation, the PC, and the Dreamcast. As in the comics, the story in the game takes place in New Orleans, where the lead character--an ex-student named Mike LeRoi--has several bad encounters with the local underworld. Mike's entire family ends up being murdered, which leaves him with a desire for vengeance. Supported by a voodoo priestess named Nettie, he's implanted with a voodoo mask named the Mask of Shadows, which gives him the power to defeat his enemies. It also lets him cheat death and turn into Shadowman, an undead assassin with formidable magical powers. As Shadowman, Mike can enter Deadside--the world of the dead--at will.

Mike LeRoi has gained some weight...
Mike LeRoi has gained some weight...

During the day, Mike is a relatively normal person, albeit heavily armed in the sequel, but at night, Mike becomes the Shadowman. This transformation also occurs when Mike dies. Shadowman considers himself the lord of Deadside, as he's the most powerful entity in the world of the undead. While inhabiting Deadside, Shadowman has many specific powers, and he can also reenter the real world at will. In addition to his skills, he can use voodoo items to cast spells, and he can focus the Mask of Shadows' powers through everyday objects so he can use them as magical weapons. Guns from the real world transform into so-called shadow guns in Deadside. When fired, they unleash shadow wraiths instead of bullets, and these wraiths rip the souls out of Shadowman's enemies. While Mike can be killed in the real world, this doesn't happen so easily once he's in Deadside: He can't drown, and if he falls off high ledges, he won't be hurt. In the mortal realm, Mike owns a bar named Wild At Heart, which is where 2econd Coming starts. Those of you who played the first game will also remember another character named Jaunty, Nettie's other voodoo slave. He is a sleazy-looking Irish dwarf who shares a particular ability with Mike: the ability to cross over to Deadside. Jaunty's Deadside incarnation takes the form of a snake, the Keeper of Boneyard Gates.

...whereas Shadowman's lost some.
...whereas Shadowman's lost some.

In the first game, Mike/Shadowman had to stop a horde of serial killers who were led by an evil creature named Legion. It was Legion's plan to open up gates throughout the world through which all the murderers who had ever died could reenter from Deadside. Needless to say, Shadowman killed Legion, and his evil plans were thankfully crushed. In the sequel, Mike/Shadowman teams up with a former NYPD cop and self-proclaimed demon hunter named Thomas Deacon to fight a mysterious group called the Grigori. The Grigori are demons who have lived among humans for the last 2000 years and whose goal is to reunite with, and unleash upon the world, their former leader, Asmodeus. After the intro sequence, the game starts at Mike's bar, where Shadowman has to battle a few thugs who have trashed his place. Once he defeats them, he finds out that Jaunty has been kidnapped and brought to the Grigori's new leader, Papa Morté, who is a gang lord in New Orleans. Night turns to day, and Mike is looking for Nettie to find out what's going on. She explains to him that she and Papa Morté had battled in the past. She then sends Mike on a mission to rescue Jaunty.

This is where the gameplay begins. After you rescue Jaunty, you'll find out that he is possessed by evil demons, which makes it seem like a good idea to meet up with Thomas Deacon, the aforementioned ex-cop and demon hunter. Deacon, who is wheelchair-bound, reveals that Morté is in fact one of the Grigori. Deacon sends Mike on a number of linear missions into Morté's territory so Mike can discover the true intentions of the Grigori demons.

You'll do battle with all manner of infernal demons...
You'll do battle with all manner of infernal demons...

The game will take you through seven huge areas, which will be unlocked as you progress through your quest. While the levels and quests are a lot more linear than those in the first game, you will still be able to return to previous sections in case you want to look for something. The locations are quite diverse. You start in the huge area of Louisiana, and you eventually get to see other distinct levels such as Gehenna, the Grigori leader Asmodeus' hellish prison, which acts as the hub for the entire game; Tarkovskaya, an icy forest in Russia; Moytura Island, a wind-blasted piece of rock off the coast of Ireland; the Isle of the Dead, in Deadside; the Herne House, a haunted mansion in the UK; and the Fortress of Alymot, high in the mountains of Iraq.

There are several powerful weapons at your disposal. In the real world Mike uses weapons like the wrecking bar, the machete, the shotgun, the pistol, the 0.9-GPMG (a large two-handed machine gun), the grenade launcher, the assassin pistol (complete with sniper mode), and his signature weapon, the Magnum Desert Eagle. All of these weapons transform into shadow guns once you (as Shadowman) take them to Deadside. In addition to using more-traditional weapons, Mike can use various voodoo objects to take out his enemies. For example, there are collés, which are voodoo limpet bombs that you can attach to an enemy. The enemy to whom they're attached will panic and run to his companions for help, and when the collés explode, they'll likely take out the entire group. They are very efficient weapons when you have to deal with a number of enemies at once. Another voodoo object is the l'inferno, which surrounds Shadowman with fire and burns enemies on contact. In some of the levels, you can even transform into a fireball and steer yourself across the level, burning everything in your way. There is also the l'orage, which lets you summon a storm that will kill nearby enemies with lightning bolts. Since it also unleashes rain, it has the side effect of flooding certain areas, which might let you access previously unreachable platforms in the level. The storm also confuses enemies, making them lose track of you.

...and wield all manner of magical weapons.
...and wield all manner of magical weapons.

There's a third type of weapon you can use in either of your incarnations: nephilim weapons. They are mostly found deep in the demon dungeons. The nephilim blade, for example, is a huge sword blazing with fire; the malignum is a crossbow that fires burning firebolts; and the Armor of Blood is a shield that surrounds you and is supposedly fueled by the blood of fallen angels.

Both the enemies and the artificial intelligence have been completely reworked for Shadowman: 2econd Coming. Acclaim told us the enemies and AI will have a much greater awareness of their surroundings and will act more cleverly in groups, leading to more-intelligent behavior in complicated areas. Enemies will alert companions, for example, if they spot you or if they find a dead body.

Shadowman: 2econd Coming will be on fire...
Shadowman: 2econd Coming will be on fire...

Acclaim Studio Teesside is working hard to ensure that the game is taking advantage of the PlayStation 2's capabilities. Characters are drawn with real-time tessellation, which means they'll have much more detail. A portal rendering engine is supposed to guarantee on-the-fly loading of new sections while keeping the view in the distance in sync with the details of the up-close environments. The game will also feature an enhanced particle system for impressive visual effects and real-time day-to-night transitions within the environments, while a reworked physics model will realistically depict swaying trees, swinging ropes, and falling rocks. In total, there will be more than one hour of in-game cutscenes to push the story forward. You'll recognize some of the voices from the first game, and Acclaim was also able to get some new voice talent on board, such as Sean Pertwee (of Event Horizon fame) as Asmodeus, and Nadim Sawalha (The Avengers, The Living Daylights, Young Sherlock Holmes) as a character called Djinn.

...provided the performance problems that plagued the first are resolved.
...provided the performance problems that plagued the first are resolved.

Overall, Shadowman: 2econd Coming is a much more linear game than the previous installment, though smaller in size. While the first game offered up to 70 hours of gameplay, the sequel is expected to take around 25 hours to complete. Acclaim has addressed many of the players' complaints about the original. Primarily, Acclaim has taken pains to remedy the long, uneventful stretches of gameplay found in the first game. The sequel will be shorter as a result, which means the designers can concentrate more on level-specific quests and functionality.

Shadowman: 2econd Coming is expected to ship around July or August and will be published by Acclaim exclusively for the PlayStation 2.We'll have hands-on impressions, details about the controls, and a full review soon, right here on GameSpot.

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