Shadow Complex Reader Review
The action flick truly is an institution of America, with the lone, unlikely hero rising up to a seemingly impossible task, battling the odds, spouting quips and roughing up a battalion of parodial Euro-trash terrorists with wonky accents. The reluctant hero in Shadow Complex is Jason Fleming who, after an unfortunate hiking malfunction has to search for his lost girlfriend Claire in an underground military facility teaming with mercenaries all gunning for your blood. Better man up Jace, things just went sour.
At its core, Shadow Complex is another superb entry into the 'Metroidvania' genre, which is a hybrid of platforming, shooting and exploring a vast play area full of nooks and crannies hiding a range of upgrades and other collectibles. Exploration has a big role here, but while Metroid invoked a sense of isolation in the player as Samus traversed the barren planet Zebes, Shadow Complex is a balletic orgy of hot lead, gadgetry and explosive boss encounters. The whole thing has Cliffy B's fingerprints all over it, cranking up the testosterone and firepower in true Epic Games fashion.
Starting off with a backpack and a flashlight, Jason's arsenal grows as you progress, giving you pistols, machine guns and new armour to help you navigate the perilous complex. Combat is incredibly deep, surprisingly so for what is essentially a 2D platformer. You can dispatch enemy troops with crushing melee attacks, control gun placements that shift the action into third-person and unload a barrage of grenades, missiles and slugs until your fingers hurt. there's enough firepowe, depth and freedom to approach each encounter as you see fit to take this beyond the realm of the throwaway arcade title and into the big league.
Standard firearms aside, Jason also has secondary fire attacks that are also used to navigate the labytinthine map. Similar to Metroid, certain doors and hatches can only be opened by a particular weapon type. Some can be blown open with grenades, others can be battered down by missles and geared doors can be clogged up by riot-control foam. While complete exploration and item collection does take a degree of backtracking and thanks in part to a plethora of save points, the process never gets tired and is always rewarding.
The carnage and pacing are complimented further by the truly breathtaking visuals. There is a sheen here that few arcade titles can attest to and for once, this is not all just for show. The inclusion of underwater sections gives the developer a chance to show off some superb water and muffled, garbled sound effects. One section in particular sees Jason flooding an underground barracks and the resulting swim back through the chambers is particularly striking, for reasons that will become clear once you try it for yourself.
While there are achievements here for speed running through the complex, this is far from a short weekend distraction. Searching every nook and cranny of the map is as appealing as it was in Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. At times, there's nothing more appealing that seeing a valuable health upgrade in a room above you then spending the next ten minutes trying to figure out how to get to it, lying just out of reach.
Shadow Complex is more than just a tribute to some of the finest platformers the industry has served up over the years, adding a great gunplay mechanic and treating you to some well paced and exciting set-pieces that blur the lines between the second and third dimension. There are many neat tricks to be discovered here and it really does make you long for the days where games could be as simple and enjoyable as this, yet so incredibly deep by the same token. Quite simply one of the finest downloadable console titles available today.
9 / 10