Following in the footsteps of hits like Rainbow 6 and Delta Force, Shadow Company is the latest of what I'm sure will be a long line of real-time military strategy/action games, now that it is "cool" to play cooperatively.
You take control of a small team of mercenaries and covertly crawl around various hot-spots around the world with one mission - blow lots of stuff up!
The amazing graphics are without a doubt the first thing that stands out - the rolling hills, choppy seas and burning camp fires represent some of the best graphics seen to date in a game of this type.
Add to this the highly detailed characters and excellent animations and you know that this game has the goods in the visual department.
And then you rotate it. And zoom in, and tilt your view point, all in one smooth sweeping move. Sweeeeet. No longer do your soldiers disappear behind trees or buildings only to emerge on the other side looking like swiss cheese. You simply spin around and follow their every movement.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it
There are nine missions, exploring the darker side of places like Angola, Ecuador, Peru and Russia.
Nine missions might not sound like much, but they are rather difficult and can take several hours each (and then only thanks to the Quick Save). It might have been better to have a few more missions and a slightly flatter learning curve...
A typical mission involves killing off the guards, infiltrating an enemy facility, blowing something up, and getting out in one piece. Missions are varied by changing the time of day, rescuing a hostage, or recovering a weapons stash.
One thing you notice early on is just how true to life this game is. Almost anything that you would want to do in Real Life works a treat in Shadow Company.
Hide in a ditch to avoid detection - sure. Create a diversion and attack from behind - no problem.
It's the little things that put the icing on the cake - changing into civilian clothing to walk undetected through an occupied town, or using wirecutters to breach perimeter fences and gain unchallenged entry into an enemy facility.
If you find yourself running low on ammo you can search dead soldiers for weapons, ammo and tools. This really adds to the atmosphere, as you progress from a humble knife to an Uzi to a whopping great AK-47.
I can sense a "but" coming
This is all well and good, but as it stands the game code is far from perfect. There are bugs, and lots of them.
And we're not talking small bugs here. Blokes get stuck in walls and are unable to continue the mission, and the AI is also very hit and miss. You can shoot an enemy guard, and his mate standing right next to him doesn't even move.
The annoying thing is that it isn't anything that couldn't have been fixed if the game had been kept in beta testing for a few more weeks. And I'm sure there will be a patch that should resolve (most of) these bugs, but that's not the point.
Why couldn't they have got it right the first time?
It's not all bad...
There are a number of fantastic features in Shadow Company though that make it worth playing despite the bugs.
The array of weapons at your disposal is phenomenal - 24 guns from the humble Beretta 9mm handgun, through an array of German sub-machine guns and Israeli assault rifles, to rocket and grenade launchers. There are even two different types of sniper rifle.
Fashion accessories are also plentiful - night vision goggles, camouflage, spy cameras, grenades, Kevlar armour, and C4 explosives... Everything a budding Rambo would want.
You even have the ability to commandeer nearby vehicles, allowing you to cover long distances quickly, drive your team to safety, cross bridges, or enjoy some Carmageddon-style action if you are low on ammo.
Choose from boats, trucks, tanks, snow mobiles, and even an old school bus...
Multiplayer action is as enjoyable as other games in this genre - each human player can control a single soldier as part of a crack team, or they can each lead a small group of mercenaries for a simultaneous attack.
The only trap is that your funding is limited (at least until you complete a few missions), and each player gets an even share to spend on squad members and equipment alike. Spend wisely.
Also worth a special mention is the audio. Developers are finally realising that eye-candy alone is not enough, and that top-notch audio can really immerse the player in the game environment.
The ambient sounds in Shadow Company are excellent, ranging from the crashing of waves or the insects buzzing in the long grass.
Highlights include the chatter from your own squad mates, with classics like "It it bleeds, we can kill it!" And enemies react to any sounds you make, shouting "Who's there?"
It all adds to the atmosphere, and these small touches throughout the game show that the developers Sinister have tried to make Shadow Company as realistic as they can.
Shadow Company is a great game with genre-breaking graphics, loads of atmosphere, and topnotch multiplayer action.
The sound is excellent, and non-linear missions and large maps make for long-lasting gameplay and should keep both strategists and action-hungry players satisfied.
Unfortunately it is dogged by some rudimentary bugs, and iffy AI. Release Date - available now
1. Alone in the Angolan wilderness, your team of three mercenaries have a mission to accomplish. The first objective is to secure the base perimeter. Use a knife for a silent kill so you don't attract the attention of the other guards.
2. A few well-place 9mm rounds secures the base, so your next task is to eliminate the Northern Patrols. Use the line-of-sight to hide ready for an ambush! There are usually a number of ways to complete an objective - Land Mine, Grenade, or full frontal AK-47 assault.
3. Scrounge whatever weaponry you can get from the dead patrolmen and move on to the Outpost. Again, use line-of-sight to hide your men behind the slope. Lob in a grenade then move in to clear up the mess.
4. The final objective in Level 1 is to take out the SAM sites to allow the Evac chopper to land safely. A direct assault is out of the question, as your team is out numbered 2 to 1. Stealth is paramount, as the enemy are holding high-ground and have good visibility.
My favourite is to crawl in under their noses and blow the SAMs with a grenade. The blast will kill most of the guards, but may harm you too, so GET YOUR MAN OUT!
5. Pick up as much ammo and weapons as you can carry, because you can use them in the next mission, or sell them for cash.
Download The Demo
If you want to try before you buy, check out the Shadow Company demo!
7 (at least until they release a patch) / 10