Shadow Complex – 360 – Preview

E3 2009 PreviewE3 2008 GameZone Previews

It seems that games like Contra and
Metal Slug, classic side-scrolling shooters, will forever be remade as classic
side-scrolling shooters. And yet, if they’re fun to play, no one complains. That
might change now that Shadow Complex is coming. At first glance, it looks like
every other shooter out there. The characters are typical brutes, the graphics
are reminiscent of Gears of War, and everywhere you turn people are firing

Contrary to how it may sound, this
game is not a Gears of War clone. Though the graphics are deceiving, it’s not
really in 3D. Shadow Complex is in fact an old-school-inspired 2D shooter with
bits of 3D integration. It might sound like a simple concept, but with Epic in
charge of the project, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the results will
blow your mind.

The core gameplay is pure
side-scrolling goodness. With machineguns, rocket launchers and handguns in your
arsenal (assuming, of course, that you find them), the basics are not at all
unexpected. Players can run while shooting, a simple but necessary feature, and
it is also possible to shoot in all directions. This goes beyond 360-degree
firing. In addition to the 2D elements, if an enemy is in the foreground or
background of a level, you can attack him just by firing in his direction.

Shadow Complex screenshots

Shadow Complex’s E3 demo illustrated
this with an introductory stage that involved an enemy helicopter from within
the background of the stage. The effects are incredibly realistic and detailed;
if you didn’t know better, you’d swear you were playing a 3D shooter. But the
controls remain in 2D. Only when attacking the helicopter does the game branch
into 3D territory. Even then the game stays true to its Contra inspiration.

Unlike Metal Slug, Shadow Complex
doesn’t bog you down with an endless array of enemies. That could change by the
time the game is released in August, but the demo featured areas that were more
about exploring than fighting. Despite this, the game never drags. Enemies were
interspersed to keep things interesting, and the environments change frequently
to ensure that players are never bored. One minute you’re running through a
rocky, mountainous location, and the next minute you’re crawling through air
ducts and other tight areas. There are big, wide-open locations and even a few
passageways that will remind you of the Castlevania games for the DS. Not so
much in the way they look but in the way they’re laid out, and especially in the
way the map is presented. Each level section (each room, you could say) is shown
on the map as one square, making it easy to figure out where you’ve been and
where you need to go.

The demo concluded with a large
robotic beast with thick armor and a short temper. It loves to lunge forward for
a quick attack, eliminating players that weren’t expecting his evil move.
Unfortunately, the demo was timed and I was unable to finish the boss before the
game reset itself. Being the hard-working journalist that I am, it didn’t seem
fair to let it end at that. Fine, I’ll admit – I wanted to play through the demo
again anyway. So I dove in once more…and failed a second time. After that,
Shadow Complex had yet to become tiresome. The thought of playing through those
stages a third time was not a bad one. In truth, it was something I looked
forward to. Which of course makes me wonder: if these short levels were fun to
play through twice, how many times are we going to want to play through the
entire game? I cannot wait to find out.


For All E3 2009 GZ