Fittingly published by Epic Games Shadow Complex feels like a Super Metroid remake for the Gears of War generation. It is louder, flashier and dumber than the games that inspired it, steeped in set-piece action moments and industry clichés. But at its core is the same thoughtful blend of action and exploration that makes games like Metroid or Castlevania so highly regarded in the gaming community. If you enjoy either of those, you are in for quite a treat.
Shadow Complex starts off familiarly enough - you play as Jason Fleming, a seemingly ordinary man who stumbles upon a massive terrorist base and becomes the only one capable of thwarting their plans of world domination. The narrative is flimsy and sparse, the characters cardboard cutouts voiced by actors with equal levels of charisma. No, the real star of Shadow Complex is the complex itself; a massive, sprawling military base with dozens of nooks and crannies just begging to be explored.
Though the facility may seem intimidating at first, the game provides lots of great tools to help traverse it. The first – and arguably most useful – is Jason's flashlight. Of course, its primary function is to illuminate darker rooms, but shine it at a barrier and the flashlight will expose its weakness. Orange requires gunfire, green is for grenades, and red will need a bit more firepower. Missile launcher, anyone? Along with the more obvious additions to his arsenal, there is the Friction Dampener and the Foam Gun – the game's own takes on Metroid's Speed Booster and Ice Beam, respectively. However, each weapon has a couple tricks up its sleeve. With the Friction Dampener, Jason can run on ceilings and walls. This ability contributes to some of the game's more challenging puzzles. The Foam Gun is an interesting weapon-cum-platforming tool. The foam can freeze an enemy in their tracks, but can also create a temporary platform for Jason to stand on when fired at the wall. With a little creativity and patience, the Foam Gun can be used to reach just about any point in the complex.
Thankfully there are myriads of soldiers to test out all this weaponry on. The game encourages experimentation. What happens if you throw a grenade at a Foamed enemy? Oh, you are just going to have to see for yourself. Aiming is never a worry thanks to a very well-implemented dual-stick aiming system. But there is one glaring problem with the combat. Though Jason's movement is limited to the 2D plane, the world around him is fully three dimensional. Soldiers will frequently lurk in the foreground or background, engaging Jason when they are alerted to his presence. They have no issues with plugging a few rounds into you, but returning fire is a bit more problematic. The game will automatically switch to aiming in these directions, and it rarely does it when you need it too. Bigger firefights feel based on luck rather than skill, which is a disappointment.
Some cool twists on a classic formula; looks amazing for an Arcade title; tons of incentive for replay.
Seems a bit too familiar at times; frequent issues with aiming; occasional visual bugs.