Blending a dystopian cyberpunk future with a fantasy world of elves, trolls and dwarves, and setting the whole thing in Brazil, gives “Shadowrun” the sort of rich backstory that can easily translate into a videogame. Unfortunately it isn’t used well in this one.
Fasa Studio’s latest incarnation of the “Shadowrun” videogame franchise has hit the Xbox 360 and the computer with all the trappings of its famous cyperpunk world, but none of the story that has made the franchise so beloved among fans. That doesn’t make the mostly first-person shooter bad, just a little shallow.
The game’s only backstory comes in the pages of the instruction manual, which explains that megacorporation RNA Global has been running into problems with a guerilla group known as the Lineage in Santos, Brazil.
This conflict is played out in head-to-head matches that seem awfully reminiscent of popular first-person shooter “Counter-Strike.” In “Shadowrun” the player starts out with only a pistol, and earns cash for the next round by taking out the bad guys or helping teammates. In each subsequent round in a match, the player can use the cash to buy better weapons or magic and technology.
It’s the magic and technology abilitiesthat really breathe some originality into the gameplay. As a match progresses, “Shadowrun” slowly transforms from a standard first-person shooter into something else entirely. The rules of the game shift when one has to worry about opponents teleporting through a ceiling to capture the flag, or delivering a fatal slash with a katana that doesn’t cause death for minutes.
Despite these innovative tweaks, the game still falls far short of its potential. The most significant problem is that this full-priced title doesn’t include a single-player campaign. Instead there is a series of very short training missions and the ability to play in the same multiplayer matches against computer-controlled opponents instead of real people.
“Shadowrun” may be worth the purchase for a chance to run around as smoke and teleport through walls, but only if it cost half as much.