In 2009, Chair Entertainment released an instant classic to the Xbox 360 Arcade market. It was Shadow Complex, a game quickly praised by critics and gamers alike for its Metroid inspired gameplay and simple but rewarding progression system. Shadow Complex was nominated for, and received several Game of the Year awards, becoming one of the fastest selling arcade titles with 200,000 sales within the first week of release. By the end of 2011 sales had racked up to 600,000. With that in mind, the surprise announcement of a remaster on Xbox One excited many people, myself included, but can it shine again or will it be forgotten as ‘just another remaster’?
Throughout the game you take control of protagonist Jason Flemming, a man forced to fight his way through a secret underground complex in order to rescue his girlfriend Claire. She has been captured by a shadowy organisation (with lots of high-end technology and who have a grand plan of inciting a civil war on the United States to overthrow the government) and of course it is up to Flemming to rescue the girl and save the country.
Yes, yes that sounds great, but how good is it?
From the main menu you have the option to dive headlong into the games campaign or you can choose to tackle the training missions and challenges first, with the newly added option of master challenges to conquer if you feel the monotonous training and basic challenges are all too simple for you.
I decided however that I would tackle these challenges later as I recalled the enjoyment I experienced first time round. Excitedly I dived straight into the campaign and after just a few hours of gameplay, it was clear to see that all the gameplay elements that gave this arcade title lift off were still there. It wasn’t long before I found myself scouring the map to look for secret rooms or hidden passages that I hadn’t yet uncovered on the ever expanding map. Mixed with the need to constantly upgrade your characters’ suit, enabling access to all these different areas makes for some highly addictive gameplay… well for a while at least, as eventually the constant backtracking in order try and find all the hidden areas can become more daunting than exciting. However, the sense of power you get from watching Jason turn from a simple man into a hulking, hi-tech, super powered agent is one felt only from hours of uncovering every hidden room and passageway – the ones you were certain weren’t there before!
However, with the good also comes the bad.
In 2009 Shadow Complex was hailed for its use of the Unreal 3 Engine and so knowing that what I was experiencing now wasn’t that same original, but instead a remaster, left me unimpressed by the games visual overhaul. Now I know what you’re thinking – stunning visuals aren’t the all-important factor and I agree that the graphics and look of a game aren’t something I pay too much attention too either. After all, if the gameplay is interesting and of good quality then the game is good right? Well not in every case and this is one of those times. Even just a few hours in it becomes quite clear that although each area may be slightly different from the next, most of the rooms look very similar and this is what makes the tracking back for collectibles all the more tedious. I’ve also been disappointed with the characters’ faces in particular, which look very much like a blurry sunken clay mould (almost what I imagine old school clay TV character Morph would have looked like had he been stuck in a window on a hot day).
There are also problems with the A.I behaviour. It is not due to the difficulty but more the poorly scripted enemies, in which all to often, all that is required is to either throw multiple grenades or simply attack the enemy from behind for you to find a quick and painless victory. This, mixed with the limited variation of character design in the first place can make for some rather predictable gameplay.
Even without the few visual and technical hiccups there is one final niggle to hamper Shadow Complex Remastered on Xbox One and that is quite simply the lack of content to keep players from going elsewhere and enjoying other platforming adventures. Indeed, it could be said that coming in at around ten hours for the main campaign in no way brings a lack of content, especially considering that even many triple-A titles in today’s market often have campaigns shorter in length, however with nothing more than the added master challenges and several new achievements Shadow Complex Remastered doesn’t bring with it much change from 2009’s original. After all, the graphic upgrade is only slight at best and with that said it could very well mean that veterans of the game who have already played through the original may not see much reason to return, especially with the original already playable on the Xbox One through backwards compatibility.
With all things considered however Shadow Complex Remastered is, on the whole, a pleasant gameplay experience that despite the few negatives can certainly stand on its own in today’s market. Anyone not having played it before will almost certainly find it worth a playthrough, if only the once, and for only £11.99 Shadow Complex Remastered represents good value for money.