Shadow Complex Remastered is a remake of the critically acclaimed Shadow Complex, which was released on the Xbox Live Arcade back in August 2009. The remake was released on Steam in May 2016, with a console version of the game being released in March 2016. The Microsoft Windows store offered the game for free back in December 2015 for a brief amount of time. Having no exposure to the console version of the game, I went into this game only with the knowledge that it was one of the better games to come out of the Xbox Live Arcade.
Game play is done in a 2.5D platforming style which includes a handful of 3D elements. Your movement is restricted to two-dimensional systems though. You find yourself in the middle of a huge spy plot, as you explore an underground base which is holding an entire army ready for overthrowing the American government. Throughout this underground complex, you are faced with plenty of different puzzles to solve. The puzzles aren’t massively complicated; they normally involve some sort of jumping mechanic. Other puzzles will require the use of other pieces of equipment which you will discover throughout the course of the story. These pieces of equipment vary from different weapons such as rocket launchers, grenades, foam guns (question mark?), grappling hooks, all the way to supersonic speed for running through walls and boosted jumps for scaling walls.
The gun play in Shadow Complex is a little tricky to get a hang of. The game uses twin stick controls for aiming meaning you don’t always get a huge amount of accuracy. The 2.5D environment also causes a lot of confusion and hassle when trying to aim at enemies but you have to be in a certain position in order to shoot at enemies in the rear of the scene. You will come across plenty of enemies whilst exploring, these can be dispatched in a number of ways, using range combat, or an easy to use melee combat system which changes style depending on where you are attacking for example, if you are jumping from above, you’ll land on top of the enemy to knock them out, whereas attacking from behind will result in you being a little more stealthy.
Boss fights throughout the story mode differ a fair amount between them. None of them are your usual style fight where you just volley a ton of ammo in their general direction. A lot will take into consideration the environment you are fighting in, such as needing to throw grenades underneath a tank to hit its weak spot. I found the boss fights to be a nice challenge which you wouldn’t otherwise get from the regular enemies you’ll come across. As you unlock new abilities and pieces of equipment, you’ll often find yourself in a position to be able to backtrack to previously visited locations.
Even though this is a remastered game, which runs on the Unreal 4 Engine, I was a little disappointed with the graphical fidelity of this title. The environments look really poor, and at times you are able to see the textures quite close up and they are really pixelated which take the edge of the remastered effect. The character models look average, nothing special sadly. Animation in character’s faces can be a little off-putting at times if you focus on them whilst they are speaking, as well as a few awkward movements in cut scenes to boot.
Plot wise, the game is fairly interesting but somewhat cheesy at times. The opening prologue of the game bares no relevance to the actual story itself so I was a bit confused as to why it was included. The main protagonist is Jason Flemming, who happens to be on a weekend away with his new girlfriend, Claire. Your new girlfriend gets kidnapped and you are tasked with finding her and bringing her to safety. As the plot unravels everything turns out not to be the way it seemed. Although a lot of it is largely predictable, I still found myself interested in finding out what happens at the end. The dialog between Jason and Claire can be quite cringy at times and often felt like it was written by a twelve year old. Thankfully you don’t need to follow the story too much in order to get the most out of Shadow Complex.
The voice acting across the game is nothing special, and you may even be better off turning it off as it did make me wince with awkwardness at times. The rest of the game’s sound effects are as you’d expect from an action game like this. There are moments where you really should be hearing a sound effect, such as background noise when you are on a factory floor, but you don’t hear anything. This can really knock you out of the immersion of any game, and sadly it happened all too frequently throughout this one.
Shadow Complex comes with a variety of different difficulty settings, most will be sufficiently challenged on the normal mode and however you can change the settings on the fly, and so I would advise start as high as you can to see how well you handle the combat. The easy mode is no challenge at all and you may find yourself getting bored of the combat system if you aren’t being challenged.
I wouldn’t consider Shadow Complex Remastered to have any replay ability unfortunately. There are a number of achievements which people may be after which will force a number of different play throughs, but the regular gamers amongst us will find themselves being satisfied with the single play through of the story. I did like the in game leader boards comparing your progression with people on your friends list who also have the game though; it adds a little competitive nature to an otherwise single player experience.
Other than the control issues being a bit of a pain in the 2.5D environments, the only other technical issue I had was that even when playing in full screen mode, your mouse does not get locked into the game window, meaning anyone who plays with more than one screen will find themselves minimizing their game more times than you would even believe to imagine. The only way I was actually able to play the game without this happening constantly was to move away from my preferred control method of keyboard and mouse to use an Xbox controller. Granted this got around this annoying technical problem that brought along its own problems with the lower accuracy when shooting due to using the joysticks rather than the more precise mouse movement.
Shadow Complex Remastered shouldn’t really be classed as a remastered edition in my opinion. This is the first time the game has come to the PC platform, and it doesn’t really show off the platform to its full potential. The game play itself is enjoyable with a lot of interesting and unique abilities at your fingertips, but there is so much room for a potentially amazing game here that I was left feeling disappointed at the end. The $14,99 price tag is probably nudging the boundaries of being over the average for this game so you may want to wait till the drops in price a little bit before picking it up.