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GDC 07: Shadowrun hands on

The room is set up with two very large Samsung HDTVs. In front of one monitor is a slick gaming mouse and keyboard. In front of the other is an Xbox 360 controller. We sit through the expected spiel: Shadowrun has magic, trolls, dwarves, all that stuff. But how does it play? Is it fun? Microsoft's Michael Wolf and FASA's Technical Chraracter Designer, Michael Lowrance, sure make it look fun. Finally, we get our shot (that's me and two folks from Game Informer). I'm holding a pad, my foe wields the KB and mouse. I'm a dwarf. He's a troll. Time to ask it again: is it fun?

To put it succinctly, yes. The game is fun, but we didn't have nearly enough time to test it out. Admittedly, this meeting was more for FASA to show off the game than it was for us to play it, but we wanted a bit longer. Of course, wanting more time is usually an indicator that something is right. A match in Shadowrun plays out more or less like a game of Counter-Strike. At the beginning of a round, you purchase weapons, magic, and technology (better known as "tech." Shadowrun is bewildering at first, what with all the selections available for purchase. What weapons do you pick? What magic? What tech? Do you focus on one area more than another? We imagine this process will become second nature, as players develop their niches, but at first it's pretty confusing. It took a while to get the controls down (the game is still going on as you buy weapons, etc.), but after failing with a laser guided rocket launcher, we wound up settling on an up close combo: a katana and a shotty.

Your race definitely plays a factor in Shadowrun, as each race possesses special abilities. Our dwarf, for instance, sucks magical essence from every character and magical item in the game. This effect applies to characters and items on both teams, so if you're not careful, you might end up destroying your team's tree of life (a healing station) or sucking away a friend's essence. You really do have to be careful, dwarves suck up essence fast. Naturally, this has advantages, too. Which brings us back to races.

Trolls, you see, become harder to kill as they take damage. You can actually see rough patches of spikes sprouting from their skin as they get hurt. This ability, though it is passive, still requires magic to perform. Enter the dwarf. The dwarf can run up to the troll, sap its essence (thereby eliminating its toughness ability), and slash it with a katana for a quick, efficient, and ultimately satisfying kill. Yeah, landing a kill with a katana is niiice.

Spells -- including teleport, tree of life, smoke, and more -- can be easily mapped to the left and right bumpers and the left trigger. Simply press B, pull up the desired effect from a radial menu, and press the button you want it mapped to. Done. Players can also cast spells directly from this menu. The same system applies to tech, which includes abilities like the glider, enhanced vision (called smart link), and wired reflexes. Wired reflexes is particularly interesting for up close players, as it allows the deflection of bullets with a katana.

An interesting note, the game features bots that can be enabled during online play. The bots take up player slots, but will drop when a human player shows up to take its place. It's a small feature, but a much appreciated one.

Overall, we really enjoyed our brief time with Shadowrun. It's a solid multiplayer game. We're somewhat concerned that it's complexities will limit its broad appeal. The mere act of mapping magic to different buttons could keep, say, the Halo crowd from really enjoying it. Still, as the hardcore 360 fanboys that we are, we want more. And we want it now.

Oh, and you may notice that there wasn't any mention of the fabled mouse vs. gamepad debate. Honestly, we didn't notice. Sure, we've heard that before, but now we believe it. Shadowrun is one to watch.

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Reader Comments

(Page 1)

1. I'll give it a rental. If it's as good as you say then I'll end up buying it after that.

Posted at 5:10PM on Mar 6th 2007 by Dusitn Everhart

2. sounds like fun, if the price is right i might just pick it up when it finally comes out!

Posted at 5:25PM on Mar 6th 2007 by ridestowe

3. That whole dwarf idea is really interesting. I hope that's held up between all the races.

Posted at 5:44PM on Mar 6th 2007 by Tony

4. My my my, I want this sucka' now.

It sounds like it could be a killer app for anyone who's willing to take the time to figure out it's complexities.

Posted at 5:52PM on Mar 6th 2007 by Mikeawesome

5. i like the idea with the bots...but other than that...after finding out that there will be no SP...this game has gone from on the fence between a rental and a buy to not even a rental.

Posted at 6:55PM on Mar 6th 2007 by DjDATZ

6. Just as a correction: enchanced vision and smartlink are two seperate tech's.

Posted at 6:58PM on Mar 6th 2007 by lordzero

7. A demo would be nice.

Posted at 7:35PM on Mar 6th 2007 by Chris

8. "Just as a correction: enchanced vision and smartlink are two seperate tech's."

I was just using enhanced vision in the general sense. I didn't know there was a power with that name.

Posted at 8:54PM on Mar 6th 2007 by Richard Mitchell

9. FASA has always said there will be a demo. Not sure when it is coming out. Beta Testers don't get all of the information.

If you are interested in the game, check out

Posted at 1:53AM on Mar 7th 2007 by Kryptyk Samurai

10. Just a fix: Enchanced vision is called just that, not smart link. Smart Link is an ability on its own.

And I want to get this game on Day 1.

Posted at 12:02AM on Mar 12th 2007 by Matt

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