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Review: Shadow Complex Remastered

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Real American hero

Fans of Shadow Complex have desperately wanted a follow-up for years. I know, because I was (and still am!) among them. The 2009 side-scrolling adventure was a genuine hit on Xbox 360, deservedly so, and ended up becoming one of the defining digital-only games of the last console generation. Xbox Live Arcade seems like a distant memory, but I adored the stuff that came out of that scene at the time.

Instead of continuing down the metroidvania path with a sequel, Chair Entertainment went in a different direction: mobile gaming. The studio found such great success on iOS with Infinity Blade that it kept making more of them. And now it's off building an espionage game with J.J. Abrams.

It's fitting that Shadow Complex should return not with a fresh installment, but with a remaster for modern platforms. A sign of the times. Chair's touched-up port first came to PC late last year directly through Epic Games, and it's coming soon to PlayStation 4, Steam, and Xbox One. While this version doesn't add much aside from light graphical enhancements, that's mostly fine.

Shadow Complex Remastered review

Shadow Complex Remastered (Mac, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One [reviewed]
Developer: Chair Entertainment
Publisher: Epic Games
Released: December 2, 2015 (PC) / March 16, 2016 (Xbox One) / May 2016 (Mac, PS4)
MSRP: $14.99

The main characters look dated to the point of distraction, but generally speaking, Shadow Complex holds up rather well. The story, cheesy as it is, knows not to get in the way. After setting the stage, it largely fades out until the ending hits several hours later (give or take a few hours, depending on if you break the intended sequence of progression or decide to chase down every last hidden item).

Our protagonist, an average-looking, average-sounding dude out on a hike, stumbles upon a secret base embedded in the mountains. The complex happens to belong to a terrorist group plotting to overthrow the United States government, and this happens to be the day the plan goes into full force and, crap, they captured his date. There's a small army of super soldiers and mechs in the way, but that's nothing for a man with vague military experience who knows how to climb through vents.

Early on, you are woefully unprepared to save your friend, much less the day. But it's not long before you can swap out that lackluster pistol for something punchier, stock up on conveniently placed grenades and gadgets, and begin to piece together a near-unstoppable suit of armor.

That's the appeal of this game: you're always moving forward, uncovering new upgrades, and dispatching enemies with increasing ease. It doesn't slow down. It doesn't stop feeling good. I kept telling myself "Oh, just one more section. One more upgrade." Then I'd inevitably keep going. Each new question mark on the map was something I had to investigate, and right away.

Shadow Complex Remastered review

Combat can get a little wonky, but it's satisfying when it works as intended. While this is a side-scroller on a 2D plane and most of the time you can run right up to soldiers to shoot them in the face or perform a stupidly satisfying melee takedown (some of which are new to this remaster), the world itself is 3D. There's depth. Some enemies will be right out of reach in the background. In those situations, I'd just target their general direction and fire, hoping that my aim auto-adjusted and most of the shots landed as opposed to going straight up toward the ceiling. It's finicky at times. But ammo for your standard weaponry is infinite, and there's enough leeway for you to miss quite a few shots and survive.

Unlike many of the games Shadow Complex builds on, most notably Super Metroid, it's hard to get lost, even if you turn off the waypoint that's enabled by default. Now, is it nice to not be completely stumped or turned around in a never-ending bout of backtracking? Sure. Of course. But that general ease of navigation and item uncovering comes at the cost of a sense of true accomplishment.

Even though you're going through many of the same motions -- returning to an old area with, say, a hardening foam gun or rocket boots that enable access to a once-out-of-reach room -- Shadow Complex feels like less of an "adventure" than the similarly-structured games that came before it.

Part of that might also stem from the complex itself, which is cool and well-layered, but lacks zones with meaningfully distinct personalities. So much of the secret base blends together. I also had way too easy of a time with the boss fights. (That's not a brag!) They're flashy, but don't do enough to test your proficiency with newly-acquired gear. You can spam your way through almost all of them.

Shadow Complex Remastered review

Still, I nearly beat the game in one sitting -- not because I had to for this review, but because I couldn't put the controller down. The next night, I came back to wrap up the story and ended up hunting down secrets long afterward. And I'm considering starting over for a speedrun attempt.

Shadow Complex was great in 2009, and for the most part, it still is to this day. You won't find many new elements in this remaster apart from standard graphical upgrades, but if it has been a few years since you've played the original version, it's worth going through the journey again.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Shadow Complex Remastered reviewed by Jordan Devore

8

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
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Jordan Devore
Jordan DevoreCo-EIC   gamer profile

Jordan is a founding member of Destructoid and poster of seemingly random pictures. They are anything but random. Disclosure: I backed Double Fine Adventure and Awesomenauts: Starstorm on Kickst... more + disclosures


 


 


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