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Saturday, January 01, 2000 by TheDoc

Overall: 3
Graphics: 3
Interface: 3
Shadowman, the newest game from Acclaim, is a third-person action-adventure game in which you take on the role of Mike LaRoi, bearer of the Mask of Shadows. Make sense? Let me see if I can explain a little better. You are a spiritual walker between worlds and also the current ruler of Deadside, the place where everyone goes, without exception, when they die. As the Shadowman, it is your task to keep order between the Living World and the world of Deadside. As it has come to be, five serial killers, otherwise known as 'The 5', are working together to lead the evil forces of Deadside. They aim to travel back to the Liveside, bringing terror, death and destruction with them. This is where you come in. You are the chosen one. You alone must unravel the mysteries contained within Deadside, Liveside, and anywhere you may travel in-between. You must try to restore order before it is too late. Your journey will take you to locations in both Liveside and Deadside. The Liveside areas of the game are comprised of real-world locations, such as a jail in Texas or the Louisiana Swampland while Deadside is a much darker, creepier, demonic alter-world where trapped souls wander and evil lurks.

Although you are sent alone to defeat your enemies and complete your tasks to save the Living World from destruction, you are not unarmed. Along the way you will find various weapons and objects that will aid in the completion of your goals. These objects and weapons can be gathered and stored for when they are needed. Not every object that you carry can be used at all times though. The weapons in your possession that you are able to use at any moment are determined by whether you are currently in a Liveside or Deadside area of the game. In the Liveside, you're able to choose from a number of 'normal' worldly type weapons such as a pistol, shotgun, or one of your automatic weapons, depending on which ones you have discovered along the way. Aside from the pistol, you'll also need to find ammunition to make any of the weapons you have useful. In Deadside it's a different story. Your weapons there are not so standard. Sure, you've got your Shadowgun, which acts a lot like your pistol in Liveside, complete with unlimited ammo, but you will also find other types of weapons like the Asson or the Flambeau which require you to draw from your Voodoo energy to be able to use.

Most of the combat is carried out in the standard third-person style. You're able move, shoot, and strafe if you need to. But, there is also a 'snipe' mode, which allows you to shoot your enemies and targets with far greater accuracy. One interesting thing about the use of weapons and objects throughout the game is that you always get to choose what you want to be carrying in both of your hands. So, depending on your situation, you may want to have a special object in one hand and a weapon in the other or you can go completely 'John Woo' and grab two guns for some nice firepower and effectiveness. This is a nice feature in that it forces you to be more conscious of what you have chosen to use your hands for. This also can affect other aspects of how you are able to move about the levels, since you cant hang from a ledge if you have both hands full.

Your character's abilities throughout the game are fairly standard. Most of the time you will find yourself running, jumping, and shooting. When you need to, you can also hang from ledges and grab onto ropes. I found that all of these moves can be performed easily enough and I never had trouble controlling my character. Although I used a keyboard through most of the game, game pad and joystick use is supported. I was especially pleased with the amount of success I met with when trying to perform long, running jumps or complex moves when I really need to. Too often in other games, I find myself getting frustrated with having to pull off perfectly timed maneuvers during rough sections of play and coming up short. I still found myself saving my game after successfully completed harder areas just in case I happened to miss a jump or wasn’t able to defeat an enemy. The game allows you to save at any time, which is always a plus.

At the beginning of each new major section of the game, you are alerted by a vocal and visual clue that this is an exact location in your journey that you can return to at any time. It can be thought of as some sort of a cosmic 'save' spot. This is accomplished later via a warp aided by the use of a teddy bear that you carry around with you. So, when you need to, it's very easy to jump around from the different locations that you have already visited. Although this is a nice feature, it can also become somewhat overwhelming. At times when I found myself 'stuck' in one area of the game, I always had the ability to go to the beginning of EVERY other area I had EVER been to. This comes in handy if you know where you want to go, but not so nice if you have little to no idea what your next course of action should be. More than once, I found myself going back through stuff I had already done just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. This got a bit annoying when I found myself wasting a lot of time and coming up with nothing. Perhaps if the flow of the game a bit more linear in nature, it would have been more helpful or maybe making certain areas of the game that you have already 'completed' inaccessible if you don’t need to return. Take note however, if you use your teddy bear warp at any time, all of the enemies in the area you are travelling to will be regenerated, and you'll have to tangle with them again just as you did the first time around.

All of the graphics in the game are nicely done and add considerably to the mood and enjoyment of the game. The scenery in many areas was worth taking note of, from the sun-drenched swamps, to the dimly lit, blood covered walls of the Asylum. It seems that a lot of time and care was taken in the creation of the look of the various areas throughout the game. I never felt that I was just seeing rehashed graphics from previous areas as I made it further into the game. A 3D graphics card is required to play this game and all of the current major chipsets are supported. If you find yourself without enough computer power to keep all of the graphic elements at their max with smooth results, you can selectively turn off or turn down the detail levels to best suit your situation.

Not only are the graphics very convincing and appropriate, but also the sound is done very well. The entire journey is enhanced by background noises; from phantom voices and helicopters flying overhead, to a vast assortment of odd sounds with no apparent origin. There always seems to be the right noises at the right time to keep you on edge or to calm you down.

The whole game is presented very well. As the story unfolds throughout the game, it is intriguing and interesting enough to keep you hooked. I found myself wanting to keep playing to figure out the next part of the adventure. As you progress, you feel as though you are accomplishing something with each new object you find, or area you discover. The path was not always as straightforward as I would have liked, but I managed. You are the lone Shadowman and you have your work cut out for you.





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