Shadowrun for the Xbox 360 and Windows Vista allows gamers on both platforms to play against each other. This is now possible via Games for Windows -- Live which takes the successful online service of Xbox Live, to the PC.
While Halo 2 will be the first game to utilise the Games for Windows -- Live multiplayer features on Vista when it is released for PC on 17 May, Shadowrun has been the first game built from the ground up to be played over Live. Shadowrun is an online First Person Shooter which borrows elements from a variety of games including Counter-Strike and Oblivion.
Set in a fantasy world, Shadowrun puts a variety of maps and game types at the player's disposal. There are a few ways to play Shadowrun. The first being to treat Shadowrun like any other online first person shooter (FPS) and just run and gun, learning which weapons suit which situation and just sticking to your guns. Whilst that way works fine, it isn't the most exciting way to do it.
The other way, and by far the most fun way to play Shadowrun, is to use a mixture of technology and magic. The magic can be used for a variety of things including reviving your dead team-mate, making a healing tree which heals all players within a two metre radius, teleporting you five metres forward and even summoning a mighty Orc to do your dirty work. However, while the technology abilities in Shadowrun are cool, they aren't as well thought out as their magic counterparts. A few of the technological abilities you can purchase in Shadowrun include a glider, aim assist which also lets you see through walls, and grenades.
Before getting down into the nitty gritty of online or LAN matches, it is strongly advised that you sit down and do the first few training missions -- which they try to poorly tie into a story. Story aside, you learn many useful things that you will need to know before playing online such as how to teleport up floors, glide though the level and reviving your team-mates. These tutorials are quite helpful, but they can be a bit tedious and take longer than needed.
Once you've got all your skills and abilities knuckled down it's time to head into the action. Now this is where it gets interesting -- for the first time in a recent history PC gamers have the chance to face off against their console rivals. Before the game starts you have choose your race from Human, Elf, Dwarf and Troll. All of which have different attributes -- such as the Troll, who is the slowest of the races, but can take the most damage before being killed.
The game itself is quite fast paced with rounds averaging around three to four minutes. Each round starts off in the purchase screen where you are invited to buy a variety of weapons, technology and magic. Then the fun begins -- as the matches are often very chaotic. The maps are highly detailed with multiple levels and paths leading to your objectives. We played only a handful of the maps, but they are designed to accommodate almost all of the different abilities. Some parts of the maps are tall and best suited to players who have Gliders -- while others parts with lots of corridors can be easily navigated by those with the teleporting ability. Unlike the technology, your magic is drained away each time you use it, but is replenished over a short period of time. By far the coolest magical ability you get though is to unleash an Orc, who does the killing for you and acts as a bodyguard.
The gameplay between the PC and 360 versions is much the same, but graphically it is a different story. It became immediately obvious that the 360 version of the game was the more polished version. The textures are more detailed and the lighting effects are far more noticeable. It is also worth noting that your character controls better on the 360 than the PC -- which throws out the theory that the mouse is more precise than the controller.
Shadowrun is an enjoyable game with fast paced action and enjoyable maps. While one can't ignore the fact that it is just a blend of different games, the finished product comes out remarkably well. The full review will be out in June alongside its release in Australia.