Written by  :  Ashley Pomeroy (233)
Written on  :  Jun 27, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  1.71 Stars1.71 Stars1.71 Stars1.71 Stars1.71 Stars

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No go.

The Good

Shogo combined the giant robot antics of Mechwarrior with the infantry shooting of something like Quake. It was one of a pair of games from 1998 that used the original Lithtech 3D engine. Whereas the other game, Blood II, was tedium incarnate, Shogo was entertaining but frustratingly bitty. It is strange that there was never a sequel.

I enjoyed Shogo, and this despite the fact that I generally despise fans of Japanese animation. I do not so much despise the animation itself - which looks lovely - but the fans, who are loathsome. The Wikipedia entry for this game repels me, with its thousand-word summary of the game's plot, which is soap opera drivel of the "and then he did this and then he did that and this happened and they went there and did that" variety. A lot of things happen, but it means nothing. It is complicated like a plate of mashed potato; the crevices and crags are infinite in their variety but it is nonetheless just a blob of mashed spud. A work of art is more than a description of the composition and arrangement of its component parts.

The graphics were very attractive for 1998, particularly the cloudy skies, smoke trails, and glowing lights, although the objects and buildings were also very simple. The decision to use a mannered graphic style - based on Japanese kid's cartoons - worked well to hide the simplicity and low polygon count. Nonetheless the game had a clean, simple, futuristic design. The ability of your mech to leap tall buildings with a single bound was liberating.

The walking-about gameplay was, surprisingly, more realistic than that of Quake and its ilk. You could kill the infantry soldiers with one or two shots, and they could damage you badly too. It was almost Rainbow Six-esque, and it is only recently that this type of gameplay has become mainstream. For once there was an incentive for you to duck behind corners, although it always seemed a little half-baked - as if the designers had planned a more complicated game, but time pressures had forced them to cut corners. I can only review the finished product, not the process.

The Bad

That was the thing. The game seemed half-finished; as if the designers had wrapped it up, but had been pressed for time to polish it or add anything other than the bare bones. The levels were short and it didn't take long to finish the game. When you did, you were let down by a clearly unfinished final animation. There was a story; it didn't mean anything. I can name some of the people from Deus Ex, which I have not played in years, but the story and milieu of Shogo has fled my mind. Deus Ex had events, whereas Shogo was just a lot of incidents.

The levels alternated between giant robot combat and running around on the ground. But the two modes felt almost the same, and the gameplay was fundamentally identical, except from a higher perspective. You could turn your robot into an unarmed but fast ground car, although there was never any reason to do so. Your robot moved around and sidestepped just like a person. It did not have inertia and it did not feel like a hundred tonnes of metal, unlike the robots from Mechwarrior 2, which were hefty.

Some of the platform action was frustrating; I remember one level which involved jumping about in the clouds, and you could easily plummet to your death, which was plausible all right but no fun.

Although the game was inspired by Japanese animation, it didn't go all the way. The cityscapes were anonymous. The mechs were clunky, the characters were not exaggerated enough. Shogo's biggest failing was that it was bland.

That, and the fact it came out around the same time as Half-Life, which crushed it underfoot like I would crush a wounded bee with my leather boots. Half-Life was a carefully-crafted game made by creative, intelligent professionals in love with their work; a game written by and aimed at thinking, intelligent adults who had read books other than science fiction and fantasy; a polished game that belied the great thought with which it had been created. In contrast, Shogo always felt a little like a demo for the Lithtech engine. No matter how long the designers of Shogo had been given, it would not have been long enough. They were not up to it.

The Bottom Line

Rather like its stablemate Blood II, Shogo came and went without leaving a trace; the magazines ignored it and it went to budget quite quickly. A month or so later people were getting exciting about Half-Life, and to a lesser extent SiN. As I have already said, I enjoyed Shogo. It was entertaining, and came out at the very end of a short fallow people (I was not to know that Half-Life was a month or so away). But it was very transient.

When I finished it, I did not ever play it again, because there was no reason to do so. It nowadays seems very lost and dated and old. The Wikipedia entry states that there is a thriving fan community; but there is also a thriving community of P J Proby fans, and fans of the cult 1979 television series The Sandbaggers.