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SummaryHas lots of cool things but Monolith just couldn't put it all together.
The GoodPlenty of good, pulse-pounding action comes packed in Shogo, an fps that gives you the chance to fight enemies both on foot or aboard a gigantic mecha and rain hell over cities and military complex... cool innit?
The game is a standard plot-driven fps game, even if it plays by missions. You have your share of scripted sequences as well as other plot-enhancing features like different plot threads (which can lead you to two very different game endings as well as different missions) and other gimmicks.
As I mentioned before, the action takes center stage in this game, so you can expect fast and furious fps fights courtesy of the Lithtech engine. The engine may not be the flashiest thing out there (especially in this early incarnation of it) but it does deliver fluid animation and fast graphics with lots of explosions and lightning effects. An interesting feat included in the engine is the real-time hit area detection which means that enemies react accordingly to your hits depending on where do you hit them just like in Blood 2. Though this may spell interesting strategic possibilities the fact is that it's just an aesthetic touch, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! You can juggle your opponents in the air with multiple hits, or get quick laughs as you hit them in the knees and watch them do the famed "machine gun cha-cha". That coupled with the amount of enemies and gang-bang type of firefights gets you a fantastically hyperkinetic experience that goes hand in hand with Shogo's outlandish animé world.
Of course, when you take the seat of one of the 3 mechas, the game takes a slightly different edge and you play in a much more over-the top enviroment where you can make gigantic jumps, wield absolutely devastating weapons that can level entire cities, and generally raise some major hell in the name of virtual entertainment. Yay! The mecha-segments are also the ones that feature some of the best level designs in the game, a great level has you jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper while shooting down enemy mechas as you try to get to the other side of the city, and an easy but dramatic fight takes place on the main building in an eery construction yard... very nice, quite a refreshment from the standard fps sequences of "fetch key, go kill gonzo, repeat".
The animé angle is pretty amusing when coupled to an fps game, and it's well implemented too since obviously the developers knew what makes the genre tick and capitalized on most of it's common points. The background storyline deals with some typical war among some military factions in the future, but as in most good animés this is just a backdrop for the personal struggles of the main characters, their sappy melodramas, their feelings of guilt, teen angst, etc. etc. I know I make it sound like crap, but it's a great capture of the "generic animé spirit" if that spirit is crap well, that's another issue...
The BadThe game is just a mess. Save for the few points I mentioned up there the whole thing just seems hastily stitched together. It's not that bad really, but I get the feeling the guys at Monolith realized that an animé-based game fps would be a cool idea so they bothered to research all the art, licensed the world's crappiest J-pop song (as per standard animé requirements) and wrote a typically entertaining melodrama-in-war story that fitted the genre, but didn't actually put that much thinking in the general construction of the game. The levels themselves hardly ever make sense from a gameflow perspective, and they fall to some of the worst cliches ever in the genre (the last level if you choose to go against your superiors is a throwback to fps hell for instance). The mission design is often inconsistent and just boils down to "shoot the hell out of everything" and the AI is terribly predictable and stupid (especially that of the "bosses").
To further prove that the developers spent all the time thinking of cool things to jam in their game and not how the game used them you have a collection of genuinely good concepts that are blatantly wasted for no reason! ie: you have some stealthy weapons, but the game always forces you into head-on confrontations, so what is the use for them? When piloting mechas you can transform them into some weird-ass vehicles that only make you move slightly faster, but since you lose control of your weapons and there are no situations that call for you to "run to x place" or "escape x thing" what's the use?? Want more? By the 3rd/4th mission you'll already have the full, yes FULL, arsenal for your mecha!! (well, except for that Red Riot thingie that you get at the end)... what's the point of being able to choose from eight or so super kickass weapons if they all just fall on your ass from the get-go? This may sound stupid, but remember how gaining each weapon was a dramatic and super thrilling moment in games like Half-Life or Doom?? And each one was instantly cleverly introduced to you so that you could carefully experiment and find out their pros and cons? Well, Shogo just throws the whole arsenal at you! Have fun! You just start choosing the ones that seem more powerful and work your way downwards! Geez... and the worst part is that the mecha weapons are incredibly cool! And speaking of Mechas, why didn't they introduce at least some differences in gameplay or interface? Would it have killed them to provide a HUD or something to remind you that you are actually in an armored behemoth and not just playing the same fps game only in gigantor-mode and with different textures? Man, what a waste....
Oh, and lest I forget: This early versions of the LithTech engine had some major issues with some 3D cards. I hardly think they are a problem nowadays, but they were one to me in it's time, with dissapearing walls, textures, critters, etc... Don't say I didn't warn you!
The Bottom LineShogo has a lot of cool elements and creative juice, but it doesn't seem to pull it down into the reality of it's own game. The game just feels like a loose collection of ideas and concepts, whenever they do merge together you get a glimpse of Shogo's potential, specially with it's fierce and intense firefights and Mecha action. But for the most part it's just an averagely entertaining game that's hard to recommend in the face of all the other superior games out there.
And that song... THAT HELLISH SONNGGAAARARHRHH!!!!!!!