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Shogo: Mobile Armor Division (Windows)

84
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.7
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (168676)
Written on  :  Jul 01, 2010
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars

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Summary

Damn, you ruined dating multiple sisters and piloting mechs for me

The Good

Shogo is the first completely 3D FPS made by Monolith, using their new Lithtech engine. It was one of those shooters developed during an important and prolific era in the history of the genre, heralded by Quake II and Unreal, and later joined by SiN and Half-Life.

The main attraction of Shogo is obviously the giant robot combat. Even though it doesn't really feel like such, there is some undeniable fun in blasting everything in sight, stepping on poor human enemies and wrecking cars and even tanks in one hit. These parts are refreshing, and most of them take place in a real city, instead of some boring high-tech facilities or empty outdoor areas. Those parts also feature awesome weapons; it is unfortunate they are all given to you at the same time, but that's another issue.

The regular FPS gameplay is quite conventional. Just like in the giant robot parts, the environments are completely destructible; nearly everything can be blown to pieces. Combat is fast and furious, with both you and enemies dealing devastating damage to each other. Since it's easy to get killed, initiative, precision, and speed matter more than your or the enemy's health and armor. An interesting addition are the critical hits, which are randomly dealt by both you and the player. Those hits not only damage the enemy severely, but also restore your health. Creeping around with 3 hit points and no armor, and suddenly standing on the feet again with considerable health, thanks to a few lucky critical hits, adds much-needed tension to the gameplay.

Shogo is mission-driven, meaning that everything you do in the game serves a concrete objective, rather than just following the usual "escape alive, shooting everything on your way" formula. Shogo takes mission-based approach very seriously: each level not only has a general objective, but is also typically broken into several sub-missions. Instead of just aimlessly wandering through a level, you'll be always on the look for something specific.

In fact, Shogo is probably the most story-driven shooter of its time. Its extensive cutscenes full of improbable twists and ridiculous melodrama aim to correspond to its visual style, that of Japanese anime. The story is quite idiotic and at times feels like a spoof of the genre, though I'm not sure that was intentional. Well, at least there was a branching plot near the end of the game.

Oh, and there is a doll of Captain Claw in the game!

The Bad

All its overhyped features aside, Shogo is a pretty mediocre shooter. Compared to Blood, it is a definite step back in level design. Despite all the fancy tricks they did with the polygons, they forgot about detail. Blood had diverse, gorgeous, cleverly designed levels. With a few exceptions, the time in Shogo is spent in abstract sci-fi indoor locations. The level of detail is lower than ever before, the amusing posters and magazines are repetitive and feel out of place. While Blood had interactivity and hidden areas, Shogo does away with the "use" key and forces you to backtrack way too much. It is particularly noticeable in the final level (on the Gabriel alliance path), which is an exercise in maddening backtracking through bland, lifeless corridors.

Obtaining new weapons in a FPS is part of what makes these games fun: start with a weak pistol and slowly work your way towards devastating grenade and missile launchers. It's a simple formula that has been working well since the inception of the genre, but Shogo disregards it. The weapons are given to you much too quickly, and you'll feel no satisfaction in gradually acquiring them one by one. This is quite obvious in the giant robot mode, where you get nearly all your weapons right in the beginning; but the regular mode is not much better.

The abysmal AI of Shogo's enemies stands out compared pretty much to every other FPS I've played, not just to Half-Life or other games that at least try to make enemies more believable. The gameplay depends too much on luck, with either you mowing down the unsuspecting idiots, or them killing you in one hit before you are able do anything. Really, I never make a big deal out of AI, but here it was too much. Also, there is hardly any enemy variety: you'll be fighting the same soldiers and armored dudes throughout the whole game. Weak level design, uninteresting enemies, and low satisfaction derived from using your weapons all spell FPS mediocrity to me.

Monolith tried to imitate the style of Japanese anime in this game, but they only copied its superficial aspects (super-deformed characters, mixture of world-saving plot with personal stories, etc.), simply keeping and exaggerating the genre's most notorious flaws, such as bad writing, without bothering to research and understand the spirit of the genre. There are no dramatic cutscenes worth mentioning, zero emotions; the characters in Shogo are complete morons. The result is an absolute mess of a story that throws events at us without backing them with any substance. Those hoping for a good imitation of Japanese storytelling will be sorely disappointed; Shogo is like Metal Gear Solid, though without its disarming frankness. Since no one in his right mind would take this story seriously, we assume that we are dealing with a parody. But the humor here is only sporadic and lacks poignancy necessary for a good parody. In other words, if it was supposed to be funny, it's not funny enough; if it was supposed to be serious, it's embarrassing.

The Bottom Line

Shogo is a simple shooter with mediocre gameplay, a few nice ideas, messed-up style, and a story that is provocative in its idiocy. It is crude, irritating, and could have been a much better game. At best, it may work as an example of a "so bad it's good" genre for some people. Serious FPS fans, on the other hand, had to wait for No One Lives Forever to witness Monolith getting back to greatness.