Shadow Complex

Shadow Complex Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS4Xbox OnePC

Combines the best of old-school side-scroller design with modern, cutting-edge gameplay.

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9Out of 10
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Eventually, as you find new bits of armour, Jason becomes something of a cyborg ninja.
Eventually, as you find new bits of armour, Jason becomes something of a cyborg ninja.

Eventually, as you find new bits of armour, Jason becomes something of a cyborg ninja.

This is where the comparisons with Super Metroid are most applicable. Each new item found leads to new possibilities. You find yourself scouring the grid-like map for unexplored areas, previously impassable structures and rooms with question marks – legend for unfound item. There’s loads of backtracking – a hallmark of the Metroid series – but it never feels frustrating because new goodies are always just around the corner. Shadow Complex is in a hurry: new weapons and armour upgrades come thick and fast – evidence, perhaps, of Chair’s mindfulness of the modern day gamer’s attention span.

Underpinning the item-hunt gameplay is an experience point-based levelling up system that quietly gets on with its business without ever making the player a slave to it. You’ll level up almost without noticing, improving your accuracy, health and armour along the way. But if you bother to get your hands dirty with the system, you’ll find a meta-game hidden underneath. Spectacular kills score experience gain multipliers. Kill a bunch of goons with a falling shipping crate, for example, and you’ll get a huge amount of XP. String melee kills (press B up close) and headshots together for more bonuses. Kill a boss (the boss fights are great) by way of its weak points and you’ll be rewarded appropriately. It’s not just the doing, but the way of doing, that counts.

Critics will say Shadow Complex is just a rip-off of a genre once dead, but they’re missing the point. It’s executed so perfectly that accusations of plagiarism are easily forgiven. At a time when so many games feel like little more than re-skinned versions of Gears of War or Halo, Shadow Complex’s somewhat archaic mechanics are like a breath of fresh air.

Critics will also point to the brainless Hollywood blockbuster plot, but they’re also wide of the mark. Shadow Complex is perfectly pitched. It’s based on Empire, the Orson Scott Card novel, which might be improbable and unrealistically gung-ho, but it fits. When Jason talks to his girlfriend or himself, or eavesdrops on enemy chatter, it comes off as wonderful attention to detail on Chair’s part, not clichéd dialogue.

Shadow Complex is a game every 360 owner should play. Brilliant.

Shadow Complex is a game every 360 owner should play. Brilliant.

Chair’s greatest triumph, though, is that it’s nailed the platforming. It feels just right – only rarely frustrating. The collision detection is spot on – absolutely crucial for precision platforming, and the controls are as tight as a drum. The animations are gorgeous – from the holstering of weapons to the clambering up of walls – every action flows together seamlessly.

For a downloadable game, Shadow Complex is packed to bursting point. The main campaign, on the normal difficulty, won’t take you more than five or so hours to complete, but that’s only half the adventure. You’re compelled to reload and hunt down every single item, explore every nook and cranny of the massive complex in search of that final piece of armour. And when you’re done with that, there’s a raft of time-based one-off challenges to pit your skills against. Online leaderboards will only fuel high score obsessions.

In short, Shadow Complex is a triumph, a new standard for downloadable games. It’s a game in the purest sense, but is as “next-gen” as any Xbox 360 owner could hope for. And at 1200 MS Points it’s an absolute bargain guaranteed to fill rival XBLA developers with fear. 2009 has already seen a raft of quality downloadable games, but Shadow Complex could well be the best.

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User Comments

AngryVideoGamerNerd's Avatar


that guy looks like logan in logan's shadow
Posted 00:40 on 19 August 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar


graphics do look good after seeing some screens
Posted 14:38 on 18 August 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar

thpcplayer@ rbevanx

same here
Posted 14:35 on 18 August 2009
rbevanx's Avatar


Yeah I'm gonna play the demo first, but it does look good.
Posted 19:02 on 17 August 2009
xboxlive's Avatar


Il have to gave the demo ago first but seen some vids and it dont look to bad.
Posted 18:04 on 17 August 2009
El-Dev's Avatar


This for £10, excellent! First XBLA purchase.
Posted 14:08 on 17 August 2009

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Shadow Complex
Out of 10
Shadow Complex
  • Online leaderboards
  • Gorgeous graphics
  • Classic 2D platforming/shooting
  • Masses to collect
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Release Date: 19/08/2009
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS4 , Xbox One , PC
Developer: Chair Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Action
No. Players: One
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 1,866 362
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