Shadow Complex Review
Shadow Complex box art
System: X360 (XBLA) Review Rating Legend
Dev: Chair Ent. (Epic Games) 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Microsoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Aug. 19, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Aiming on a 3D plane in a 2D side-scroller isn't exactly ideal. It can often be difficult to judge exactly where you need to have the analog stick pointed in order to shoot an enemy, even with the provided laser sight that helps significantly (especially if the enemy is entrenched directly behind your character). Things get even trickier when you have to adjust for objects in the background and foreground that get in the way. For example, I've had several firefights where I couldn't figure out why I wasn't hitting my adversary until I noticed my gun was firing into a miniscule piece of railing directly in front of my character.

Shadow Complex screenshot

As I stated earlier, Shadow Complex starts off with this genre's obligatory "here's how super-powered you'll be by the end of the title but you'll need to gradually re-earn every piece of it by playing through the game" type beginning. There is a good amount of different weaponry and abilities to discover throughout the game that help to make quick work of even the game's larger, more intimidating enemies. For instance, you'll find grenades, missiles, and a foam gun that can be used to create jumping platforms or to freeze enemies in place.

However, the game isn't entirely resigned to just running and gunning, as progressing through the title requires equal parts exploration and combat. The map that Shadow Complex takes place on is quite massive and encompasses the hidden Restoration military base as well as the outdoor wooded area surrounding it. While the game can seem pretty linear, the map is filled with hidden passageways, alternate routes, vents, and crawlways just waiting to be discovered by the player. As with most games of this genre, certain areas can only be accessed once you've gotten the item necessary to be able to open the way. Fortunately, Shadow Complex makes this easy to follow, as each obstruction will appear in a different color when hit with light from your flashlight that denotes what item you'll need in order to open it. This is incredibly useful and user-friendly, seemingly even for potential newcomers to the genre.


While there aren't any multiplayer options in Shadow Complex, the single-player campaign should take you between five to seven hours to complete. However, once you've made your way through the campaign, there are still a series of twenty one challenges to take on in the game's Proving Grounds. These are timed challenges based on the skills and abilities you'll acquire throughout the course of the campaign. The quicker you successfully complete these challenges, the better your rank and score will be, and the higher on the online leaderboards you'll appear. These challenges start off fairly simple but can get rather challenging by the end, so the competition for leaderboard supremacy should provide a worthy distraction between multiple trips through the campaign.

I honestly just can't say enough good things about Shadow Complex. Except for a little wonkiness when trying to aim into the background, this is a truly phenomenal title. For a fifteen dollar arcade game, the production values are almost unbelievable. The graphics are great, the level design is fantastic, the gameplay is fun and involving, the sound effects and voice acting are well done, and the story is even interesting. It is nice to see such an impressive take on the old Metroid/Castlevania formula. Here's hoping we'll get more games in this series, as the Empire Trilogy of books continues to be released.

By Adam Brown
CCC Staff Contributor

Everything looks great in the Unreal Engine 3 including cinematics, melee-induced close-ups, and while just playing the game.
While aiming into the background can create some issues, they're rarely fatal. Everything else works well and as you'd expect from this type of game.
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are great, the slight amount of included music fits the game, and the voice acting is well done, especially from actor Nolan North - Nathan Drake from Uncharted: Drake's Fortune - as the main character.
Play Value
The five to seven hour campaign is great fun, with a good amount of replayability if you're interested in finding 100 percent of the game's items. The Proving Grounds also supply a reason to revisit the title in order to try to work your way up the online leaderboards.
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Original game: This completely original game features full 3D side-scrolling action. The incredible next-gen graphics and robust physics combine with an open, evolving world design mixed with an awesome, compelling action-thriller story.
  • Power-ups: Seek out 17 unique game altering power-ups, with more than 100 additional items and modifiers to discover and use.
  • Bad guys: Fight against a large variety of enemies and experience massive, jaw-dropping boss battles.
  • Pick up and play: The super-tight controls are simple and intuitive but also allow advanced players additional depth and precision.
  • Noted scriptwriter: Shadow Complex features a script written by Peter David, one of the most popular comic book writers of all time. It's the first game to be set in the Chair's Empire universe and is based upon the best-selling novel by Orson Scott Card.

  • Screenshots / Images
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