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(hx) 02:54 PM EDT - May,20 2006

Shadowgrounds (formerly known as Preyground) is an epic sci-fi shooter that combines addictive old school gameplay and modern technology creating one big nasty alien-battling carnage festival. Aliens? Oh yeah! :) The game is set in the near future and pits you against oncoming alien hordes who are invading a colony base on Jupiter's moon Ganymede. You play the role of Wesley Tyler, a virile but laconic hero who accepts his assignments with a kind of fatalistic resignation. At a few points during the game a few comrades accompany you, but generally you undertake the riskiest assignments and fight alone to save the day. There is nothing innovative in this plot, but it is sufficient to provide a thread for the action.

The story is divided into 10 missions. Each mission takes place on a different location but everything fits the main storyline and there are no recycled missions. There're recognizable structures, such as a power plant, water treatment facility, weather station, communication center, and military base, but also more bizarre and downright weird and unsettling locales. Your path is not restricted and is semi-linear - so you can explore the large levels and approach enemies from different routes. Some of your tasks along with way include fixing machinery, deactivating devices, demolition, and saving people, among others.

The game plays like a first person shooter except for the nearly overhead perspective. However, from that top-down view, the game has a pretty nice look to it. There's more detail in the environments than you might expect from a game of this type and the weapon effects are all pretty cool. The game is challenging in an old-school way, throwing swarms of baddies your way. If your health reaches zero, you can restart from the last automatic save point, which, thankfully, is not at the beginning of the level.

There are 10 weapons you can get your hands on in the course of the game. These include standard fare such as a laser rifle, minigun, shotgun, flame-thrower and rocket launcher but also offer additional variety with a deadly railgun and electric gun. When you kill aliens, they drop upgrade parts, and you get to use these to finance weapons improvements. Each weapon has three upgrades available. For example, the popular Flamethrower has an upgrade that lets you spill some fuel onto the ground, and then ignite it when the aliens are getting closer. There's Poison Grenades for the Grenade Launcher, bouncing bullets for the infamous Railgun, alien-freezing Tazer for the Pulse Rifle, stand-alone Sentry gun for the Minigun and many more. Most visually impressive is the electric gun, which shoots out lethal lightning bolts.

My only real complaints with the game are the short (10 levels,~5-6 hours) length, and the lack of multiplayer. There is only a co-op through the single player campaign for up to four players - for those with a suitable gamepad - but no LAN or Internet options. Those without the correct control hardware may find that they cannot play with anyone.

Despite it's short length and lack of multiplayer, Shadowgrounds is a fun game to play. If you like old school shooters, you'll like this.

Note: Frozenbyte informed me there will be a patch within a few weeks, and same with the Level Editor. They hopethe first mods will be released in the summer/fall.

Update (June 29): Frozenbyte has released the promised level editor. Word is this unsupported tool enables modders "to create totally new missions, even story-based campaigns and distribute them to other gamers, who can easily enjoy the new content with the built-in support in Shadowgrounds Launcher utility."

System requirements:
Minimum: Windows XP/2000, 1.3 GHz CPU, 384 MB RAM, GeForce 4 Ti / Radeon 9000, 1 GB Free Hard Drive Space
Recommended: 2.0 GHz CPU, 512 MB RAM, GeForce FX 5900 / Radeon 9500, 1 GB Free Hard Drive Space, Joypad for co-op play

snd: 4/5 - solid, voice acting could be a lot better, music fits well
gfx: 4/5 - great lighting levels are detailed, objects can be destroyed, and there's enough blood to satisfy :)
playability: 4/5 - damn addictive, nearly constant action, some cool weapons with customized upgrades, feels different due to overhead angle, multiplayer cooperative mode (on the same computer), TOO SHORT (only 10 missions!), no Internet/LAN support
genre: old-schoold shooter
release: April 2006
developer: Frozenbyte
publisher: Meridian4
Overall: 78%

last 10 comments:

xxxx(12:11 AM EDT - May,21 2006 )
I agree, great game but way too short, hell i finished it in 2 nights and I felt like.. like.. like I just started playing... :(

Anonymous(08:30 AM EDT - May,21 2006 )

lmer(09:29 AM EDT - May,21 2006 )
They promissed an editor too. That's...sweet. :) GG

th4t1guy(10:44 PM EDT - May,21 2006 )
Gamepad support for this game is crap. I have a Logitech Cordless Rumblepad 2, and I can't use the d-pad or customize controls for the 2nd analogue. Also, the default gamepad controls are horrible.

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