What happens when you reverse engineer the Gears of War franchise, create a near-perfect copy on Android, then port it over to Ouya? You get Shadowgun, a triple-A clone that is so well made it’s easy to overlook the lack of originality.
Gears of War fans will slip into the groove of Shadowgun quickly, as it literally looks and plays like Gears of War design director Cliff Bleszinski made the game himself. That being said, Shadowgun is well designed, it looks amazing for an Ouya title, and it’s loads of fun to play. Add the fact that the Ouya version comes packaged with the first official expansion, The Leftover, and you’ve got a pretty solid product. The game stands on its own as a top seller on the Ouya launch list, and I for one hope Madfinger Games‘ new sequal, Shadowgun:DeadZone, will be released on the console soon.
Players take control of an elite bounty hunter paid to do the dirty-work of mega-corporations in a dystopian future. Missions take players through military installations, secret underground laboratories, snowy mountain hideouts and industrial complexes as they forge ever onward with one goal in mind: kill everything that moves. Combat is designed to be hectic and messy, with enemies approaching from all sides and different threats requiring strategic use of cover and weaponry. Cover mechanics are central to the action, and health regenerates automatically when out of battle. Enemies are hard to put down and mini-bosses can take thousands of bullets to subdue.
The level design is a major strength of Shadowgun. Working within rather than against the constraints of Android and weaker processors, levels are designed to maximize the utility of space, leading players up, down, through, and around relatively small areas in creative ways that make the space feel much bigger than it is. Rather than spanning huge open areas, Shadowgun’s levels loop in and around themselves to take full advantage of all three dimensions. The game brings back the 1990′s style “find a locked door then backtrack to find the keycard” design to make things a bit more interesting, and occasional lock-down arena-style battles stretch levels out a bit more.
Hacking mechanics set Shadowgate apart from Gears of War in at least one small way. Certain terminals must be hacked to open locked crates or doors. The hacking minigame requires players to memorize a series of keypress on a nine-digit keypad, which becomes more challenging as the speed and number of keypresses increases.
Shadowgun’s cinematics and in-game storytelling mimic the quality of games on more powerful consoles. Cinematic cutscenes were carefully crafted with triple-A scripting, animation and voice acting. Gameplay seamlessly gives way to story-driven scenes in the engine itself before smoothly transitioning back to player control. Story elements are frequent enough to present a compelling narrative experience, yet not too frequent or long enough to become tedious, striking a perfect balance between action and story that moves players forward at a good pace.
Graphics and Audio
Shadowgun achieves graphical accomplishments rarely seen on Ouya or any Android-powered device. Huge set-pieces adorn certain stages, giving it that jaw-dropping triple-A feel, and surrounding environments give the illusion that they extend for miles. The artists at Madfinger must have cut corners to make the game run smoothly on Android, but one would be hard-pressed to pinpoint exactly how. The game features a soundtrack of heavy metal music that gets the adrenaline pumping and makes the intense action feel that much more gratifying. You can get a taste of the experience for yourself in the gameplay video below:
Ouya Free Trial
Shadowgun on Ouya gives players a single free level to satisfy their curiosities before asking for a $10 purchase. The first level includes a brief tutorial and a good taste of what the rest of the game feels like. If you enjoyed Gears of Wars and liked what you saw in the clip, it won’t hurt to give this one a try for free.