Shadow Man: 2econd Coming
ShadowMan: 2econd Coming is the second installment in the series by Acclaim Entertainment and is Acclaim's first attempt to bring the series not only into the 21st century, but onto a new platform, the PlayStation2. The effort was a mild success, but there are some definite areas for improvement.
In 2econd Coming, you play a dual role. During the day, you are Mike Leroi, a tough, bald-headed dude with shades. At night, you become Shadow Man, an undead zombie assassin. Each character has its own strengths. As Mike, you are stronger and can push certain items in the game that Shadow Man cannot. Conversely, Shadow Man cannot drown and does not take damage from falls. During gameplay, you will occasionally run into an obstacle or situation that requires you to be either Mike or Shadow Man to proceed. Luckily, day and night revolve on about a 5-minute game time schedule, so you never have to wait for long to switch characters. In addition, towards the end of level one, you will obtain a pocket watch which you can use to speed up time for a short span.
The story line and cut scenes are pretty much designed with your average 13-year old in mind (demons loosed upon the world, friends possessed, churches desecrated, all that good stuff), but they serve the action well enough, which is really all you need in this type of game. There is some language in the cut scenes that parents should be aware of, however. (The game has a Mature rating).
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
As someone once said, the Devil is in the details. The difference between a game that has staying power and one that you play for a little while usually comes in the form of the game interface. A well-implemented interface design can make a game addictive. A bad one can make it frustrating to the point of tears. The interface and controls for ShadowMan: 2econd Coming fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
First the good news: the ability to arm multiple weapons and switch between sets of multiple weapons with one button push is great. It comes in very handy when you have to, say, smash a few crates with your fire axe, take out some barrels with your assassin rifle (a two-handed weapon), and then take the nail gun to do in some baddies as you run around the corner. You can do all of this without going into your inventory to change weapons. Also nice is the fact that weapons reload themselves and stamina is not an issue in the game' you can run as long as you want without tiring.
Also worth mentioning is that the game is not entirely about killing things. There are enough puzzles to solve along to way to keep you interested between melees. We're not talking about Myst here, but still enough to challenge you for a minute or two now and again to break up the action.
Now for the bad points, which unfortunately, outweigh the good. First of all, there is no onscreen map. You do get maps in your inventory, but it is a pain to have to go into your inventory to view them. Most first-person shooters give you some sort of on-screen map, and its absence here is continually irking. The interface comprises a series of 'rings," and you get to most items by navigating through the ring levels. It makes for a nice visual effect, but leaves one wishing for a quicker way to change items, consult the map, or read documents. Also noticeable is the length of load times' much longer on average than other games of the same ilk.
The visual design of the interface could use some tweaking as well. While playing, you have two on-screen indicators one for your ammo and oxygen levels, the other for your lifeforce (read as health) and voodoo power. This is all well and good, except that these displays take up way too much screen real estate. They could be much smaller and still be useful. You do have the option to hide them or turn them off, but I'd rather have them in view but smaller. All of the screen shots on the Acclaim site have these indicators hidden, if that tells you anything.
There are some liabilities in the actual gameplay that are also worth mentioning. First off, swimming is something you come to dread, because it is very difficult to control your character under water. You eventually start planning to have Shadow Man always do the swimming, because oxygen levels are not an issue for him. However, when guys are shooting at you (or crocs chomping on you), and you keep swimming your head straight into the lake bottom, that's not a consolation.
The one last thing I'd mention is that in several areas of the game, the view will switch automatically from a first-person view to a top down view, sometimes for no apparent reason. Occasionally, you need the top-down view to solve a puzzle (like deciding which crates to move to get through a maze), but more often than not, the camera switching occurs and leaves you scratching your head, or worse, makes you nauseous.
Graphics & Audio
I'd say the graphic engine is just a bit below par for this type of game. Comparing the visuals to other recent PS2 releases in the genre makes the visuals for Shadow Man pale somewhat by comparison. That's not to say there aren't some nice effects: for instance, the flickering torches and some of the shadow effects while venturing through the sepulcher were very attractive. But all in all, I wouldn't say the graphics utilized the PS2's full potential. The music and SFX are typical of the genre yet don't stand out enough to mention in great detail.
Sorry, ShadowMan: 2econd Coming does not offer any split screen or options for linking PS2s to get a multiplayer experience. It is strictly a one-person game.
ShadowMan: 2econd Coming is your middle-of-the-road 3D shooter. It's fun enough to take for a spin if you want to try something new, or if you're a fan of the original game. But the gameplay issues, lack of multiplayer options, and lack of sparkle in the graphics and audio mean that more than likely, you would try it for a few days, and then get back to Devil May Cry or Final Fantasy X.