Shadow Master

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a game by Psygnosis
Genre: Action
Platforms: PC (1998), Playstation, PSX
Editor Rating: 6.1/10, based on 9 reviews
User Rating: 9.0/10 - 4 votes
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See also: First Person Shooter Games
Shadow Master
Shadow Master
Shadow Master
Shadow Master

Its A Dream We All Have: One Day We'll load up a game and be confronted with an intro sequence that's so utterly original and gobsmackingly fresh that everything that's gone before it pales into insignificance.

Just imagine: the game begins, and instead of some all-too familiar spacecraft crawling across your monitor pursued by tiny fighter craft, there's something entirely different altogether.

Imagine that there's no James Earl Jones-esque voice-over. Imagine that there's something else in place of yet another expensive-look ing-but-probably-d one-in-somebody's-sleep CGI hurt a fly (unless of course that fly happened to be in control of an armada of starships stuffed to the airlocks with plasma cannons and various other assorted weapons of galactic mass destruction).

With a set-up like that, there are only so many ways the gameplay in Shadow Master could go. It could, for instance, be a Wing Commander-type space shoot 'em up; it could be some sort of strategy game along the sequence. Imagine all of this and you've imagined... the opposite of Shadow Master's intro.

What's it all about, Alf-ie?

Just for a change, a marauding force of alien life forms is cutting a deadly swathe of destruction through the galaxy - and they're heading right for us. 'Us', in this instance, being a relatively peaceful colony world full of people who wouldn't lines of Pax Impend it could even be another Quake 2. Shadow Master is closer to Quake than Pax Imperia, but it's no Quake clone. You play the game from within a versatile cross between a tank and a beach buggy, which is dropped onto various planets where your task is to shut down the enemy's operations on that world and liberate the cybemetically enslaved populace, or complete a similar objective within a time limit. The development team are obviously trying to recreate the feel of an old-style arcade shoot 'em up, albeit within a 3D, first-person perspective environment. Indeed, the swathes of enemies, the power-ups and the appearance of mid - and end-of-level bosses certainly evoke many of the conventions of the 1980s arcade experience. However, the labyrinthine structure of the 16 vast levels, and a number of simple puzzles (though there's nothing more involving than activating the odd switch), do offer something more.

More than this

As with most Psygnosis games, Shadow Master is a glorious, up-your-shlrt and in-your-face graphics fest. Though it's obviously a little chunky on your average unaccelerated machine, 3Dfx-equipped types will have their eyeballs inverted by the special effects and multiple light-sourced explosions. The backdrops and overall design of the levels are quite unlike anything we've seen before, adopting a Jow-tech tribalism which gobs in the face of your usual clanky Avens-influenced blue-collar military look.

Likewise, the enemies in Shadow Master are quite unlike anything we're used to finding in games such as these. They range from organic, subtly Manga-style cyborgs, to giant scuttling spiders and insects, to ridiculously big robot dragons and death-spitting tanks. As you'd expect, if it's capable of blowing you up, you can return the favour. The gratuitous pyrotechnics and whiz-bang visuals are Shadow Master's strongest selling points.

Big smells

There are some unpleasant smells in Shadow Master's trousers, though. For starters, the levels, while commendably big, are possibly too big. Just when you think you've twatted the end-of-level boss, you then find that you've got to backtrack through the silent battlefield in order to find another path to continue the level. The control of your tank/buggy thing could also be more responsive - at times it feels like it's sticking to the level walls, velcro-style, hindering any attempt to flee a savage onslaught. This wouldn't be so bad if the challenge set by the game wasn't so high; it will test the patience of even the most gifted games player, with enemies seeming to materialise out of thin air and box you in before you've a chance to flee. On top of it all there's a sneaking feeling that the difficulty has been pumped up to disguise the fact that, ultimately, there's little here that you've haven't seen elsewhere.

But gripes aside, Shadow Masteds obligatory multi-player modes should keep you going for some time. You shouldn't expect Quake-style deathmatch thrills, though. Likewise, the always surprising and unique visuals provide an incentive to keep plugging away, even though you'll need the patience of Saint Umpapa (the patron saint of not giving up on really challenging games) to get through it all.

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System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

Set in a world inspired by the imagination of noted fantasy and science-fiction artist Rodney Matthews comes Shadow Master. Playing from a first-person perspective in the cockpit of a roving assault vehicle, your task is to defend a planet from an insidious alien dictatorship with designs on pillaging the world's natural resources. But the mission won't be easy--the alien terrain is crawling with an unusual array of mechanical and insectoid enemies programmed with advanced artificial intelligence ready to pound you.

Following in the footsteps of Psygnosis's games these days, the fast, frenetic action takes place in large, 3D texture-mapped levels (16 in all), which feature crisp, detailed graphics and beautiful lighting effects. With both a distinctive look and smooth, responsive gameplay, Shadow Master should prove to be a welcome addition to the 3D shooter lineup for the PlayStation.

SHADOW MASTER is a frenzied 3-D arcade shooter with graphics that'll make your jaw hit the deck. The game's a first-person perspective blast-atom with visual and gameplay elements of Quake, Tunnel B1 and Blam! Machinehead, with a nice mix of strategy and all-out firepower.

The game takes place across 16 missions on s6ven worlds. Destroy an enemy and they release power crystals. Collecting these allows you to do a number of things. Essentially, they're like tune-ups in a racing game. The crystals sit in a reservoir which you can use to allocate to your health, or your engines or shields. How you allocate them makes the difference between winning and losing.

Your display is very detailed and thorough-something necessary in a 'twitch' shooter. The cockpit view contains a crosshair, shield and ammo display, a radar and tilt/angle finder and a databank which identifies whichever enemy you lock onto.

The 3-D game engine is amazingly quick. and everything moves at 30 frames per second even when there are six to eight enemies on screen. Not bad, considering most of the enemies contain 200-300 polygons. This is one game that will really test your hand/eye coordination to the max..

Weird, sci-fi worlds await gamers in Shadow Master, also by Psygnosis. The early version of the game we saw reminds us somewhat of Machine Head or Brahma force. The difference is that Shadow Master is based completely on an alien world (one the creators of the title developed), complete with its own language of sorts! Players can take out the cybernetic organisms and robots with anything from standard looking rockets to crazy triple bombs. Shadow Master marks the first time the developers have ventured onto the PlayStation (then previous titles having been scattered on various computers and 16-Bit systems). This one is early so watch for more updates.

It's probably safe to say that most gamers are fed up with powerful overlords that come into power, strip the land of its natural resources, and turn all creatures into mechanized beasts. Yes, we've all seen it before--now it's time to put a stop to it!

That's exactly what you have to do in Shadow Master, a game published by Psygnosis (developed by Hammerhead). The main "bad dude" in this one, the Shadow Master, plans on taking the entire solar system and doing whatever evil things he wants to do to it. Thanks to you and your armored vehicle, that task won't be so easy.

Shadow Master features over 15 levels of play in seven different worlds. The mission in each is easy: Destroy all creatures without dying in the process. Like Doom and other first-person shooters, Shadow Master features a starting point, an ending point and lots of enemies in between.

The graphics are fully 3-D--even the enemies. With graphics like this, you might think they'd get real blocky up close. Surprisingly enough, they don't. They may not be anti-aliased or anything real fancy tike that, but we've easily seen much worse.

The enemies in Shadow Master vary from little insect-looking things to hulking bots with giant cannons mounted on their shoulders. All of the baddies in the game are steel-plated-in other words, mechanized. But their armor isn't strong enough to stop a couple missiles from blowing them to smithereens.

As might be expected from a game published by Psygnosis, the lighting effects are way-cool. Explosions fill the screen with yellow light, whereas plasma blasts fly by your head while emitting a blue tint. Wot only do the explosions create neat-o effects, the environments feature colored light sourcing. All of the effects in Shadow Master make for a great visual joyride.

The graphics in the game are only part of the fun. Shadow Master presents challenge after challenge, and does it with style. The level layouts have you going up or down elevators and finding door switches while avoiding enemy fire. White you make your way through the level, though, you'll have plenty of weapons to return fire with.

  • MANUFACTURER - Hammerhead

People say:


Shadow Master looks fantastic but just ends up being slightly more than average. Granted, the game has a load of different enemies, nicely designed levels and fancy cinemas, but I always find myself saying, "Oh, this type of thing again." Another possible problem to be weary of is the overall feel of the game. It's obvious that it's a Quake-ish type of game, but unlike Quake you're inside a heavily armored vehicle. Because of this, the control comes off as being weird. It took me some time to get used to the way the craft moves. And if you don't get used to the control, the next problem may be even worse. The game only allows you to save every few levels or so, once a "world" is taken care of. This translates into long frustrating hours sitting in your bedroom all by yourself. Besides the saving thing and goofy control, one more little problem exists: the doors. When you get close to them, they open. As you back away, they close. Now if an enemy lies behind the door, you're sure to get blasted every time you try to enter. Where's the strategy? Undoubtedly, the best things about SM are the game's graphics and music. The graphics are some of the nicest on the PlayStation. In fact, even though they're polygonal they hardly break up or become pixelized at close range, and the music plain rocks.


In the eye-candy department, Shadow Master truly delivers. The nifty lighting effects and detailed environments draw you in at first, but gameplay-wise, SM is not so appealing. Although the game has an auto-aim feature, the futuristic buggy-vehicle bounds around so much, it's a challenge just to shoot a simple enemy, let alone drive in a straight line. In the end, SM comes across as more of a graphics showcase than a fun game.


Oooo. I'm so angry at this game. It only lets you save every few levels, meaning if you die, you could lose a lot of progress (which happened to me). Also, where's the mapping system? What's with the misleading sound FX? (The Q-Sound is way cool, but for some reason, it always sounds like you're surrounded by enemies.) Your vehicle also tends to get stuck in certain areas. This game is a showcase for cool technology...nothing more.


Shadow Master looks good, sounds good, plays horribly. Enemies are everywhere, popping up around each bend and behind every door--and they always nail you, no matter how much you strafe or juke. Where's the fun in playing a game in which it's impossible to dodge enemy fire? You don't really see any variety in the missions until after the third level-but that's also when the difficulty curve shoots through the roof.


From the initial looks and information I received on Shadow Master, I did not know what to think. On one hand, we have the game published by the PSX master, Psygnosis. On the other hand, the story seemed a bit weak and I have seen enough first-person shooters to last a lifetime. The only way to know for sure about this title was to sit down and log some hours (and I mean hours). When all was said and done, I walked away with the same mixed emotions that I started with.

This game is one of those "futuristic alien races taking over the planet"-type game. Of course it is up to you to stop them. You race around 16 huge levels and 7 different worlds blasting anything and everything that crosses your path. There are more enemies than you can count, and all of them want nothing more than to blow you into pieces. One warning: this game will have anyone that suffers from motion sickness hurling in no time.


After playing this game for some time, I walked away both amazed and frustrated. I think this game has a little something in it for most shooter fans, but only only the most skilled players will make it past the first few levels.

O.K., so what is Shadow Master? The best was to describe it is a cross between a first person shooter (Doom) and a fast paced flying first person shooter Descent. You drive around in a buggy of sorts that is armed to the hilt. You take your buggy out into the vast and dangerous worlds blasting away enemies from the first person perspective. You will also run into an occasional puzzle which will open up doors that are otherwise inoperable.

The best part of this game is unquestionably the different enemies you will face. Psygnosis is known for making beautiful looking games, but this one takes the cake. All of the enemies are incredible and intelligent. They range from giant spiders, called Scuttlers, to huge, screeching, hawk-like monsters. There are over 60 different bad guys to face throughout the entire game. In addition to the originality of the monsters, they are awesome looking. How many first person shooters look grainy and when you get up close to an enemy, making everything look like a mess? Get as close to these guys as you can and they will look even better than they do from a distance.

Shadow Master also has an interesting level design. All of the levels, including the first "training" mission, are very long. This is both a good and bad thing. It is good because you will not breeze through the game. It is bad because you only have one life to make it through. If you spend 45 minutes blasting your way through the level and die, too bad. Back to the beginning of the level you go, no continues or anything. This would get really annoying because when you start the level over, you have to kill all of the enemies and activate all of the secrets again. I have a real problem motivating myself to retrace 45 minutes of work just to get back to the point that I died. Sure it adds to the challenge, but I guarantee it will frustrate more than a few people.

One problem I had with the game is that I never really got comfortable with the controls. Once you familiarize yourself with the controls of a game, they should start be like second nature. You should not have to think about what you are doing before doing it. I never got this feeling with Shadow Master. It might be me but I just never could get the hang of it. One of the moves essential to mastering is the slide left and right. This helps you dodge the enemy projectiles heading in your direction. To slide, you use the L1 and R1 button. To look up and look down, you use the L2 and R2 buttons. Since the action is always hot and heavy, I would inevitably look up when trying to slide and then slide when trying to look back down. Like I said, this may have just been my problem, but it bothered me.

I know I have been ragging this game quite a bit for an 81 score. Most of these issues that I am complaining about are not major, but do warrant some comments. With that in mind, the last thing that I did not like about this game was the way the enemies would just pop up out of the ground. I hate games that use this tactic. I have no problems with enemies jumping over walls, breaking through window, or whatever. In this game, you will be cruising along and enemies will just pop up out of the ground. To make things worse, the buggy you are driving is not the most responsive and it takes a second to stop and change your course of travel. Come on, the game is hard enough without having to have enemies magically appear without any fair warning.

I do want to end this section up on a positive note. One thing that can be said about Shadow Master is that although it may not be the most original game around, it does a great job with what it was designed for. Shooter fans will rejoice at the amount of destruction and alien blasting they will encounter. You will not finish this game in one, two, or even three days—so be prepared.


This is where a large portion of the score comes from. I know that everyone knows the old saying about graphics don't make a game, gameplay does. Well, this is a game that has average gameplay but awesome graphics and it does make the game. Psygnosis has got the whole graphics thing figured out. From the explosions, to the detailed enemies, to the beautiful worlds, this game just screams for a best graphics award. Another thing that the graphics provide is an incredible sense of speed. You feel like your buggy has a supercharged 427 powering it. Flying around corners has never been done at such an incredible speed with virtually no slowdown or clipping problems. Great job!

Bottom Line

If you are up for a tough challenge, check this one out. You may find yourself cursing in frustration when you have to start an entire level over when you die near the end. The graphics in this game are so incredible that you just have to see them to really understand. Also, I think is a testament to the developers abilities because there are no clipping problems or slowdowns. All in all, this is a decent title that is worthy of at least a rental.

Shadow Master is another bio mech corridor shooter along the lines of Machine Head, but with a much deeper and more immersive environment. Inspired by fantasy and sci-fi illustrator Rodney Matthews, the game has a distinctive otherworldly air, from the tropical landscape of Silvan to the lava-infested planet Ocela. You'll race through 16 levels, upgrading your weapons as you gun dow insect-like creatures and other bio-mechs. These early screens indicate more thumb-burning action from Psygnosis.

If you remember Eidos's game Machine Head from a year ago, or if you loved Descent, then you'll already have an idea of what Shadow Masters is like. But while this shooter has elements from both those games, including fast-moving action and huge explosions, it also throws in creatures designed by famed fantasy illustrator, Rodney Matthews.

The game's strange, otherworldly look is only surpassed by its lightning-fast gameplay, which actually becomes annoying at times--as you blaze around a corner, you'll slide right into monsters. But with strategic puzzle elements, like timed switches and sequential triggers (where you have to press each trigger in a pattern), the game has some lasting power.

The in-game audio cues also help out, although some are repetitive (you'll hear a certain hawk scream over and over), but the rockin' explosions make up for any sonic mishaps. Shadow's control is fluid, although you may find yourself fighting the directional pad in tight spots. Your vehicle seems to get stuck a lot in corners and crevices. There are also times when it seems that you're swaying to the right for no apparent reason.

With a little patience and some sharp shooting, you could master the game in no time. It's definitely a graphical leap from Machine Head, and although there's no chunky gore, it's still more fun than Descent.


  • Your radar will show you enemies before your eyes will. Before you go charging around a corner, check your heads-up display (HUD).
  • Check out every glowing object carefully. Some may just be wall torches, but some, like the one in this secret room on Silvan, are actually switches.

Snapshots and Media

PC Screenshots

Playstation Screenshots

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