Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
It seems like every time I turn around a new first-person shooter is hitting the shelves, and it’s getting hard to tell many of them apart. Catching my interest takes more than just another flashy gore-fest -- to meet my bar, a game has to offer a storyline that will keep my interest for more than one or two levels. Shogo manages to do just that. It’s designed in an anime (Japanese animation) style. You play Sanjuro Makabe, a Mobile Combat Armor (MCA) pilot in the United Corporate Authority (UCA) Security Force. The UCA is involved in a protracted war to control the planet Cronus, the source of Kato -- the energy source that makes space travel possible.
A rebel group known only as The Fallen has taken control of large portions of Cronus, and your mission is to infiltrate their positions and take down the mysterious rebel leader known only as Gabriel. As you make your way deeper into enemy territory, it becomes obvious that your commander is keeping information from you, and you must decide how to use the information you uncover. Your simple penetrate-and-destroy mission will rapidly become much more complex. The love you thought you’d lost forever is still alive, the friends you thought gone begin to resurface, and those you count on most start to turn against you. It’s up to you to decide who you can trust and who is only going to stab you in the back.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Most first-person shooters on the market start with a dark opening video clip that features lots of blood and explosions set to a pulsing rock beat or Goth-style dirge. Shogo has the explosions, but its Japanese-style pop music intro is a breath of fresh air -- it’s almost manic in an upbeat way, and it provides a very different feel to the game right from the start. That theme continues throughout the game. All the characters and cut scene animations keep true to the feel of classic Japanese animation titles like Robotech or Akira.
You start the game in your MCA, but you won’t stay there. As you move throughout the wasteland and cities on Cronus, you will have to get out of your huge battle armor to get a little more personal with the bad guys. Most levels where you drive your MCA are slugfests -- that’s what the armor is designed for, and the game designers took that into account. But when you hop out of your armor, you’ll find yourself in levels that require a much more stealthy approach -- running in with guns blazing gets you killed a lot faster.
The game's plot is conveyed through an almost-constant stream of communications from the other characters in the game. Even during play, the other characters are talking to you and each other. The speaking character is highlighted to make it easy to follow who is saying what. Between levels you get sections of story in cut-scenes that are generated using the game engine in real-time rather than as prerecorded movie clips.
Level design is often what makes or breaks a first-person shooter for me. I’ll spend a lot more time playing a game that doesn’t look quite as nice, rather than wandering around a pretty game with boring levels. Shogo’s levels are among the best I’ve played. The cityscapes are detailed, allowing you to wander over a large area. You can even climb up to the tops of buildings to get a bird's-eye view of things. The interior levels are also well-designed. Too many games have floor plans that don’t provide the feel of being in a real building. Shogo’s buildings feel like they were designed for real use instead of just for laying down a challenging path through the game.
Like almost all first-person shooters currently available, you can easily modify Shogo’s control setup to match your controllers and play style. I prefer to use a mouse/keyboard combination, and had the controls tweaked in just a couple of minutes. The option to smooth out mouse control really helps reduce the jumpiness some games suffer from.
One major drawback in Shogo is the broken AI -- in the release version, enemy soldiers will just stand around waiting to be shot, making play more than a little dull. Fortunately, Monolith has released a patch that fixes this problem.
Shogo is the first game based on Monolith’s new Lithtech game engine. Since the engine is new, there are a few rough edges on the graphics, but overall they are top-notch. The effects for explosions are particularly nice. Realistic smoke and bright flashes from the explosions can make it tough to track opponents at times, but then that’s the way it should be. Visually, the outdoor levels in Shogo look best, with detailed sky and horizon effects.
While the Lithtech engine is not a huge leap over other game engines in use today, it does offer solid performance and support for lots of video modes and 3D cards. My one complaint is that, while in the MCA, many things didn’t seem to fit the scale the huge armor was supposed to have. People not in armor are to the correct scale, but some damage to walls like bullet holes are not scaled properly. This was particularly evident when you blasted someone not in armor -- it would have taken an entire slaughterhouse to provide enough blood for some of the splatters.
Shogo's soundtrack is dynamic -- as the action on screen changes, the music changes subtly to match. The sound effects are clean, strong, and appropriate throughout the game. The explosions rumble with deep bass, bullets ricochet off stone and metal, and the voices of the characters are clean and easy to understand. The speech really brings the characters to life and serves to drives the plot throughout the game.
Windows 95/98 , 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, Pentium 166 and 3Dfx or Direct3D compatible 3D accelerator card (Pentium 233 or faster required for the software rendering version)
With Shogo, Monolith has proven that it can do first-person games right. Shogo not only provides the action, it does it with a plot and an artistic flair not often seen in today's games. If you’re looking for a great game that gives you something different from all the others on the shelves, check this one out. Anime fans will love the feel of the game, and there’s plenty of action for FPS junkies. I can’t wait to see what Monolith comes up with next.
Download Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP