I don’t need TruSkill to tell me that I’m an FPS badass

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I don’t need TruSkill to tell me that I’m an FPS badass

Shadowrun is the first Windows LIVE game that enables cross-platform gaming. I’ve been playing it for the past week on both my Vista gaming machine and on the Xbox 360, and while I’m not quite ready to give it a full review, I need to get a few initial impressions off my chest. First off, the game definitely doesn’t fall into the 60% range that some early reviewers would lead you to believe. Multi-hour gaming sessions for the past several nights with editors from Maximum PC, PC Gamer, Official Xbox Magazine, and GamesRadar is evidence enough that I’m not alone in having a lot of fun with the game. The unique balance of old-school shooter skills and magic/tech ability management makes for a refreshing teamplay experience. That said, here are ten things (in no particular order) I wish were different in Shadowrun. Again, don’t take this as a verdict of any sort – you’ll get my full review in the Sept issue of MaxPC.

  1. More game modes – The game ships with 3 game modes: Raid, Extraction, and Attrition. All three center around capturing, holding, and escaping alive with an artifact (flag). What about Team Deathmatch or plain Deathmatch? Even if these vanilla modes aren’t as fun as the flag-centric ones, they wouldn’t be difficult to implement. Variety is good.
  2. Switch sides in Raid rounds – My current favorite game mode, Raid, sets up one team on defense to prevent the other team from capturing the artifact. As fun as it is, being locked on one side for the entire match is a bit frustrating. I’d like to see sides swapped every round to mix things up.
  3. More context-sensitive team commands – With a gamepad, the directional thumb pad offers three commands to let teammates know that areas or clear or to call support. On the keyboard, these callouts are activated using the Z,X, and C key. It’s useful for the headset impaired, but really, only three commands? A Battlefield-esque context sensitive communication menu would be much more functional. Or, how about a...
  4. Text chat box – I’m outraged that this staple multiplayer feature was omitted from Shadowrun. How else am I going to let the other team know “gg no re” or“omg hax?”
  5. More death camera options – One cool teamplay feature in Shadowrun is the ability for you to voice-chat with teammates even after you’re killed. This way, you can let them know where your body is and call for a resurrection. It’s too bad that the only death-cam is a third-person tracking view. An additional first-person view wouldn’t unbalance the game, and an option to turn free-cam on would help newbies learn the levels.
  6. TruSkill stats – The in-game matchmaking system uses Truskill: tracking your gameplay stats to pair you with comparable players for evenly balanced rounds. It’s too bad you have no idea what your skill level is, nor can you browse through your global stats. The game rewards you with an achievement for killing a hundred enemies of each class – I’d like to know how close I am to securing those Gamerscore points.
  7. Random game settings – Aside from full gameplay modes, I’d like a random settings mode to randomize player classes, starting weapons, and magic/tech abilities. A “Summon” ability only match would be so fun to play!
  8. Global rankings – Not only is Shadowrun’s TruSkill system hidden in the background, there’s also no way to see how you’re stacked up against the rest of players in LIVE. Part of what keeps me playing multiplayer shooters is the promise that with persistent play, I’ll be able to move up some ranking ladder to show off to my buddies. It’d be fascinating to see how Vista gamers stack up over time against 360 players. In fact, there’s no way in-game to tell what platform members of a server are using.
  9. Better party system – The party system keeps groups of friends together between match and server changes, but aside from a plain lobby, party members have no indication that the leader is searching for games. The invite system integrated into the LIVE guide is cool, but I’ve experienced many occasions where party members were randomly dropped or restricted from joining open parties mid-match.
  10. Single player campaign – I guess it’s a little unfair to demand that Shadowrun have a single-player component since the game was built from the ground up as a multiplayer shooter. But every time I use the teleport ability or summon a minion, I can’t help but imagine how awesome these abilities would be in a fleshed out single player campaign. I’d like to think that someone on the dev team had the same thoughts and that it’s in the works. Pretty please?

If some of the features mentioned above sound familiar, it’s because they’re already either in most PC multiplayer shooters like Unreal Tournament or on 360 games like Gears of War. In fact, the other game I’ve been playing a lot of recently is the Halo 3 multiplayer beta, which has interface and gameplay features so robust that it should be the standard for all LIVE multiplayer games to come. It’s a little disconcerting to realize that the beta of the multiplayer component to a completely separate single player game has in many ways more to offer than the full priced Shadowrun. It’s just too bad that Microsoft has no plans to let PC gamers in on that fun.

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