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Minimum requirements: 1.5 GHz processor; 512 MB RAM; 128 MB graphics card; 1 GB hard drive space; DirectX 9.0c; Windows XP/Vista
Genre: Action shooter
Release date: Available now
Review by: Bob Mandel
When the Finnish developer Frozenbyte released Shadowgrounds in 2006, I was thrilled to find a near-perfect implementation of old-school third-person arcade shooting action. The gunplay was fast, providing immediate gratification, and the creative implementation of the eerie environments and evil monstrosities was just right for a sustained session of escapist thrills. Recently, Frozenbyte released a sequel, Shadowgrounds Survivor, raising the question of whether the new offering is just a rehash of what came before or a fresh and original experience.
The plot in Shadowgrounds Survivor is peripheral to the action. The narrative in this new release is tightly connected to the original, as it occurs during the same time period. You assume the role of one of three survivors of an alien attack on New Atlantis, located on the Jovian moon of Ganymede. The story is communicated through brief and tense dialog segments and cut scenes shown between the combat sequences. (Unfortunately, a couple of cut scenes are annoyingly repeated.) This bare-bones approach doesn’t provide enough motivation to get you to fight your way through to the end.
The three survivors differ in their abilities. First you play Luke Giffords, the last member of his squad, who fights coolly and valiantly to save those remaining on Ganymede. His special attack utilizes the incomparable Brute Slayer, where he climbs on the back of a huge alien and fires a precision shot directly into its brain, killing it instantly. Later on, you switch to Bruno Lastmann, a far less adept fighter and a crazed pyromaniac. His special attack utilizes Napalm Flame, unleashing a devastating ring of fire that destroys everything in its path. Lastly, you become Isabel Larosse, a highly trained member of the Special Forces, whose special attack involves the Killing Spree, boosting your reflexes while slowing down those of your enemies. These lethal special attacks have to be purchased as expensive upgrades, but each is well worth the expenditure. The character upgrades include health upgrades, motion sensors and improved abilities to make critical hits.
The level design in Shadowgrounds Survivor is more diverse than in the original Shadowgrounds. Unlike in the original, the action takes place in very distinct locales, with some of the action inside and some outside, including dilapidated urban settings and snowy terrain. You still spend a lot of time exploring shadowy places, often needing your trusty flashlight, but everywhere you look, there’s more interesting stuff to examine than in the first release. I particularly liked the section in the sewers. However, each level is extremely short, usually with the identical objective of battling through hordes of aliens to get through an area.
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