Review by: Matthew Dujnic
Published: March 28, 2002
Third-person adventure games are a strange breed. They feature the in-depth stories of RPGs, the daring jumps of platformers, and the shoot-and-strafe action of first-person shooters. To some, this is a perfect combination. To others, it’s a genre that’s inherited all of the problems of those games without fully indulging in the assets. As third-person adventures go, the original Shadow Man was a third-tier title, but it did gather a cult following, so now Shadow Man 2econd Coming is here. A creepy demonic epic in the vein of Soul Reaver, Acclaim hopes this sequel will push the franchise into the mainstream. But does this potential powerhouse offer any refinements to its quirky genre?
Shadow Man 2 opens the way all adventures must. It sets the stage with a cinema scene, opens to chapter one of the tale, and then drops the player into the middle. Shadow Man’s world is a dark one, indeed. Beyond death lies the Deadside, where everyone goes when they die. Demons from the Deadside are ever hungry for the fresh, fertile environment of our world. Unbeknownst to most, there rages a constant battle to keep our Liveside safe. Guardians pursue marauding demons as a matter of destiny, and Mike Leroi is one such guardian; he is the Shadow Man, lord of the Deadside. Mike arrives in New Orleans looking for Jaunty, a fellow Walker Between Worlds. He soon discovers that his home is now a ghost town filled with monsters and murderous thugs, and his friend has been kidnapped. Seeking the counsel of Nettie, the voodoo priestess who controls him, Mike soon learns what’s happening. A new star has appeared in the sky, and it’s a portent of terrible things. The Grigori, a clan of demons, are planning to resurrect Asmodeus under the power of this new star. As foretold in Revelations, Asmodeus’ return will bring about the apocalypse. Using voodoo magic, pure muscle, and a whole lot of firepower, Shadow Man intends to set things right.
The first quarter of the game is thick with cutscenes, character introductions and developing plot. However, once that’s out of the way, Shadow Man 2 shifts heavily toward action, which is the heart of the title. Though Mike and Shadow Man are essentially the same character (Shadow Man manifests himself only at night), they do posses different abilities. Mike is very strong, but suffers from the usual human frailties. Shadow Man is his skeletal alter ego — slightly weaker, but capable of magic and immune to dangers such as drowning. Early into the game, you achieve the power to influence time, and can change from one form to another at will by essentially forcing the sun across the sky. Each form’s abilities come into play when solving puzzles; Shadow Man, for instance, can navigate long water pipes that Mike cannot, while Mike can move objects too heavy for Shadow Man.
When it comes to weapons, though, both are equally capable of gunning down Grigori monsters. The game provides a hefty arsenal: standard-issue 9mm handguns, mystical fire-breathing voodoo charms, medieval swords, sniper rifles, grenades and more. In addition, Shadow Man uses some weapons differently, so there’s even more variety. During play, the dual analog sticks control the character and aim the weapons, offering possibilities of evasive maneuvers such as stealth, strafing and tuck-and-roll. In reality, though, the action ends up being much more brute force, favoring firepower over fancy footwork. Luckily, the four shoulder buttons allow you to pack plenty of heat. Mike and Shadow Man can use two weapons at once, one in each hand. Also, two more can be held in reserve for immediate use. This sort of mystical ability to hold four weapons isn’t necessarily realistic, but it sure is convenient, and proves an effective way to bring down the demon hordes.