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The Quick'n Dirty Review of the Shogo demo

Shogo logo

If you're a fan of 3D shooters, you've probably got a long list of games that you've been waiting to play for a while. There's SiN, Half-Life, Daikatana, Duke Nukem Forever, the list is nearly endless - the only game that's actually been released in the last few months is Epic's Unreal. 

However, now there's Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, a new anime-inspired shooter from Monolith (the company that brought you last year's 'Blood') built using their own LithTech engine and reportedly ready to be released this month. To help promote the game, Monolith last Friday released a free 40MB demo that shows off the single-player aspect of the game. After playing through it a few times (and after much reader prodding to add some Shogo coverage to the site), I thought it would be a good idea to pass my thoughts along for anyone debating whether to try the demo or not. 


The Demo

ready for action

As mentioned above, the Shogo demo is 40MB, a hefty package, and is available just about everywhere. (PlanetShogo has a large list of d/l sites if you're having trouble getting it or if you want to find a site nearest to you.) Also required to play is Microsoft's newly released Direct X v6.0, a 1.6MB download in itself. 

The full version of Shogo:MAD will occasionally shift the action from playing on foot to controlling a huge 30-foot MCA, or "mecha". (If you're wondering what a mecha is, it's a large transformable battle armor suit - think "Voltron"). The demo consists of two single-player levels - one on foot and one in an MCA. Both levels are well crafted and remind me more of Dark Forces / Jedi Knight more than anything else (a good thing). I found myself pressing on just so I could see what was around the next corner.

The graphics themselves are top-notch, and the new LithTech engine seems more than up to the task of producing game visuals as stunning as any other game out today. Gameplay and control is similar to Quake II, Jedi Knight, etc. You're given objectives and make your way through a level to complete them, eliminating enemies along the way. As in most games, you can use the mouse/keyboard to look around, move, fire, and perform other actions. The menu system is laid out very well and easy to navigate - I had my controls configured in under a minute.


Playing Tall

ka-BOOM!

The first level puts you in a mecha and gives you the task of working your way through a city filled with tanks and other mecha. I originally thought I was in for MechWarrior-style gameplay but was quickly shown otherwise. The mecha move just as fast as any Quake2 grunt - they're just a lot taller and have MUCH bigger weapons.

Although you're told your objective is to work your way through the city to an abandoned tunnel, the game never tells you your real goal - blow stuff up and blow it up good. :) The weapons are devestating and the effects are the prettiest of any game I've seen. (I'm not telling you how many I've seen, though) There's a pulse laser cannon, a huge assault rifle, and my favorite, the "bullgut", which unleashes a flurry of missles that spiral their way - smoke trails and all - towards their target.

The effects, while gorgeous, can get a little overwhelming - it seems EVERYTHING has a huge lighting effect attached to it. If you blow a lot of stuff up at once, expect to be blinded for a few seconds until the dust settles. :) Some of the tank weapons look a bit strange when they fire, and I think the sniper rifle seems a bit out of place among the high-tech weapons, but these are minor quibbles if anything. 


Playing Small

now just stand still for a sec...

The second level has you on foot as you try to take command of a base away from the enemy. This level has a completely different feel from the first, and if you like Action Quake2, you're going to love it. The onfoot weapons are completely different and more down-to-earth than those in the mecha and I knew I was going to like this level once my character whipped out the dual pistols and rapidly fired off a few shots.

Shogo has a location-based damage system, a la SiN or Action Quake2, so if you pop someone in the head - they're done. If you want to try it, take a few shots at this guy and take his machinegun. (I think he's on your side, but he's more useful to you dead.)  Unfortunately, you're nowhere nearly as protected on foot as you are in the mecha so you'll have to be more cautious and accurate as opposed to simply running around causing mass destruction.


Technical Issues

I have a PII-233 w 64MB RAM and a 12MB Voodoo 2. In my opinion, this should be more than enough to play any 3D shooter coming out in '98 at a reasonable frame rate. However, I had some problems with the game stuttering at the beginning of each level. After running the level for a few seconds, everything seemed to smooth out, but by that time, I'd been fired upon so many times I'd already be at a serious disadvantage. At first I thought I just needed to update my 3dfx drivers, but that only helped a little. This IS only a demo, though, so hopefully things will run better in the final version. 

On the good side, once I got the game going, it ran pretty well.  Some of the effects are absolutely spectacular and make the game more fun to play - which is probably why I keep playing the first level over and over. :) If you have a 3dfx card, you're in for a treat. (I haven't played in software mode, so I'm afraid I can't offer any opinions there.)


Other Touches

cute, no?

Although I like the anime theme, there wasn't enough in the demo to judge how good the storyline might be. The sound effects are very good and add a nice dimension to the weapons. The interactive IMA music is nice (it changes depending on what you're doing), but it never really got to me the way Jedi Knight's did (even though that game used non-interactive CD tracks).

I liked the intro cutscenes, created with the game engine and shown in "letterbox"  format, and the limited voice acting heard seems decent. All the menus are laid out nicely and there really isn't too much to complain about. And every gaming company should take a cue from Monolith and give us something to read while the game is loading. At the beginning of the each level, some story background appears on the screen and I was so busy reading it I hadn't even realized the game had loaded. Small touches like this are what separate the great games from the good and they were evident throughout the demo.


The Bottom Line

It remains to be seen what the multiplayer aspect of Shogo will be like, but it appears the guys at Monolith have a high-quality game on their hands that should be able to compete with anything else on the market. If you like 3D shooters, have a decent gaming machine, and don't mind letting your PC download for a few hours, you owe it to yourself to check out the Shogo demo.


Selected Links

Monolith's official Shogo site
PlanetShogo


// sluggo

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