Shadow Man: 2econd Coming Review
The story begins in 1976 New York City, two police officers -- one being Thomas Deacon, who will later become a self-proclaimed demon hunter -- promptly stop at a building in downtown New York. As they emerge from the vehicle, a huge explosion within the building ignites most of the building, engulfing it in flames. Once they enter the building, they are greeted, in a pre-death like manner, by a demon. These demons are known as the Grigori, and their main intention is to unleash their former ruler, Asmodeus, who's goal is to wreak unmerciful havoc on the world as we know it. The key to their unleashing upon the world lies in an ancient book, the Codex, which is currently in the burning building. After the demon dismembers Deacon's partner's head, Deacon frantically dives for the Codex. Once he grasps the Codex, he descends down into the basement area of the building, and then the Codex saves him from the death penalty that was near-at-hand. Deacon can't take care of such a powerful opposition by himself, though. This is where your character comes in, Mike LeRoi. At day, he's a mild-mannered person, just as normal as anyone. However, as the dark shadows of the night cast down over the closing beams of sunshine, Mike then enters Deadside as...the Shadow Man.
The graphics are somewhat disappointing at this stage in the PS2's life. With Acclaim's abundance of games already out, they should now have plenty of experience and have been able to tap into the PS2's power a bit more. Unfortunately, most of the environments lack in both detail and smooth texturing. What's more, most of the cut-scenes are presented with jaggies and unrealistic appearing environmental effects, such as the Nintendo 64-like fire. Shadow Man 2 does indeed have it's ups though. The dark, murky environments add a nice element of surprise and suspense because you can't always see the oncoming enemies until you get quite close to them. This is because the light from your mask will illuminate on it's surroundings, showing the enemy and also adding some clarity to the practically pitch dark surroundings, within an allotted distance. In addition, the different voodoo powers you will acquire throughout the progression of the game are equally impressive, visually. Still though, the visuals as a whole feel insufficient and not up to par with games that share similar environments.
The framerate throughout the course of the game is yet another problem, since it runs at a moderately unstable speed. Most of the game is only accompanied by a frame drop or slowdown every now and then; however, the underground area of Louisiana was unbearably rickety. So inconsistent, in fact, that the fire couldn't even move without skipping frames, and Mike LeRoi could not even run in a fluent motion because the frame drops came virtually one after the other. Surprisingly, the only action happening on screen was the moving of the fire, which may indicate a possible glitch in this area of the game. Luckily, there's just a brief instance where this will occur, so this isn't as bad as it initially sounds.
As Mike LeRoi, your main objective is to destroy the evil Grigori and to prevent the unleashing of their master. Along the way, you will garner tons of different items and weapons to aid your strenuous journey. You will encounter tons of enemies, and you will also meet up with some long time friends who will assist you. Shadow Man initially starts out with a horrible means of attack -- just his right and left fists. Shortly thereafter, however, you will acquire such small weapons as a machete, nail gun, wrecking bar and fire ax. These weapons definitely aid to the disposing of the pathetically weak and slow enemies at the beginning of the game. But alas, as you proceed throughout the game, the enemies will become larger in quantity, more powerful, and a bit smarter. Consequently, new, more devastating weapons will be scattered around, such as the assassin pistol, machine gun, grenade launcher, and Magnum Desert Eagle.
The aforementioned weapons alone are an overwhelming amount of destruction and certainly make the gameplay more engaging; however, these weapons aren't even the thick of things. Your comrade Niddie, the voodoo mistress, will assist you greatly by granting you different voodoo powers -- the colles, which are bombs that you can attach to enemies; l'orage, which evokes a lightning storm above in which the enemies nearby will be electrocuted; and the l'inferno, which will surround your body in flames, making you a human fireball. These weapons are all very fun to use against the enemies, mainly because of their flare and ravishing look. In addition, Shadow Man can also collect nephilim weapons, which are almost as flashy as the voodoo powers. These powers consist of a crossbow that shoots fireballs, a sword that's doused in flames, and a shield that surrounds your body.
Shadow Man 2 is comprised of seven worlds in all and they're very linear, unlike its predecessor. The levels are also broadly themed, taking place in such motifs as a haunted mansion, dark, snowy woods, an old-fashioned western country, mountains in Iraq, and more. Additionally, the use of real-time day-to-night effects adds a more genuine feel to the game. When it's day time, you transform into the normal human known as Mike LeRoi. Then, once night dissipates throughout the air, the once normal human then mutates into a god-like being, with god-like powers, and enters Deadside as the Shadow Man. For the most part, the levels are fun to explore and venture throughout, but the only evident problem seems to be that some of the levels are too dark -- dark to the point that you can't see where you're going half the time.
The controls can create some frustrating sequences throughout play in the game, given the control commands are sometimes unresponsive and lagging. However, don't make a premature assumption about the somewhat quirky controls because they can become adapted to once you get the hang of things. The way Shadow Man 2 plays is overtly similar to the main play mechanics found in the Tomb Raider games. Most of the game's play has you jumping up to ledges of new grounds to explore, swimming in the multiple pools and lakes, sliding across ropes from one area to another, using an inventory to manage your save/load files and to select your different weapons and items, and transverse very narrow ledges. These aspects of play are all abundantly present in the Tomb Raider games as well as Shadow Man 2. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to judge your interest in the gameplay would be to think about how much you enjoyed the Tomb Raider games. Though, while the Tomb Raider series is very flawed and boldly lacks responsive controls, Shadow Man 2, fortunately, isn't quite as bad.
Despite the gameplay being somewhat generic feeling, the overall sound presentation still stands strong. The audio presented in the game is quite arguably the best product to evolve from the game. First off, the story narrating was nicely done and is bolstered by sufficiently good voice-acting. This helped to make the story more interesting and more realistic feeling. The movie sequences are filled with bad language and swearing, too -- probably, some of the harshest profanity in a game to date (yes including GTA3). Furthermore, the in-game music is equally as pleasing. The different tunes and beats throughout the various levels were excellently orchestrated, helping to execute the creepy, dusky presentation that Acclaim was aiming for.
While Shadow Man 2 was initially perceived by many as an excellent upcoming title, unfortunately, like so many games have done in the past, its hype prior to release did nothing but make the overall product more disappointing. While the game does hit some good notes in the sound category, the overall experience is just too heavily plagued with downfalls -- the gameplay and graphics most notably -- that it results in a second-rate action game and a rental at absolute best.
3/22/2002 Joseph Comunale