Game Over Online ~ Shadow Watch

GameOver Game Reviews - Shadow Watch (c) Red Storm, Reviewed by - Nicky Dimes

Game & Publisher Shadow Watch (c) Red Storm
System Requirements Pentium 166, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 48%
Date Published Monday, April 10th, 2000 at 03:26 PM

Divider Left By: Nicky Dimes Divider Right

Red Storm has achieved critical acclaim with their first-person tactical combat series Rainbow Six. They've even indulged in the real-time strategy market with Force 21, a game that asked the question, "What if World War III broke out?" The next venue for Red Storm appears to be the turn-based strategy genre, with the release of Shadow Watch. There's a fine line between a good idea and a good game though. It's called delivery and it's something that Shadow Watch fails miserably to achieve.

Shadow Watch is a turn-based strategy game with comic book overtones. It boasts a graphic style that is as unique as it's randomized gameplay, but neither feature seems to deliver the goods. The storyline revolves around a secret organization of operatives sent to uncover a nefarious plot to stop humanity's advancement to the stars. You've been selected to lead this elite crack team and through your various travels you'll be required to interrogate contacts, rescue hostages, plant surveillance devices and assault enemy strongholds as you uncover a red tape plot that is as confusing as it is dull.

One of the highlights of Shadow Watch is its dynamic campaign generation. The game plays out over three separate cities, Rio de Janeiro, Baikonnur and Hong Kong. There are five missions per city with the climatic finale at a special locale. Within each city there are a number of possible subplots. Shadow Watch boasts 162 unique campaign possibilities with your particular path determined via interaction with particular contacts. Conversations with those specific contacts determine which missions will unfold and in which order. The problem is that this randomization ends up creating confusion in terms of the illogical and ever-changing subplots. Just when it seems like the army is behind the whole shindig, another contact will suddenly reveal a different subplot. What results is a series of subplots that just don't string together well to form a coherent story. By the time you reach the ending, the whole ordeal is as confusing as a David Conenberg film.

The other highlight of Shadow Watch is the comic book style graphics approach. Once again, this concept works only on a basic level. When you play the game through, you realize that the visual design is as boring as the developing plot. Some gamers will certainly find the graphics to be very primitive. Those who are able to enjoy such a unique style of graphics will most certainly find that the colours are absolutely terrible. Many levels are saturated with the same colors and many a time I had a hard time distinguishing certain objects and even doors because the colour scheme impaired my vision. The fact the resolution is stuck at 640x480 certainly doesn't aid the cause either.

The audio department is one of the few areas where Shadow Watch excels. The musical score, in particular, is fantastic. Each city has it's own score and appropriate music at that. For example, Rio de Janeiro's musical score offers a beautiful Latin flavour and Hong Kong's tunes show an Asian influence. Unfortunately, the sound, environmental and voice effects are less than stellar, perhaps average at best. You'll hear the usual gun fire and dialogue during battles, but the only highlight in this package is the little quips that your character spurts out when he's wounded.

Shadow Watch fails miserably in many other categories as well. Enemy intelligence is laughable. There are three difficulty settings; easy, normal and hard. The difference between each setting is simply the number of baddies around each level and how alert each of the guards are. The enemies are kind enough to walk one behind another in a straight line, making it easy to pick them off with sniper rifles. Control is also rather limiting in that tactical controls consist solely of crouch, cover, run, walk and firing. There is relatively no control in terms of sequencing your squad, so the tactical component is taken out completely. It basically seems like you're trying to decipher the order of events that will result in success, rather than looking for solutions to single problems. In other words, there's really only one way to complete each level.

Finally, the last destructive point in Shadow Watch is the size of the maps within each mission. Many of the environments are extremely petite and only feature one level. That's right, there are no stairs or elevators leading to other floors, everything takes place on one level. If you've played such turn-based strategy titles as Jagged Alliance and the X-Com series, you'll find that the missions in Shadow Watch are extremely small and simplistic.

Shadow Watch is a good idea gone wrong. I'm a fan of the turn-based tactical strategy format but Shadow Watch fell short of expectations, well short. The unique elements that were implemented into the game just don't work at all. The bottom line: Shadow Watch isn't worth your gaming time.

[ 08/20 ] Graphics
[ 11/15 ] Sound
[ 14/30 ] Gameplay
[ 09/20 ] Fun Factor
[ 02/05 ] Storyline
[ 05/10 ] Overall Impression


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