Welcome to The TPS Report, home to video game blogs, mix sets and even the odd piece o' 3D art.

Broke arse student, freelance games reviewer and rambling obsessive that I am, I currently seek work in mags and web sites throughout the world. If you're in a position to make that happen - and like what you see around here - let me know. I've published work with the likes of IGN and Gaming Steve.

-Matt/Diggler

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If interested in discussing writing opportunities for on or offline gaming publications - either UK based or abroad - please contact me via E-Mail. Sparkling CV available on request

 

 

Retro Ramblings - Shadowrun On the SNES
Posted by Diggler - 21/10/2004 14:27

Click to enlarge
Man I got so wasted last night I dreamt that I got murdered by evil hitmen
Busting out one of my all-time favourites here, from all the way back in 1993. A game so good that 11 years after its release it hasn't aged one bit in terms of playability, still able to stand toe to toe with the current RPG kings. If you've never heard of this bad boy, sit back and let me introduce the two of you.

An isometric roleplaying game set in the gritty, dark corporate-run future of 2050, Shadowrun is based on the table top cyberpunk RPG of the same name. As a video game though, you could describe it as the great grand daddy of Deus Ex. The Blade Runner influences run rampant right from the start of this thing, with an intro cinematic showing off those same epic skylines and industrial chimneys made famous in Ridley Scott's sci-fi classic. There's even the odd bit of dialogue snatched directly from the flick too. And let's not forget that noir-like plot...

Waking Up On the Wrong Side of the Slab

Click to enlarge
Shadowrun's cinematic style is evident in its cutscenes
You play Jake Armitage, and the game opens with you being carried onto a morgue slab...dead. A few moments later you slide out of your meat tray, seemingly brought back to life by some strange force - sadly with a severe case of amnesia to boot. With no idea who you are, what happened to you, and what to do next, you have only a single lead to go on right off the bat; an ominous note on your slab that reads "Warehouse No. 5". What's there? Who left it for you? How come you're still alive? You have no idea, but just like that, the plot has you.

From here the game constantly teases and plays with you as if you were Guy Pierce in Memento. It doesn't give you all the answers to the mystery straight away, forcing you to work for them, and just like Jake, you have no idea what's going on and who to trust. You're regularly introduced to characters Jake knows, but can't remember, and slowly but surely begin to unravel the mystery of who tried to kill you and why.

The plot is long and involving, unlike many more recent RPGs, and although 100% linear in its storytelling, the gameplay itself is actually rather open ended for a game of its era. The clues and puzzles send you off all over the place. You can jump on the subway, travel between three different cities, buy weapons and armour, chat to the locals, hire help, and even head back to your apartment for some R&R.

16-Bit Beauty

Although it hardly looks like a work of art these days, the game is still incredibly atmospheric. Set in perpetual night time and bathed in flickering street lights, you can't help but buy into this universe. The music is also way ahead of its time, again an ancient forerunner to what we'd go on to hear in Deus Ex half a decade later. The fact that Shadowrun is one of the few futuristic RPGs of all time is a pleasing trait on its own, but when coupled with the fact it's also a fantastic game anyway, it goes down as a proper classic in my book.

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Damn women. Dead for a few minutes and she's already shacked up with a new beau
In terms of gameplay mechanics, you'd be surprised how advanced Shadowrun is. There are even concepts and ideas that go deeper than many more recent RPGs. The conversation system is one such example; through chatting to people, you pick up keywords - notable as they appear in bold during a conversation. These keywords then become part of your permanent vocabulary, and you can then bring them up in conversations with any other character you talk to from then on out. For instance early in the game a thug advises you to pick up a firearm as soon as possible - you can then use the "firearm" keyword on other characters in order to find out a good place to get hold of weapons. This simple system rewards players for reading through all the in game text, rather than skipping through conversations as quickly as possible, as you don't know what sort of keywords you may be missing out on.

This system also applies to phone numbers - any that you pick up through conversations and clues will then appear as choices any time you use a telephone. All in all it's a system that I'm surprised not to have seen imitated over the years given how well it works here.

Die You Pixelated Fuck!

Click to enlarge
By painting a giant crosshair on his head, "Heavy Dude" attracted much in the way of unwanted gun fire
The fighting system is also rather cool for a game of this type, using a mixture somewhere between real time shooting and RPG stat-based combat. You have full control over your aiming reticule and your ability to fire, yet the damage and accuracy of your shots is governed by your skill points. You could argue in fact, that it's an early prototype for the combat system that went on to be used in modern day RPG Neocron.

This inventiveness stems to the plot too, with twists and turns that I hadn't even dreamt possible in a computer game before it. At one point a doctor unlocks a time bomb inside your head, and just like that you have half an hour to track down someone to disarm it before your brain's blown into mush - all played out in real time. Fabulous edge of the seat stuff.

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As in all RPGs, Shadowrun has the all too necessary arena showdown subplot
As well as fighting, chatting and trying to track down your wannabe-assassin, Shadowrun has a whole other aspect to it that I've yet to mention; the world of hacking - in fact it's amazing how well its imitated the future in this regard. The game features a complex internet-like system linking all computers together known as (wait for it...) The Matrix, and as a runner you can patch into this virtual world and unlock doors, uncover information and even nick cash. It's a fabulous sub-game that ties in directly with the core game, and works brilliantly.

Lay Off the Coke, Devs

Throw all these elements together and you're not only left with one of the best RPGs ever created, but one of my favourite games of all time. The enticing plot is what keeps you glued to the game, but the originality and sheer addictiveness help too.

With Baldur's Gate this, Never Winter Nights that, Warcraft here and Lord of the Rings there, why is no one snatching up the Shadowrun franchise for us cyberpunk freaks? We need to breathe some darkness back into our RPGs, and here's a series that's ripe for an update. Just imagine it; third person perspective, hi-resolution graphics, full voice acting, real time Max Payne-style combat - it's a classic in the making.

In the meantime, if you missed this one first time around, I can't recommend it enough. I could never advocate piracy however, and subsequently can't recommend you grab a SNES emulator and a copy the Shadowrun ROM immediately...

...ahem.

Untitled Document

The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

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Game
Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

Film
The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Show
Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Tune
Explosions in the Sky

Easing the pain of living in a post-Friday Night Lights world

Untitled Document

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Freelance journalist Robert Ashley's internet radio show, with a far more interesting and professional demeanor than your typical podcast. Interviews, fast-paced editing and catchy tunes abound

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Pure Pwnage
Mockumentary series on the life of a pro gamer. Episode five is possibly the funniest thing on the internet

Other Sites

Kotaku
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Easy to use multimedia-rich web site offering official trailers, video demos and sneak peaks at all the upcoming releases

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Sister site to 1up.com, focusing on game trailers, video interviews and even the odd documentary

Gamespot
The Gamespot front-end, and the gaming equivalent of the Internet Movie Database. Includes detailed reviews and extensive video features on pretty much all systems and games ever made

Giant Bomb
Speaking of Gamespot, the controversial "letting go" of editor Jeff Gerstmann resulted in him starting up this new venture with fellow former writers of the site. Great podcast in particular

1up.com
Discounting the audio and video shows mentioned earlier, 1up's main site is also worth a visit in its own right. Not only bustling with quality gaming articles and extensive developers' blogs, it also doubles up as a massive friends network, ideal for meeting fellow gamers and joining like-minded communities

Live Marketplace Feed
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Steam
A contender to the X-Fire throne that has pretty much overtaken it straight out of the gate. Valve's Steam client contains friends lists, downloadable games, Live-style achievements and plenty more to sink your teeth into

MyGamerCard.net
Convert your Xbox Live gamercard into an image, for use on forums and web sites for free. That's mine further down

Ain't it Cool News
The latest news, gossip and spy reports from the world of movies, TV and (occasionally) video games

Smodcast
Writer, director and actor Kevin Smith - he of Clerks fame - records a monthly podcast in which he and fellow pals discuss everything from trying to felate oneself, to the time his dog got covered in ejaculate. Riveting stuff

 

Matt Robinson, 2011

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