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Previews

Shadow Complex

Preview: Super Metroid and Uncharted in a blender. Oh yes...

Fans of Super Metroid should have their eyes glued to this preview like a manual to deactivate a bomb strapped to their scrotum. Nintendo's Super NES classic is easily one our favourite 2D games of all time, and playing Shadow Complex is like playing a glorious, modern-age sequel.

This is Epic Games' answer to Samus - and the late 2D Castlevania games, for that matter. One look at the iconic square map screen and you can see where Shadow Complex is taking its influences from. In this case, it's okay to copy.

Scrub Samus though and replace her with hiker Jason Fleming, who kicks off the game with a relaxing walking trip with his girlfriend. Quickly and expectedly the missus goes missing and, as you soon discover, is kidnapped by a rogue paramilitary group called the Restoration whose base you stumble upon in an underground cave.

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At first you're on a simple rescue mission - you want your woman back. But you later discover Restoration's plans to spark a civil war in the US. Of course, the military training that your father gave you years ago is going to come in handy to whup the evil organisation's arse before it can kick up a States-sized shit storm.

Shadow Complex may be a simple sidescroller but it oozes modern-day quality. As you take your first steps into the dark cave in search of your girlfriend Fleming calls out for her, his voice echoing through the cave. Your torch lights up the darkness realistically, and the animation as Fleming clambers over the rocks is astonishing.

It feels like you're playing a 2D version of Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. The graphical detail, quality sound and narrative depth is all present and all very impressive.

The Metroid influences continue as you progress through the game. Starting off with a basic pistol and standard jumping abilities, you discover new weapons and abilities like wall jumping, double jumps and more, which allow you to get to new areas that were previously unreachable.

In the same way that Metroid's blast doors are colour coded to the different weapons required to open them, Shadow Complex has doors, fallen rocks, gratings and other path-blocking objects that show up in different colours when you shine your torch at them, indicating which weapon is needed to clear the way.

And so exploration is just like Nintendo's classic; find a new weapon, open the map, look for a path that you previously couldn't traverse and go there to blast your way to a new area, searching for hidden secrets like health and ammo upgrades as you go.

Throw in some clever stealthy sections - when you can listen in on dialogue between enemy soldiers - sweet gun turret moments that pull the camera behind Fleming's back to let you blast soldiers in full 3D, and action scenes that have you shooting down helicopters and it's clear this is not your usual light-weight XBLA affair.

This is as full-fat a game as they come and, from what we've seen so far, will be well worth the 1200 MS points it'll cost when it goes live on August 19 (£10.20).

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