Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
First-person shooters seem to live and die by the strength of their multiplayer game. While it is the single-player experience that initially wows us, its lustre soon fades, and within a couple of weeks the game is either relegated to the cupboard or left for the odd deathmatch. Essentially that's the difference between Quake II and everything else. Quake Its single-player game is arguably the weakest of all its peers and yet remains the game of choice for nearly every deathmatch aficionado. Only time will tell if Half-Lifes multiplayer game will take over the world.
But one thing's for sure: its singleplayer game will. And Shogo: Mobile Armor Division will follow close behind.
Developers Monolith have taken all the elements that have staled the single-player first-person game and replaced them with simple storytelling and ingenious scripting. The result is an original mix of traditional and Mech-style first-person combat, combined with Japanese Anime art. Shogo isn't your usual run-of-the-mill Quake clone. With strong, identifiable characters, stylish animation and an ever-evolving plot, it's a game that draws you in from beginning to end.
So What's The Story?
Well, It goes a little something like this: Cronos, a desolate colony and a rich source of kato energy, is at war with itself. The CMC (Cronian Mining Consortium), having fought and won control of the planet from the UCA (United Corporate Authority), now finds itself weakened by The Fallen - a highly organised terrorist army led by Gabriel. The Fallen are all but in control and an uneasy truce is sought between the CMC and the UCA. The only way the UCA can regain authority is to eliminate The Fallen leader. As Sanjuro, a UCA commander, your goal is to find and destroy him.
We'd normally dismiss this scene setting as just hokum, but it's important stuff that is built upon with a host of characters that expand the story. There's also a love interest between our hero Sanjuro and Kathryn, daughter of Nathaniel Akkajaru, your commanding officer. Suffice to say that by the end of the game you'll be begging for more. And thanks to the open-ended story, you can bet that there definitely will be more.
Missions are divided equally between traditional first-person combat and romping about in Mecha or MCAs (Mobile Combat Armour). The MCA missions are nothing like the traditional Mech Warrior tare, and the Quake-tike controls are identical in both elements of play save for the ability to utilise a power jump and transform into a fast-moving tank, which serves little purpose except in multiplayer games. The action is just as frenetic in both styles of play, although thanks to some beautiful smoke effects, MCA combat can be incredibly tense as you try to shoot through the fog of debris, only to see a salvo of rockets coming towards you. The lighting is also excellent, with explosions that light up the screen and cause your eyes to reel around in their sockets. Then there's the muzzle flashes, bullet marks and sparking fire from machine-guns. Just look at the screenshots and imagine it all moving. Great, eh?
Initially the levels seem a bit small, but you often have to negotiate your way through them a couple of times as paths become blocked and reinforcements arrive to halt your advance. It all helps to prevent you from getting lost and adds to the immediacy, as you end up concentrating more on fighting the enemy than on getting lost and giving up. In some missions you even have colleagues to back you up, and you find that, unlike Half-Life, you actually care about them, especially as one of them is a former girlfriend.
It's not all good news for Shogo though. On the easiest setting the game is far too simple to complete. The AI is also ropy, scraping in marginally below the level set by Quake lla year ago: you can stand in full view of an enemy and they'll still fail to see you, detecting you only when you get within a certain distance. Enemy soldiers also seem to have a problem operating doors and lifts - they're far too static for their own good.
In terms of the sound, the Japanese pop that introduces the game is initially laughable, but it then becomes strangely endearing. The weapons sound beefy and the voices are excellent. And the graphics? Well, they're superb too.
We played a few multiplayer games in the office and it was all fairly nondescript until we played the MCA levels. These proved to be something entirely new: we could choose from four different MCAs, crush cars and leap onto tall buildings. It's a shame you can't destroy more of the scenery, although what with all the smoke and debris flying about it's difficult to see how any current PC would be able to handle the strain.
If there is any justice in the world Shogo will be looked back on as one of the best 3D games of its time. Personally speaking, apart from Half-Life, Shogo is the best game I've played this year. I finished it in two days on the easiest setting, and I'm definitely going to go back and do it on the hardest level there is. Who knows, with a bit of luck I'll finish it before the sequel comes out.
Developers Monolith are new to the world of 'Mechs, but they've proved themselves to be pretty able at producing 3D action games - take Blood, for example. Shogo uses the much-hyped LithTech 3D game engine (as does Blood II), which boasts numerous innovative graphical effects and super-fast scaleable 3D technology.
About half the missions take place in the armoured MCAs (30-foot 'Mechs) that also transform into vehicles. The rest of the time, you're on foot, with an awesome armoury at your fingertips. There are four different 'Mechs (or Mecha, as they call them) to pilot, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. All are highly mobile.
The fact that the 'Mechs are highly mobile and impressively tooled up means that we can expect some pretty slick Quake-style combat coupled with MechWarrior-style strategy and firepower. Well, that's the plan, anyway.
Shogo sounds great, but could it just be another Quake clone in 'Mech clothing? The 3D game engine is technically impressive, but is it really suited to throwing around sprawling 3D landscapes? 'Mechs are supposed to be comparatively slow, powerful and not particularly agile - will Shogo really feel like a 'Mech game or just another first-person shooter? This could be a tricky one for 'Mech fans to get to grips with.
What we thought
**"Shogo Isn't your usual run-of-the mill Quake clone. With strong identifiable characters, stylish animation and an ever-evolving plot, It's a game that draws you In from beginning to end." **
What you think
- "Can I just say that Shogo: MAD is the best first-person shooter out at the moment. It's tons better than Half-Life-well, Day One at least."
- "What a game. The graphics, the sound, everything... except the toughness. Even on madness skill I still managed to finish it within a day (well almost a day). Also finished Half-Life Day One in a night. Come on, you programmers, let us at least make use of the 35-plus for the games, eh?"
- "I got Shogo on mail order from the States. Initially the AI was pretty ropy, as you said, but the version 2.0 patch which arrived before the game hit the UK shelves sorted out the enemy eyesight. Now the game delivers a decent challenge on the standard level. I can't comment on the easy level as you guys did, as I, like most self-respecting FPS players, never select that option. "The opening movie is a classic Manga-style intro; I've been humming that Japanese pop song all week. The only thing the game needs now is the patch to enable humans and MCAs to play on the same multiplayer game. A gang of humans against one guy in a mecha - COOL!"
- "Shogo runs as smooth as hell on a lower spec machine. Well it does on my P200,64Mb RAM, CL Banshee PCI, anyway. I can get full detail and full everything - 16-bit textures and all that. A damn sight better-programmed engine than Unreal, and every bit as good visually."
Download Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
2019-01-11 Shogo: Mobile Armor Division game added.
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