Microsoft has generated a lot of advanced hype for many of their upcoming first party Xbox 360 titles. Gears of War is their big release for fall 2006 and 2007 will have games like Mass Effect, Too Human, Crackdown, Forza Motorsport 2, Alan Wake, Fable 2 and a little game called Halo 3. However, one first party game hasn’t gotten a lot of attention from the press yet…until now, that is. That game is Shadowrun, which is proving to be an interesting take on not just the pen-and-paper RPG on which it is based but on video and PC games in general. This week FiringSquad was invited to Microsoft’s internal FASA Studios in Redmond, Washington to get more info on the game as well as some brief hands-on playtime with an early build and based on our time talking with the development team and actually playing the game we are far more impressed with Shadowrun than we were when we first saw it at E3 last May.
For those of you not familiar with Shadowrun, it is a pen-and-paper RPG created back in 1989 by FASA (who also created game worlds like Battletech and Crimson Skies), which has as its main premise a future world where in 2011 the power of magic returns to the Earth, starting with a dragon appearing on top of Japan’s Mt. Fuji. Soon afterward the people of this future Earth begin to turn into their “true selves” like dwarves, trolls, elves and orcs and gain magical abilities, all while the technology of Earth remains in place. In addition, magical leg lines of power begin to appear all over the earth. It’s this mix of magic and technology that made the Shadowrun universe a popular one among the pen-and-paper RPG crowd.
Microsoft bought FASA in the mid-1990 where they developed games for the Mechwarrior, Mechcommander and Crimson Skies series for the PC and Xbox. At one point, FASA was going to make a PC third person action game based on Shadowrun and even had a release date of 1998 but those plans were eventually cancelled (Previous Shadowrun games for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis were released). The Shadowrun pen-and-paper RPG is still being developed by another party, Fantasy Productions (a new fourth edition of the game was released last year) and there have been a ton of novels based on the universe published as well.
So it was a bit of a surprise when Microsoft and FASA revealed back in May at E3 that they were releasing a Shadowrun game for both the PC and Xbox 360. However, the game would not be an RPG but rather a multiplayer based first person shooter. Once more the game would use Microsoft’s planned Live Anywhere system that would allow people to play each other across both game platforms online. At E3 the team showed off what they admitted was an early level that didn’t get a lot of attention from the press and when it did it mostly got confused looks. “Why is this game a shooter? Is it going to be like Counter-Strike?”