Shadow Company: Left for Dead, a squad-based strategy game, strikes a nice balance between action and tactics but has flawed gameplay in areas that may spoil the game for some or just plain annoy others. The striking graphics, which render the terrain in realistic 3D, is the game's strongest feature. You encounter many different types during the nine missions including rolling grasslands, flowing rivers and snow-capped hills. The varied landscapes require mercenaries to move in realistic and unique ways -- for example, traveling faster downhill than on flat terrain.
Details such as boats causing ripples in the water are refreshing and add to the sense of realism. With such superb graphics, one must wonder why the designers deemed it necessary to insert footage of a real-life actor to brief you before and during each mission. In an odd way, this aspect detracts from the realistic nature of the game rather than enhancing it.
Ironically, the superb graphics are allied with an extremely difficult camera system, which follows the action. The requirement to use dual controls (Number Pad keys combined with right mouse clicks) is tricky at best and nauseating at worst. For a game that relies heavily on tactics, poor enemy AI is also a negative feature that stands out. It's possible to shoot an enemy dead while the person standing next to him remains unaware. Likewise, enemies walking into a landscape littered with their fellow soldiers often remain blissfully ignorant, rendering the pick-up-and-hide-body function largely useless.
Minor difficulties include being stuck on an object and the problems associated with finding a ground object (for example, ammo) to put in the inventory. Multiplayer support is slow and available only via a LAN or TCP/IP so you have to know your opponent's IP address beforehand.
If, however, you can overcome these difficulties and annoyances, Shadow Company: Left for Dead can be a rewarding strategy adventure. The combination of planning and warfare is well done -- it just isn't quite the brilliant game it could have been with a little more development time.
Graphics: Graphics are the high-point with sprawling 3D landscapes, only slightly spoiled by the steep "cliffs" that mark the end of each map section.
Sound: The fresh and realistic music adds to the mood, while the gung-ho speech of the mercenaries is appropriately amusing.
Enjoyment: Over-sensitive controls and poor AI reduce playability.
Replay Value: The nine missions take some time to complete but more campaigns and multiplayer-only maps would extend product life.
Graphics & Sound:
Shadow Company: Left for Dead is a 3D point-and-click simulation which sports similar textures and smoothness found in the Myth series. It uses a strange 3/4 perspective in which you slide the mouse to the furthest most points of the quadrants of your monitor to slide the backgrounds. There is smooth transition while sliding the mouse and little to no breakup or lag. The character designs are nothing extraordinary and the maps are very repetitive in look and feel throughout all missions. Great character animations are present, and it is really neat to see your characters throw a downed member or enemy over his or her shoulder to avoid detection. Some lighting effects are overemphasized to compensate with the overall dark look to the game. The sound is decent with nice explosion and gunshot noise, yet there is nothing new or exciting to bring personality to your team members.
Shadow Company has nothing to complain about in this department. The map movement takes a little getting use to because the backgrounds are actually 3-Dimensional and not flat as in most war simulation games. Characters are extremely responsive and the player is given a fair amount of control over the types of movements made by each individual team member. To the avid sim player, there is nothing new to learn, and most should be able to jump right into action with little confusion or problems.
Shadow Company has an increasing arc of difficulty as in most strategy games. The initial levels may have been designed to be slightly too simplistic, however, the difficulty does increase dramatically as you proceed through the levels. Command & Conquer players would be comfortable with the transitions in stage difficulty because Shadow Company follows a fairly similar difficulty triangle or hierarchy. And those who have played Commandos will find the similar theme of "the team must survive as a whole in order to be able to complete most missions," which in any case certainly adds to the overall difficulty.
Shadow Company: Left for Dead does for Military Strategy what Myth did for Warcraft. It takes a well established genre of gaming, adds a little steroids to it with 3D acceleration and environmental sound effects, yet lacks in some areas of development. In my opinion, what most of these 3D monsters lack is true strategy development. I would much prefer being able to train my own troops than be given the choice of a lowly few.
People who downloaded Shadow Company: Left For Dead have also downloaded:
Shadow Watch, Shattered Union, Seven Kingdoms 2: The Fryhtan Wars, Rising Sun, Sid Meier's Antietam!, Sid Meier's Alien Crossfire, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Shogun: Total War
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