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Can you survive?
Shadowgrounds: Survivor is a fun science fiction alien shooter for Windows PC that plays more like a console game. This is a pure action game that makes for some good times, though it isn't very in depth. I found it on Steam.com a couple months ago as one of their 'weekend special' deals for just $4.99.
I briefly played the original Shadowgrounds a couple of years back, but honestly don't remember much about it other than you fought aliens. I think the story in this game continues where the first one left off, or at least it seems that way. Basically, aliens have taken over a research type compound and your job is to fight your way through what's left. Hence the subtitle name of the game - Survivor.
Instead of playing as just one character, you will get to play as one of three. You change characters after running through a few levels with each one, and you can't control which character you get to play. Each one has their own story and setting that all tie into the main plot. While it is kind of frustrating to build up one character's stats then suddenly be forced to play a new person with different weapons and abilities, it does at least help break the monotony of the gameplay.
Gameplay is pretty linear in that you can explore a little inside certain maps, but in a lot of other places you have to take one main path to a destination. You do at least have the option of ignoring some alien enemies, but you'll miss out on a lot of special bonuses if you don't do some exploring. Be sure to check behind buildings and other places whenever your character has a way to get back there. Chances are something will be there for you.
The controls on this game are a little funny at first, but they are quick to learn. You use the mouse to control direction and fire, so in a sense the mouse works like a thumbstick would on a console controller. Most games that use the overhead display type, such as Diablo II or Space Siege, use the mouse to point at your location or a target, but in this game you point in general directions. Once you get a feel for it, you'll see why it works better for the action in this game. There's just too much going on for you to have to click each target. I give this game major points for doing things a little different, and actually making them work well.
Enemy AI is much like that of an arcade game where many of the aliens lie in wait for you. Since you are presented an overhead view, you will have the advantage of often being able to see who or what is waiting on the other side of doors. Overall, there's not much strategy to the gameplay until you get to fight a boss. With the enemy bosses, pretty much all you have to do is run in, get some hits, then find cover for a while, then go back in and get some more hits. Each one takes time, but once you figure out a rhythm to your attacks and defense, any decent gamer should be able to handle it.
The graphics in this game not only look great, but they don't take a super powerful system to run them. Not to say that any old computer will do, but you can get by on a machine a couple of years old without any major problems. I really liked how the game is set both indoors and outside, so you get to see varying terrain. Sometimes when you are on a high point looking down on enemies, it sucks not being able to get at them as easily as you should.
In the end, Shadowgrounds: Survivor is a genuinely fun and fast-paced game that delivers plenty of action without bogging the player down in the game mechanics. This is the kind of bargain bin title that you can jump right into and play for a week or so for some good entertainment.