The Needles

The Needles
Preview: Shadowgrounds: Survivor

Andy Chalk | 20 Nov 2007 21:00
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In early 2006, Finnish developer Frozenbyte introduced themselves to the rest of the world by way of an odd little action game called Shadowgrounds. Its North American release was a quiet affair that went largely unnoticed, due at least in part to the fact that at its core, Shadowgrounds' gameplay could be quite adequately summed up in two words: Isometric Doom. And while that sounded pretty damn cool to me, there was an apparent and not-entirely-surprising lack of mainstream appeal in such a concoction. People weren't exactly beating down the doors to get their hands on it.

But despite that lackluster response from North American audiences, Frozenbyte has seen fit to offer up a sequel: Shadowgrounds Survivor, another over-the-top killfest that promises a few new twists on the same old critter holocaust.

The game presents players with roughly a three-quarter top-down view of an obviously Aliens-inspired game-world: A dull, utilitarian terraforming colony on the Jovian moon of Ganymede. Stepping into the boots of one of three characters who have taken over for Shadowgrounds' original protagonist, players will find themselves caught up in an swarming infestation of aliens that quickly overruns the human colony, leaving a bloody swath of mangled bodies and destroyed machinery in its wake. And since nuking the place from orbit is out of the question (the installation does have a substantial dollar value attached to it, you know) there's only one option left: bug hunt.

There's no question that Shadowgrounds Survivor is not a game for the sophisticated palate. It has the subtlety of a kick to the groin and the emotional range of Dolph Lundgren, and obviously the story isn't going to win any awards for creativity. Instead, epitomizing the principle of doing one thing well, it offers intensely-focused action for an intensely-focused audience: guys who like shooting stuff.

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Perhaps concerned that people weren't getting enough alien-killing action with just the campaign mode offered in the original game, the gang at Frozenbyte has come up with a new game type that does away with the story in favor of much more to-the-point mayhem: The somewhat ironically-named "Survival." The irony comes from the fact that in Survival, you will inevitably die; the name of the game is simply to see how long you can survive and how much killing you can get done before your ticket gets punched. Survival matches take place in small, confined areas, rather than standard game levels, with spawned enemies appearing on a timed basis. Some levels will include fellow humans who will stand and fight at your side; in others, you're on your own. Either way, the action is fast and furious, and when you're finally overwhelmed, gutted and torn to meaty chunks by the ravenous horde, your time and body count will be recorded for posterity and bragging rights.

As well as offering three new character types - a far-seeing sniper, a flamethrower-and-chaingun wielding brute and the obligatory jack-of-all-trades marine - Shadowgrounds Survivor throws in another new twist in the form of RPG-style character upgrades. Similar to the weapon upgrade options found in the original game, characters in Shadowgrounds Survivor gain experience as they progress, which can be used to "purchase" new stats and skills ranging from increased maximum health to greater weapon accuracy and devastating special attack types.

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