I’ve been one of the lucky people chosen to play the Shadowrun beta and it’s an awesome experience. One of the main elements that separates Shadowrun from other FPS games is magic and the implementation is seamless. You can assign three magic or tech abilities to the two bumpers and the left trigger, the right trigger is reserved for firing a pistol or slicing with a katana (more on that later). At the start of each round you’re given a set amount of money similar to Counterstrike which you can spend on weapons, tech or magic. Spells cost a couple thousand each so you’re not going to have every spell from the start and at the end of each RNA Corp versus Linage battle everything starts over so you don’t keep your spells. Pretty much you’re forced to make choices, which keeps Shadowrun balanced instead of giving every player infinite abilities. So how can you use these spells?
If you’re the run and gun kind of player you teleport is going to be your best friend. With teleport you can move through a short distance of space instantly and pass through walls. If you’re surrounded you can use teleport to pass through an entire floor by crouching down and activating the spell. Or you can use the enhanced vision tech to find other players hiding behind walls and use teleport to move right behind them and start firing. Another technique that’s hard to master, but I’ve seen someone pull off is where you start firing in front of an enemy with a pistol, then you teleport through them quickly spin around and shoot them from behind. One player managed to finish off a large troll with this trick. I haven’t been so lucky, but I also haven’t been focusing on just shooting.
You can shoot in any FPS, but Shadowrun lets you play roles… sort of. There aren’t assigned as classes, but if you pick the right abilities you can be the team healer, a stealth killer, and a base defender. Dwarves are probably the best race to pick if you want to be a healer. They have a lot of essence, enough to keep three alive with the resurrect spell. Resurrect brings another player back to life, but when you use it four blocks of your essence are locked (notice how they are in white) to keep the player alive. Also if you die the resurrected player begins to “bleed”, they slowly lose life until they are resurrected again. There is a trick to the whole system, the tree of life. When you cast this spell the tree automatically heals players within its radius, friends and foes. If you’re bleeding you can quickly cast tree of life and stay underneath it to counter the bleeding effect. Dwarves also have another natural ability, they’re small and hard to hit so they tend to stick around longer which gives them room to breathe as a healer.
There is only one mode to play online, capture the artifact where RNA corp defends the artifact and Linage tries to steal it. If you want to play as base defender the strangle spell is your best friend. When you cast strangle a wall of spiked crystals pop out of the ground. If an enemy happens to walk into the path of crystals they slowly float through the air and become easy targets to kill. Like resurrect, strangle ties up your essence so you can’t summon crystal barriers around an entire level. Gust is another semi useful spell for defensive players. When you use this it pushes an enemy back and if you have a strangle wall you can throw another player right into it. Gust is probably most useful in levels where the artifact is high up. With the help of gust you can push players who climb their way up back down the ground. I haven’t found gust that useful though because a minigun or shotgun blows players back just as well and it doesn’t take up an ability slot.
My favorite way to play Shadowrun so far is as a stealthy elf with a katana. When you use a katana Shadowrun switches to a third person camera so you have peripheral vision. You can slash your sword with the right trigger and block other sword attacks with your katana. To hit another player with the edge of your blade you have to get up close and personal, to do that you’re going to need a different set of abilities. The teleport / enhanced vision combo is useful since you can spot other players from far away and close in on them with teleport. Wired reflexes is also another useful ability if you’re going the assassin route. When you equip wired reflexes four blocks of your essence are locked, but you move faster and you can block some bullets with your katana. If you want to go super stealth smoke is the ability to use. When you use smoke you become invincible from bullets and you cannot be spotted with enhanced vision, the only thing that can hurt you is the gust spell which is under used in online games. Smoke lets you creep up to other players at the cost of essence. But when you come out of smoke there is a brief delay before you can slice and dice. So you might want to position yourself in teleporting range, wait until the delay is over, then do a teleport kill. Katana hits do not deal instant death, it takes a couple of hits to kill an enemy, but one slash leaves a lasting impression. If you’re hit by a katana once you will bleed and continue to lose life unless you run up to a tree of life.
The thing I like most about Shadowrun is that you’re not limited to just standing in a corner and firing rounds. You’ve got options and those are a few other ways you can play Shadowrun besides hiding in a corner gripping your sniper rifle.