“Target down but not out”- Archer
- Platform- Windows
- Developer- Red Storm Entertainment
- Publisher- Red Storm Entertainment
- Release date- 31st March, 2000
Retroplayer here. Another Sunday, another retro review. Enjoy amd happy Easter!
In the closing moments of the film Amadeus, Antonio Salieri finally succumbs to the notion that despite how he feels, he will never be remembered or revered as much as Wolfgang Amadeus, the iconic composer. After years of internal turmoil, Salieri, now in an insane asylum, declares himself the “patron saint of mediocrity”, and seemingly finds solace in this idea. While that may be an elaborate segue into a retro review, this is how I felt about Shadow Watch. It’s a perfectly fine game, but never quite rises above its station. Instead, it plays it safe, is out shined by other, better, more elaborate titles in the same genre, but still remains an impressive game in its own right. Sometimes you need to embrace mediocrity.
Developed and published by Red Storm Entertainment in 2000, Shadow Watch is a turn-based tactical game in which you take control of 6 elite individuals, known as “Shadow Watch”. Shadow Watch, a multinational group, have been set up to tackle a conspiracy to stop construction of an international space station. The space station aims to unite the world, and the shadowy group behind stopping that dream coming to life are Shadow Watch’s main target. The story set up is quite simple, yet effective. However, before the player is able to tackle the menace behind the plot to halt construction on the space station, you must first deal with a number of politically charged situations across the globe. You first start off in China amid the turbulent growth of the Democratic party, a group that the Triads have little love for. Between missions the player is able to talk to certain people which, depending on how you interact with them, may or may not lead onto further missions. These interactions are done purely in text form with the assistance of nicely rendered artwork. It would have been nice if Red Storm Entertainment when a little further, a little more in depth with this aspect of the game, but it works quite well as it is.
As the player progresses through the game, further missions and locations are opened up. Missions range from likes of infiltration, assault, and even to kidnap. Each of these mission types require certain outcomes. For instance, if on an assault mission, the player must simply seek out and kill every enemy in the level. If sent on a kidnap mission, the player can approach it with more of a stealthy technique to solely find the target, acquire them, and get out of the level. Shadow Watch is turn-based, which means each member of any given team only has a few action points (AP) per turn. These points can be depleted by attacking, moving, or even turning a character on screen. The use of AP keeps the action nicely controlled, and very much easy to discern what’s happening on screen.
The characters at your disposal are quite diverse in both ethnicity and skills set. All of them are quite unique, and the player will often find that during missions where you can’t use everyone, that it will take some time to choose who is right for the job. For instance, if you’re going up against an assault mission that requires only 3 team members, choosing the larger, heavier members of Shadow Watch is advised. The more kills the members of your team get, the more you’ll be able to upgrade them. Upgrades are paramount and come in the form of more amour, better accuracy with weapons, breaking through locked doors, hiding, and much more. Without these advanced skills the player will find it particularly tough during the later, more intense missions. These upgrades give a further unique feel to each character, and that really sets it apart from other similar type games. Sure, the Shadow Watch are a well oiled machine, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t each look, feel, and control uniquely.
Visually Shadow Watch is extremely impressive. Going for a very comic book type of look, Shadow Watch is colourful, sometimes exaggerated, but always a joy to watch. The locations, like the characters that inhabit them, are expertly realised, nicely designed, and, depending in what country you are in the world, are coloured accordingly. For instance, levels in China are red and orange soaked, while missions in Brazil tend to be coloured with thick greens and browns. It gives the player a great distinction between locations, while also preventing them from feeling too similar. Additionally, the music, though sporadic at times, is excellent, particularly when the enemy alarm is raised. It’s not a soundtrack that beats you over the head, but rather suits whatever tactics you’re currently playing out. It’s wonderful.
However, despite all of this Shadow Watch doesn’t go above and beyond the call of duty to deliver a truly incredible gaming experience. The insistence of purely using text and graphics when interacting with people between missions leads to the game feeling a little hollow, empty, and devoid of any kind of true interaction. Also, while missions are fun and nicely designed, most levels in a particular country tend to look pretty much the exact same, save for a few stand-out exceptions. Shadow Watch plays it very safe, but never quite feels like it has greatly missed the mark. Shadow Watch doesn’t try and even hit the mark, as It’s perfectly happy with giving us a mediocre experience, an experience I felt was well worth taking.
Shadow Watch is an enjoyable, middle-of-the-road title. What it gets right it doesn’t excel in, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s an interesting game with a lot to offer. If you’re looking for a turn-based tactics game with a little less realism and more of a heightened reality, be sure to check out Shadow Watch. It may not be perfection, but sometimes mediocrity isn’t such a bad thing.