From The Get Go
Popped in the CD and followed the on screen instructions for a "smooth as a babies butt" install. I chose the full 400MB install for maximum performance. After the install I clicked on my Shogo icon in my start menu and proceeded to a splash screen where I chose the 'Display' button to set my renderer and resolution. After setting this I went on to Advanced options where you can choose to enable and disable certain effects. All this can also be done in the options menu while in game.
Here is where it gets good. After setting all my specs and such I started up Shogo and was greeted by a great intro avi featuring a mix of character sketches and in-game footage, but thats just the tip. My ears were in heaven as I heard fantastic music related only to what is known as Anime, from the techno-dance beat to the Japanese lyrics! Yes! Japanese lyrics! I was bouncing in my seat I was so excited (I'm a huge anime freak). From here I was taken into the main menu. And then the game itself...
What can I say, its a first person shooter. We all know how Quake, Quake 2, Unreal and the other clones feel when it comes to gameplay, and Shogo is not too different. It does add a new element to the game, the Mecha, a 30 foot tall battle ready mechanical suit. Do not be mistaken, this is not your old MechWarrior game, this is Anime Mecha combat folks. No clunky, heavy, slow moving machines of destruction here. You have a suit of metal that reacts as your body does. It moves as fast as your reflexes can handle. Transforming into your vehicle mode for a quick get-away is essential at times.
The levels in the game are nice. They are not outstanding but they are not very bland either. They are realistic. While on foot you are traveling through a complex or a sewer and it looks like one would. No huge morphing entities or textures. The tunnel goes straight and turns left or right or even both ways. When traveling in your Mecha you go outdoors and through cities and occasionally inside underground passageways. I have to say the most fun is in the City levels. The only thing I wish you could do is break down the buildings. Razing a building so it falls on your opponent would have rocked =D!
Most of the puzzles in Shogo are simple enough. They consist of destroying a target, pulling a lever, or finding and delivering an item to a certain destination. For example, inside this huge Star Wars type complex you travel in your Mecha in search of a lever to reverse the flow of fans so you can jump down this long shaft to a platform at the bottom. To do this you have to flip a switch to reverse the flow then turn off some heating coils in order to get to your next destination so you don't fry. It takes some time to search your way through the level but its fun to jump down the shaft.
Lets take a look at the weapons of destruction at your disposal. You have 18 weapons in your arsenal including the Mecha weapons and the on-foot weapons. On foot you have your knife, Pistols, Shotgun, Machine Gun, Assault Rifle (semi-automatic with zoom mode), and a couple more I'll let you discover =) As for your Mecha, you get a sword/knife unique to each of the four mecha's, your Pulse Rifle, Laser Cannon, Bullgut (a multi missle launcher), and my personal favorite, the Juggernaut. The rest you will have to discover for yourself. Each weapon has different damage, range, and load time. The Assault Rifle can be shot rapidly or in bursts of three while in sniper mode, but is much more deadly in sniper mode then normal action mode. You have to decide when to use which.
Save often. I can't stress this one enough. Once you get past a set of baddies, save your game with the quick save feature. Why? Well, unlike most first person shooters I have played, I died... a lot... a whole lot of a lot. I didn't take moderate damage and fly through the whole game. I'm what I would think is maybe half way through this awesome game and I have died many countless deaths and curse myself when I forget to save. Fun huh?
Well needless to say, running the game in Dirct3D is a feast for the eyes. Here is a side by side comparison with Direct3D next to the Software Rendered shot.
How do they compare in performance? Well, I tried to run them at the same resolution of 1024x672. D3D was a beauty to behold with no slowdown noticeable even in the middle of an intense fire fight. As you can see the software mode is not bad at all, but it was like trying to play Unreal running all the options available on a 28.8 over the net with a ping of 500. I saw about every tenth frame it was so choppy. That shot you see above is as far as I dared go with the software renderer (about 30 seconds into the first scene).
All in all the graphics are great. The explosions are wonderful, the transparencies are magnificent and the blood is gory. As far as graphics go they may not be unreal (pun intended) but they do the job and keep the game state of the art. I did see a few clipping problems but did not see any of the hall-of-mirror effects I saw in the demo. All in all it is a beautiful game. 8.5 of 10.
Like I mentioned earlier, I absolutely reveled in the intro music. The rest of the game's music is just as good (no lyrics though). The music does not skip noticeably as it did when for example, a major battle started in Unreal, but it just adds to the whole anime theme when you do notice it. Music is a 8 of 10 and a perfect 10 for the intro song.
The voices and sound effects are all very well done. As a figure talking moves away from you it fades as opposed to just stopping when you hit a point. As a couple passed me their voices faded behind me as I walked away from them. I was very impressed by this.
The weapons are also well done. From the Shotgun firing to the blast of the energy grenades it is all outstanding. Footsteps are also nice either on foot or in the Mecha. This is nothing too special but its neat to listen to yourself clomp through the city in the Mecha. =) So for the rest of the sound I give it a solid 8 of 10.
OMG... everyone should experience this... On foot it is similar to Sin where a critical hit to the head can kill you instantly. So there is not much new to that department. Let's not talk about being outside that wonderful war machine called a Mecha. THIS is where it's at!
Now, I liked MechWarrior on the net but it was so slow moving I really couldn't deal with more then 2 matches a night. I played 8 straight hours of Shogo DM in the mechas! This is what it should be, baby! Racing through cities in vehicle mode till you see someone then transform back and bust out your Juggernaut and blow them away! If you really want to surprise them, find a way to climb the buildings (where there is a will, there is a way ;) and sit atop the map with your sniper rifle and have a field day! Shogo gets another Perfect 10.
The Final Verdict
Shogo: Mobile Armor Division is a great product. I recommend this to all who enjoy any of the following: anime, 3D games, first-person shooters, mechs, good story, breathing. My over all score will have to be a 9 of 10. It is hurt by some of the sounds and the AI was a tad weak while in the Mecha, but it doesn't take away from the fun. All of these down factors can be fixed in a future patch. Three thumbs up!