Game Over Online ~ Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

GameOver Game Reviews - Shogo: Mobile Armor Division (c) Monolith, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim / Jube / Jove

Game & Publisher Shogo: Mobile Armor Division (c) Monolith
System Requirements P166, 32MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 88%
Date Published Tuesday, September 29th, 1998 at 01:18 PM

Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

Many 3D shooters are coming out these days. There are decent ones, there are good ones, and there's sheer, utter crap, of which, unfortunately, there's the largest number. Paraphrasing a columnist in PC Gamer, 'As far as I'm concerned, most 3D shooters out there can be taken, burn on CD, and then that CD can be burnt' (he was talking about level addons). However, there are always a few gems in the dust - Duke, Jedi Knight, then Unreal, and now Shogo: Mobile Armor Division. (I'm not mentioning Quake since, much as I don't like that, it pretty much is the plank to which everything has to measure up, for whatever reason).

Shogo takes a slight variation into the theme, following in the steps of Jedi Knight rather than Quake, meaning it actually has a story. Not just that, but the story isn't some abstract concept that is told to you in two paragraphs before the game starts (or, even worse, that you hear about in the manual or from friends, like, *cough*, Unreal) - but you actually get spoken dialogue and engine-rendered movies that give you a pretty decent idea of just what precisely is going on. Also notable is its anime look - characters, surroundings, everything is reminiscent of a good-quality anime universe.

The story of the game is not as far-fetched and epic-sounding as that of Jedi Knight and its addon, Mysteries of the Sith - but it's enough to get you deeply involved in the game and keep you playing. The incredibly detailed Shogo: MAD universe is based on a rather lengthy background which can be found at Planet Shogo. During the course of the game, you end up playing as either a soldier on foot, or dressed up as an MCA [Mobile Combat Armor], an equivalent of a 'Mech. Difference is, the MCA plays very similar to the soldier, in the sense that you can pick up weapons, strafe and duck, among others. It removes the cumbersome control of the real Battlemechs, such as those in Mechwarrior - but for those of you who complain about that, think of it this way - this is not a 'mech simulator, this is a 3D shooter.

The graphics in the game are completely incredible. Interior environments are exquisitely done, with beautiful textures and extra objects that play no role in the game but add to the realism, such as bulletin boards, computer screens, and miscellaneous posters (such as 'Do Not Beat Up The Witnesses' in the Police interrogation room). However, in some places, especially outdoor environments, such as cities, the texture detail is just a slight bit lacking (but I suppose Monolith doesn't really expect you to go around reading signs). The computer screens are a bit hard to read, too - you pretty much have to guess what's written. A very neat thing about the graphics engine, the LithTech, is that it can dynamically modify the complexity of the models to match your computer's power. That way, slower computers don't have the problem of having two fps when you need to jump from plate to plate over a bottomless pit, or where you have to turn 90 to face an enemy that's about to have you for lunch and, being impatient, you oversweep the mouse, have to turn back, etc. Also, models can have their own sourced lightning, generating more realistic smoke, and being better streetlamps. And, what's also very cool, is that models can have models attached to them, so the same type of enemy, for one, can have different weapons to fight with. This beats the raw sourced lightning eyecandy that Unreal was. The special effects in the game are amazingly well-done, as well - blood, for example. Not only are the blood particles realistic 3D objects, unlike, *cough* Rainbow 6, for one, but if you shoot an enemy standing next to a wall, the blood will actually splatter against the wall. More so, you can shoot already dead bodies for an extra effect of throwing them around and bloodying up the place even more. Not surprising, considering Monolith did Blood, one of the most violent games ever. As well, another incredibly neat feature is that dead bodies can actually prop against walls, with proper bending of legs, torso, etc - absolutely no clipping! Beat that, id. Explosions are absolutely wicked, as well - for example, depending with which weapon you hit your adversary, be it a soldier or an MCA, different things will happen - either he'll just fall down (if you used a rifle or a machine gun) or pieces of him will fly all over the place, if a high-explosive weapon was used. The death animations are cool too, with enemies falling down on the ground differently, depending where you shoot them. The only complaint, a minor one, is that they don't fall down on the ground, if you sniper them off a ledge. Oh well. And, of course, the graphics take a toll on your system - I have a P200 with a Voodoo card, and I pretty much had to turn down most of the graphic detail.

The gameplay is plain wicked - with no environments ever repeating (except for some cities), it's always fun to see what's around the corner. Level design is clever, although, perhaps, not mazey enough - there's always pretty much only one way to go. I guess level 6 of episode 4 of Wolfenstein 3D still haunts me. But it'd still be neat to see some advanced mazes in today's 3D shooters. Except for Quake that is, I think id lost their touch on gameplay, it's just pure demolition these days. Make the walls destructible or something then! On the downside, the enemies are a bit unvaried though, with the majority consisting of heavy-armored soldiers light-armored soldiers and civilians, armed, respectively, with an assault rifle a machine gun and nothing, sometimes substituting the MG for a shotgun and sometimes swapping the nothing for a pistol. Boooring. The MCAs are a slight bit more varied, with more than two types of attackers. The weapon choice, on the other hand, is very cool - considering how much developers have to invent these days to not look like another Quake rip-off, this is pretty good. You got the standard array of pistols (dual ones, a la Rise of the Triad), a shotgun, a machine gun, an assault rifle, and some more inventive ones, such as two types of grenade launchers, a rocket launcher, etc. A word of complaint about the grenade launchers: one type bounces TOO much, it feels like a rubber ball rather than a real grenade (and you have to aim extremely well to get a guy around the corner - I just gave up on that), and the second type, I still have to figure out the difference with the rocket launcher. Maybe range, not sure. The weapons for the MCA are more fun - you get a laser cannon, a sniper rifle and a few more cool guns.

A word of complaint about the AI. Perhaps my paranoia actually backfired this time, and the difficulty level prevented me from having any major fun, so I'll be sure to set it harder next time - but the enemies are kinda weird. They never come running for you, for one thing (which, actually, is maybe a good thing - for them, though). And they are too slow to pull the trigger (though this, I'm sure, is determined by the difficulty level).

The game environment is wicked. In the earlier levels, you walk through an Officers Lounge type of room, where you see people hanging about, and you can actually hear what they say, as you walk past - nice added effect. The music, however, could use some work - the menu music sounded somewhat better than the actual game music. In fact, one of the themes in the menu reminded me a lot of the Crusader music, which I still believe to have been some of the best music ever done in a computer game. The sound array is okay, with footsteps, shots and glass breaking sounding just like it should.

The multiplayer in the game is fun, albeit somewhat slow in our tests over a dialup connection. LAN is, obviously, fine - so there's not much to be said on that particular account.

Shogo: MAD is an innovative game from an innovative company, which hasn't ceased to amaze me in the past while, with titles such as Get Medieval (I know some will argue, but damn, I've spent so much time playing Gauntlet I was innately bound to love this one), Rage of Mages, now Shogo, sometimes soon Blood 2, and so forth. Shogo definitely, in my view, belongs in the annals of better games, with an interesting twist on the anime theme, great graphics, and fun gameplay. Good one, Monolith folks. Quoting the ending credits, which were about the funnest credits I've seen in a game, 'Monolith Rulez. Shogo Rules. Breaking rules rules.'

Highs: great graphics, nifty gameplay, great storyline, strays from the usual flock of boring 3D shooters Lows: high system requirements, unvaried enemies, texture detail could be increased (heck, it's slow already, so who cares if it'll be a bit slower).


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Divider Left By: Jube Divider Right

Fall rush is upon us. With a great game here and many of good games on the horizon this season looks like it may be one of the best yet. I checked out Shogo: MAD and was thoroughly impressed by its fresh take on the First Person Shooter genre. We're got a lot of ground to cover, so let's get on with the show.

[Graphics: 16 / 20]
Monolith's shiny new game engine is the muscle under the hood of Shogo. It sports a lot of old standards for graphical effects and some new tricks as well. Most noticeably is the interactivity with the environment. Bullet holes mark walls permanently, windows shatter and wooden crates can be smashed to reveal power-ups and ammo. Shogo shows off the scalability of its engine by using it for both Gameplay and cinematic sequences. During the game entering a new area or meeting someone will cause the camera to pull back into third person to progress the plot with a sort of built-it cut scene. These kinds of smooth graphical transitions enhance the continuity of Gameplay. I have heard that another upcoming game, Half-Life, will incorporate these same transitional effects. And if Shogo and Half-Life are any indication of the new direction in First Person Shooters, I'd say we all have a lot to look forward to. However the graphics in Shogo do have flaws. The largest distraction from visual realism of Shogo was the overuse of the blood effects. They just bleed so damn much. Shooting one or two of the little soldiers while in your towering Mecha will literally spray the entire street/building/wall an abundance of blood. Each human appears to lose about 50 gallons of blood each, which looks really cool and exciting the first couple of times, but it quickly gets old and over done. When playing as Sanjuro outside of the Mecha the amount of blood lose is decreased, but it certainly manages to get all over the place. It flys all over the place, dripping and splashing on to the walls and ceiling. wiping out an entire room of guards with a rocket extremely satisfying to the inner-sadist in all of us.

While not as all out mind blowing as the current big sluggers in the FPS genre, Shogo offers plenty of eye candy. On the upside you don't need the ultimate gaming machine to appreciate it. A P233 with 3D acceleration will do, anything less is going to require tweaking. The advanced options allow plenty of configurations of special FX levels, texturing and a variety of visual effects. So grab your keyboard and get ready to enjoy the rocket/explosion flares, dynamic cameras and buckets of the red stuff.

[Sound: 14 / 15]
Cool. I am easy to please when it comes to sound. I like the thump of teeth rattling explosions, I like the ambiance of humming lights. I like the growls and screams of battle and I like interesting and plot developing dialogue. The point is to enhance the realism. The point is to immerse you the atmosphere of the game. Monolith succeeds at doing this with Shogo in many ways. Shogo has a nearly complete package. Spent shell casings clatter to the floor, each weapon produces its own distinct firing sound, and each character has a voice that matches their personality and disposition. Strangely the voices all have American and/or English accents. It being a Mech/Anime styled game, Asian accents would seem more appropriate. However the English voices detract little from the games ambiance, but its worth mentioning.

Another thing worth mentioning is the music that accompanies Shogo. First let me make it clear that I like the music to fit with the game, and unfortunately many games seem to put little value in matching the soundtrack to the games mood and atmosphere. In a recent review of a Quake 2 mission pack Ned said it best, Heavy Metal just does not go with everything. And apparently realizing that, the clever lads at Monolith have incorporated IMA or Interactive Music Architecture into Shogo. I am not sure exactly how it works, but the game basically plays mood music, based on what is happening in the game. During combat a really kicking techno track is plays, and after you wipe everyone up the music segues into a calmer quieter refrain. Game music that adjusts according to situations in the environment is a big step in the right direction. And Shogo scores big because of it.

[Gameplay: 27 / 30]
Without elaborating too much on a very complex plot I will try to sum it up. You play the part of Commander Sanjuro Makabe. Your ex-girlfriend and ex-squadmate Karu died during a mission with UCA Security Force, and guess what, it was your fault. Not wasting anytime you are quickly started dating her sister, Kathryn. You now have been assigned a mission to redeem yourself, both for Karu's memory and the UCA. Along the way you find out that Karu is alive! And I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but being the man between sisters can get really sticky (pun intended! :D) Doesn't sound much like any Quake clone you ever played does it? That is the beauty of the Anime story line; Giant Robots, Ex-girlfriends returning from the dead and a Midget named Hank!

Its unique, to say the least. However I can see why all gamers won't get into this game. Some gamers enjoy a very straightforward end goal orientated game progress, and Shogo does not deliver that. The plot and game do not always progress in a linear fashion. The push-button open-door formula is not abandoned, but there are plenty "splinter levels" where you have to complete an obscure task to achieve the more return back to the original goal. For example in one "splinter" you have to fight your way through a building to rescue some old ladies cat. But here is where the plot thickens. The cat wont just come to you, so you have to search for a heavily guarded (get this) squeak toy. Those of you who played FF7 will recognize similar elements of game structure. (Ahem.. Cloud in a dress?)

Shogo is not the usual stomp through an enemy filled level for the sole purpose of finding an exit to proceed on. Levels link back to each other, but not in that annoying and repetitious way that Quake 2 did. The part that shines about Shogo the most is its variety. Monolith offers a multitude of scenery, weaponry, and goals. The game has its share of blood and mayhem, but it's not the typical 20 level kill-fest. Though its obvious not every gamer is going to be interested in the somewhat obscure and twisting plot. Monolith is hoping gamer's are ready to take a step away from the typical marine-grunt-kicking-demon-ass formula. I think a lot of us are.

Fun Factor: 19 / 20

Fun is firing 12 spiraling rockets or 3 shots of the "BigGut" into a downtown area filled with tanks and enemy Mechas. And there is plenty where that came from. Shogo does not waste time with useless, non-city block leveling weapons. With over 20 weapons total the name of this game is variety of firepower. Both human Sanjuro and Mecha Sanjuro can equip a large array of arsenal. Some weapons can be zoomed into sniper mode, for those quick and easy called shots. Other weapons bounce timed energy blasts which are perfect for corner shots and room cleaning. Hit someone in the head or heart and you'll see the words "Critical Hit!" and score a little free life. It's a great incentive to make trick shots and do damage in style. Other weapons are just nasty, the largest of the Mecha guns is just basically a small scale nuclear blast.. Try dodging that strafe boy.

If anything, the weapons seem too powerful at times. Killing Mecha's and tanks only takes one or two shots at most. However at higher levels of difficulty its somewhat a blessing, as the AI's reaction time and accuracy improve considerably. There are some really great levels that just beg to be trashed (in single and multi) over and over. Cars and signs can be crushed, but the buildings are not damageable. It would have been a nice touch to be able to crumble bridges and ruin high-rises during downtown showdowns. I hope Monolith makes a serious effect to improve the latency in regular modem play. As I have preached many times before no game (especially FPS) is complete without stable multiplay. And this game has been built to seriously rock it.

Multiplayer Play: 3 / 5

When I first played Shogo over my 33.6 I was ready to break out with the stingy-ass reviewer attitude and just ice this category. But on my second look I noticed a few very cool things. I was impressed with the Multiplay Wizard that allows you to quickly setup and configure a host or join a session in less than a minute. Shogo also supports Gamespy, which makes finding local fast servers less of a hassle. LAN play runs flawless, and I understand that cable modem games are also playable. In the past many great multiplayer games were hardly "net ready" on release, the most memorable being Quake, which took four or five major revisions before any serious fraggin' could occur. I am willing to give Monolith the benefit of the doubt, this time. Improving the multiplayer of this game will round out an all around solid title. So if you Mono boys are reading.. Hurry your asses up, we're armed and ready.

Overall Impression: 9 / 10
It has been a long time in the works, and it shows. It is innovative, exciting and unique. It's Shogo. If you are ready for a something new in the FPS genre I highly recommend this title. Yes, it does takes a lot to impress a stick in the mud like me. But I am always ready to compliment a game that breaks out from a tired formula or genre. And this title does that, in many ways. Shogo is a great indication of what the future is holding for PC games. Worth the price of admission, you need to grab this slice of pie fast.


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Divider Left By: Jove Divider Right

First person shooters have reached a level of refinement almost unmatched in the gaming industry due to their incredible popularity. With waves of FPS's being released all year it can sometimes be hard to distinguish the good from the bad. Shogo: Mobile Armor division attempts to take the genre to a new generation, which it accomplishes in some areas and fails in others. Because the other two reviews covered all the major elements of the game, I decided to look at Shogo with a broad perspective in mind rating it in comparison to other ground breaking titles in their respective genres. Because of this my review will most likely be lower than the other two, so if you are interested in such an evaluation, read on, otherwise look to the other two reviews.

The graphics in SHOGO are created using an engine developed by Monolith called LithTech which, in my opinion, is very well done, but lacked some crucial elements. While being crisp, there was little flare and excitement in the graphics. Additionally, the game was heavy on the blue tones which reminds me of quake and quake 2 graphic limitations. The chroming techniques used on some of the weapons were amazing, but they were only present in about one third of the game. In the other two thirds one is controlling the mech and vehicle (you switch back and forth between these modes throughout the game). The weapon models in this section are par to the course while weapon effects are some of the best available today. While I was not overly impressed with the engine it ran fairly smooth, once loaded, and served the purpose of switching between mech combat and personal combat (which turned out a lot less fun than it sounds). The graphics are plain, crisp, efficient but seem to be lacking in emotion. I differ in opinion in this section than many people, but I believe that one should take a non-action gamer's perspective (which includes myself) as well as the hardcore action gamer's perspective in order to make a more educated conclusion about the game.

I'll skip the preamble I usually place here and get to the point. The sounds of shogo are really quite cool. I only wish they supported A3d as that would have made them the best ever used in a first person shooter. The sheer multitude of effects is astounding and very involving. If only the graphics were are detailed and emotional as the sound the game would be much better. The speech is well done, facilitating the story and adding a new element to the FPS genre, but again lacks spunk. The sound is certainly a huge step forward in the genre and hopefully will facilitate the introduction of very high quality sound to the FPS genre just as other ground breaking games such as Total Annihilation introduced their spectacular sound (in TA's case it was the incredible redbook audio tracks that accompanied the game).

Gameplay is the one factor of any game which makes a classic or classifies a game as merely eye candy. Games such as Civilization 2 and Star Control 2 focused on gameplay far more than graphics and yet are still regarded as gaming classics. Thus a crucial lesson is learned about games and how they become classics. While I don't believe SHOGO will ever compare in status to Civ 2, it will be recognized for introducing more story-like elements to FPS shooters. The conjecture still remains however that this trend of story driven FPS's will catch on and not fade away into nothingness. One must remember that it is quite possible for the entire generation of gaming that SHOGO seems to be introducing could turn out to be a quick deviation from a much different path, but for now SHOGO has my respect so let me explain why. Most FPS's have little if no story (as Pseudo mentioned in his review) and have become known as a general hack and slash fest for gore crazed game players. Recently however there has been talk of stories being integrated into FPS's with games such as Half Life creating most of the buzz. SHOGO definitely is the most story intensive FPS to come out thus far, and while it lacks the AI that Half Life will have, it has a strong anime based story line that will capture a much different audience than previous FPS's have before. Herein lies the reason for my respect: SHOGO has the potential to attract gamers who traditionally detest action FPS titles to make the leap across the chasm and be seduced by the increasing complexity of the genre.

I was unable to get TCP/IP multiplay working and thus couldn't test this aspect of the game and thus I will be replacing it with a rating for story line instead. I have doubts however that multiplay (while still undoubtedly excellent) is anything of revolutionary nature.

Yes this review is short, but my goal was to address the "classicness" of the title and I believe that I have covered the most crucial aspects. My final conclusion? SHOGO is an excellent attempt at revolutionizing a genre which falls short in a few too many areas to become a "classic" but deserves respect in any case. I would also like to encourage non-action oriented gamers to perhaps give this title a try as maybe, just maybe you will be seduced.


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