IGN Review of Shellshock 2: Blood Trails
First-person shooters are in no short supply and the ones without the inflated budgets often have trouble competing with the high rollers. That is the case with Shellshock 2. It comes from Rebellion, the developer responsible for games like Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron and The Simpsons Game, but Shellshock 2 doesn't have a big intellectual property to fall back on and the result is a brief and lacking game.
You play as Nate Walker, a soldier in the Vietnam War whose importance is magnified due to his brother's entanglement in some crazy testing program known as Whitenight. This has resulted in a zombie-esque outbreak, putting US GIs in a fight against both the Vietcong and an army of manic, flesh-eating monsters. The story will probably only make total sense to you if you're the type of person that thinks sending money to a Nigerian banker makes sense. Essentially, it breaks down to a hunt for your brother, Cal, that plays out across 10 levels that each last 10-20 minutes -- 30 minutes if you die a few too many times.
Shellshock 2 starts off well enough but quickly goes downhill and is over before you really have time to appreciate how bad it is. The thriller format is laid out in the opening moments with a surprise attack, confusion, lots and lots of gore, and some decent ambient sounds. Nothing spells terror like the sounds of a baby crying drifting through war-torn village. But then you get into the game and you'll realize just how derivative and weak things are here. Crummy level design, piss-poor AI and a general lack of fun dominate the Shellshock 2 experience.
The gameplay breaks down to just a few simple ideas. There are glorified shooting galleries where you stand in one place and shoot at oncoming enemies. Other than that, you'll spend your time fighting into and then out of heavily guarded areas, working through quick time events sprung from traps or enemies that hop out of dark corners, or just walking down a path shooting the enemies as they appear in front of you. Most of the time this requires little to no thought, though occasionally you'll hit a part that is frustrating and annoying. In particular, the very end of the game is incredibly annoying.
Though Shellshock 2 opens with a moody first stage, the game design quickly devolves into something that is anything but exciting. Just because the guys running awkwardly towards you look like zombies, it doesn't mean the game is thrilling. Just because the setting is dark and you have a flashlight, it doesn't mean that the setting is tense. There are ways to create and maintain an atmosphere and Shellshock 2 misses the mark.
Rebellion puts some decent ideas on the table and the general handling of the game isn't that bad, but as a budget release, the visuals, AI, and level design just can't compete with the big boys. It's impossible to recommend Shellshock 2 when stellar titles like Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, Killzone 2 and Crysis are all currently setting the bar so high. The first-person shooter genre is crowded and games like Shellshock 2 feel so far behind the curve.
The whole shebang is only about four to six hours in length and there are no multiplayer options, so don't expect this one to last you more than a weekend. This is an incredibly shallow experience. There is an achievement for playing the game a second time on 360, so maybe some people will want to play it twice. There are no trophies on the PS3 version, sparing you from the temptation of playing a second time.
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