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Video Game / Shadow Complex

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Shadow Complex is a 2009 Metroidvania action-adventure game for the Xbox 360 by Chair Entertainment, a subsidiary of Epic Games. It was released in August 2009 on Xbox Live.

A woman named Claire and the man interested in her, Jason, go on a date that involves spelunking. You think this would be a fun little date, right?

Nope. Claire is captured by black ops troopers, and Jason pursues her and her captors into an underground base, where a sinister organization called the Restoration is waiting to bring forth what it believes will be a new golden age for America and the world. Starting with only a pistol, a flashlight, and some climbing gear, Jason begins to tear the base apart looking for a way out...

The game is part of the Empire universe by Orson Scott Card — the Empire novel was actually written for this game, not the other way around. The game was heavily promoted and released to near-universal acclaim during Xbox LIVE Arcade's first "Summer of Arcade" event. The gameplay is essentially just like that of a refined Super Metroid: the protagonist, Jason, runs, guns and jumps around a 2D base, gaining equipment, items, and levels as he explores more and more of the place and unravels the sinister plot that is about to be put into action. It uses the Unreal Engine 3 and notably introduces "2.5D" elements smoothly into classic Metroidvania gameplay, such as allowing Jason to shoot enemies in the background of the stage.

A remastered version of the game was released on Windows, macOS, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, giving the game a graphical overhaul, adding new content, and some quality-of-life improvements. The remaster was announced during The Games Award show and its PC version was released for free for a limited time on December 3, 2015 through the Epic Games Store. The Xbox One version released on March 16, 2016, followed by a PlayStation 4, Steam, and Microsoft Store version was released on May 2 the same year, as well as a macOS version was released on August 4.

This game contains examples of:

  • 100% Completion: Required if you want the "Completionist" achievement, which involves finding every collectible throughout the game. There's also the "ChAIRNESS" achievement, which requires completing the game on Insane difficulty while finding every collectible under 3 hours.
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: The flashlight's batteries run out in just a few minutes, but they recharge quickly as well.
  • 2½D: One of Shadow Complex's defining features is its 2.5D presentation; the game was developed using Unreal Engine 3 and features 3D graphics, but its gameplay is 2D like the Metroidvania games it took inspirations from. Despite being 2D in nature, the game makes use of the 3D space to allow interactions with the background possible, such as the frequent shootouts with the Restoration soldiers and mechs whether on foot or from a mounted turret, as well as hiding behind background objects for cover. Objects and sometimes characters can be blown across the background or the foreground with explosives.
  • Absurdly High Level Cap: Level 50 grants Jason his final major bonus of infinite Missiles, however, players are more likely beat the game the first time around Level 20-40 depending on the difficulty level and how much of the game was covered. Players can still level up beyond Level 50 and gain Precision, Stamina, and Accuracy bonuses.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: A fairly prominent method of slipping through the complex, both to avoid combat and just to get around. Some of the vents are reinforced with plating that renders them resistant to everything short of a missile launcher.
  • Back Stab: If Jason can sneak up behind an enemy, he can instantly take them out, although it can be done even after they spotted him. Remastered added another stealth takedown where Jason grabs the enemy by the ankle and yanks him off balance where he'll fall to his doom.
  • Badass Normal: Jason is a rather average joe but he's still really effective when the chips are down.
  • Bag of Spilling: Justified. The few skills you start the game with are lost due to the player character's death. The rest of the game is played using a different character.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: At the end of the game, it looks like Jason shoots Lucius in the head, but then the camera reveals Claire there, with the smoking gun. Particularly amusing if Jason has the Inertial Element, as he will look at his own gun with confusion as if he thinks he could've accidentally discharged it, but the Inertial Element fires like a shotgun and wouldn't hit Lucius with the single headshot he's downed by.
  • Beehive Barrier: The representation of energy shields, on the WSA1 Walkers and from the Fusion Helmet.
  • BFG: The Inertial Element, the best weapon in the game, varies from the other weapons in the game in that it acts more like a shotgun than an automatic weapon. It also kills any soldier in one shot, and does considerable damage to armored vehicles and mechs.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Finding all the Gold Bars grants you access to a secret room containing golden versions of all the weapons in the game. In the Remastered version, you also get a golden Omega Armor.
  • Blown Across the Room: Punching soldiers after getting the Omega Armor can send them flying.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Shooting the Restoration soldiers in their heads deals more damage than shooting them elsewhere. You get an achievement for scoring a certain number of headshots, and it's also named "My Head A-Splode".
  • Checkpoint Starvation: Unlike Metroid, Shadow Complex auto-saves in specific rooms and the places where it does this are somewhat infrequent, which can send you back a long way if you haven't triggered one in awhile.
  • Cherry Tapping: One of the new achievements added in the Remastered version, "Hook, Line, And Sinker", requires you to kill an enemy with the Hookshot, which does very little damage.
  • Chicken Walker: The WSA1 Walker boss is a towering bipedal mech with reversed-jointed legs.
  • Collapsing Lair: Lucius blows up the control room after Jason reaches it and they have a nice pleasant conversation.
    Jason: "Oh, crap, crap, crapcrapcrap!" [runs]
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Shining Jason's flashlights on destructible walls will reveal what tool he can use to destroy them: orange for normal bullets (or ground pounds), green for Grenades, purple for Foam, red for Missiles, and blue for high-velocity collisions via the Friction Dampener.
  • Cool Airship: The final boss, which appears to be an Airborne Aircraft Carrier.
  • Critical Annoyance: If Jason is low on health, players will hear his heart beating until they can recover his health beyond the critical threshold. This is also accompanied by a rumble on the controller if the player has vibration enabled.
  • Degraded Boss: Several of the mechs fought as bosses appear during the final battle as ordinary, if deadly, foes.
  • Denial of Diagonal Attack: Completely averted in this game as players have full 360° range of freedom.
  • Diving Kick: Shadow Complex Remastered adds one as a melee takedown where Jason can dropkick an unsuspecting enemy by jumping next to them.
  • Double Jump: Later into the game, Jason can find a Jump Jet pack for the Omega Armor that gives him this ability, followed by a pair of Thrust Boots further into the game that adds another mid-air jump, allowing him to perform triple jumps.
  • Dramatic Irony: Jason runs into a Torture Technician who tells him "You don't look like a killer" in an attempt to psych him out. By this point in the game, the player has probably killed a few dozen Restoration goons, and a spider tank or two. Jason simply shoots the guy in the head from point blank range.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Almost the entire game takes place in an enormous underground lab.
  • Enemy Chatter: You can overhear mooks talk about this-and-that as you sneak around the base, sometimes about trivialities, sometimes about their plans for the United States.
  • Equipment-Based Progression: Par for the course as a Metroidvania game. Jason gradually becomes more powerful not only through leveling up, but also harnessing the high-tech equipment from the Restoration scattered throughout the game that allows him to reach great heights, run at the speed and force of a rocket-powered bulldozer, breathe underwater, withstand enemy fire from a shield-generating helmet, and arm himself with advanced weaponry. By the end of the game, Jason goes from an average joe with military experience to a nearly unstoppable One-Man Army in a Power Armor.
  • Experience Meter: An XP meter is shown above the player's Health meter, with their current player level shown next to it.
  • Experience Points: Players can level up Jason through gaining XP, which can be earned by defeating enemies, exploring the game world, accessing the map terminals, and collecting items that upgrades Jason's stats or abilities. If players can take out enemies using melee takedowns or creatively using hazards against them (e.g. punting a Bomba next to a solider, electrocuting them by breaking high-voltage cables), they can earn an XP multiplier that multiplies the amount of XP gained.
  • Exploding Barrels: Some barrels filled with combustible substance can be found in certain areas of the game, which can be shot by player to make them explode and harm anything caught in the explosion.
  • The Faceless: Averted with Jason at first. Jason's face is in full view up until he gets the SCHCA Mask which covers entire face but leaves his hair open. After finding all the Passkeys, players can obtain the Fusion Helmet that completely covers Jason head, leaving him indistinguishable from the Restoration members.
  • Faceless Goons: The Restoration's entire membership all seem to enjoy wearing helmets that don't even possess a visor. Glowing lights on the side of the masks seem to indicate cameras of some sort. The mooks don't even take their helmets off when they are sitting down to eat in the mess hall. Jason can also become indistinguishable from the faceless Restoration member should he pick up the breathing mask or the Fusion Helmet.
  • Fake Difficulty: The "difficulty" in shooting bad guys in the background when the game's aiming system works against you, or being shot by bad guys from offscreen.
  • Flunky Boss: The final boss is assisted by a small army, including a couple of mechas that had previously served as boss battles unto themselves.
  • Freeze Ray: The Foam Gun is functionally this, in that it's a weapon that instantly immobilizes enemies à la Harmless Freezing by covering them in rapidly-hardening plastic foam. It also increases the damage output of explosives when a Grenade sticks to it or when shot by Missiles.
  • Gambit Roulette: Jason taking down the complex was all planned, and encouraged during the process, by his girlfriend Claire.
  • Gameplay Grading: After defeating the final boss, the game tallies up your overall score based on how quickly you finished the game, how many enemies you killed, which difficulty it was completed on, and percentage of items collected. Your final score is then sent to the leaderboards.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: One of the gadgets Jason finds in the complex is a wrist-mounted grappling hook. It's called the hookshot.
  • Ground Pound: Jason can gain this ability by acquiring the Omega Armor, which allows him to slam his fist into the ground at great velocity when airbone and instantly disintegrate lower-tier enemies.
  • Hard Mode Perks: Hardcore and Insane makes enemies much more stronger and deal greater damage to Jason, but they also reward much more XP than the lower difficulties.
  • Harder Than Hard: Insane difficulty not only makes enemies exceptionally strong compared to Hardcore and below, but it also entirely removes waypoint marker and item locations out of your map as well, even if you have the complete world map from reaching Lv. 20.
  • Heart Container: The aptly-named Health Upgrades, which increases Jason's maximum Health by 100.
  • Humongous Mecha: The first boss in the game is a spider tank infantry fighting vehicle, which is quite a bit larger than a main battle tank. You also fight small "Devastator" class walking tanks, which are about ten feet tall, and massive "Walker" tanks that are much larger and better armed versions of the Devastators, standing about 30 to 40 feet tall.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The game features "Casual", "Normal", "Hardcore", and "Insane" difficulty levels.
  • Implacable Man: You, if you can find the Passkeys to unlock the Fusion Helmet. As a bonus, the forcefield that allows this requires that you don't increase your movement speed beyond Unflinching Walk if you want it to stay active.
  • Infinite Supplies: The player's main gun has unlimited ammo, but has a limited magazine. Later in the game, it's possible to earn infinite foam, grenades, and missiles, either through collecting power ups or simply reaching a high enough level.
  • Infinity -1 Sword: The Coil Rifle has the highest bullet count in the game, is slightly stronger than the WSM4000 assault rifle, and shoots incredibly fast.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Inertial Element is the strongest weapon in the game, functioning as a ridiculously powerful shotgun capable of killing any soldier in one shot.
  • It Gets Easier: At one point in the game, Jason notes with a chill that it's rather easy for him to shoot people now. In a bit of playing around with the trope, he wonders to himself whether that's a good or a bad thing...
    Jason: "Killing's getting easier. Not sure if that's good or bad. [shaky breath] ...It's good."
  • A.K.A.-47: With the exception of the two made up weapons, this is almost painfully true. For the most part this consists of adding some zeros to the end of the name and switching out the real company for the fictional WhiteSands, in example: H&K MP5 becomes the WSMP50, the model is almost exactly the same as well.
  • Kill Him Already!: Subverted; in an early scene, Jason runs into the room where Mr. Sweet is preparing to torture Claire. Mr. Sweet starts advancing on Jason with a knife and, upon seeing the gun pointed at him by Jason, remarks in a patronizing tone that Jason doesn't "look like a killer". The moment the words leave his mouth, Jason shoots him dead without flinching.
  • Lag Cancel: If you simply hold down the Fire button with the Inertial Element, it will fire at a relatively slow rate. However, if you time pressing the Fire button at the right time between shots, you can rapidly unload shots in quick succession.
  • Life Meter: The Health meter, with each 100 points of Health being represented as a square à la Metroid.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The final boss will counter with a massive missile salvo whenever you hit it, destroying the missile silo and everything around it.
  • Made of Iron: Even before he gets the Omega Armor, Jason can take a surprising amount of gunfire in only a shirt, compared to the armored guards he fights who can only take one or two shots in the easier difficulties.
  • Megaton Punch: Taken to new heights once you get the Omega Armor. Performing take down moves with the Omega Armor equipped will send enemies flying across the room when punched. There's even an achievement in the Remastered version for punching soldiers a certain amount of meters total.
  • Meta Multiplayer: The game features online leaderboards for the main story and Proving Grounds challenges.
  • Metroidvania: Shadow Complex is an action-adventure involving running, platforming, action and frequent backtracking as new abilities allow access to earlier inaccessible areas. The game was heavily inspired by both Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night; the first month of development was spent just playing those games!
  • Minecart Madness: One brief section of the game involves riding a mine cart over a cliff and jumping out, using the extra momentum to clear the jump. At the base of the complex, there is also an optional mine cart shortcut that you can use as much as you wish.
  • Minimalist Run: invoked The game acknowledges two different levels of this challenge. There is an Achievement for finishing the game with 13% or fewer items, and a 'Master Challenge' for only collecting the backpack, grenade, foam, and missile — even picking up the pistol will result in failing the challenge. However, if you've found all of the gold bars, you'll have access to the gold weapons, which don't count against you. So you can grab the best gun in the game, skip the pistol, and grab the 3 sub-weapons to complete the challenge. This also skips essentially ALL of the story.
  • Mistaken for Spies: This is what happens to Claire and Jason in the beginning of the game, until the end, when it is revealed that Claire really is a spy.
  • Multi-Platform: The original was an Xbox 360-exclusive. Remastered, however, is an Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows and macOS release.
  • Multiple Endings: If you go back to the jeep and press B, Jason will drive away, commenting that there's "plenty of fish in the sea."
  • Neck Snap: The Remastered version adds two ways to snap a Restoration goon's neck: one by using the Hook to suspend yourself slightly above their heads then proceed to snap his neck with your legs, and another by breaking his neck by hand from standing on top of an elevated object.
  • New Game Plus: Automatic, and with permanent upgrades (both levels and collection bonuses) that make subsequent jaunts through the Complex much easier. Remastered however gives you the ability to start over with a fresh save file thanks to the addition of 10 save slots after an update, but the level bonuses always carry over unless you delete your entire save data.
  • Ninja Log: Storm Shadow ninjas do this if you close to melee them, except it's a Ninja Grenade. Once you get the Omega Armor, you can let them know how you feel about that.
  • No-Sell: Once Jason acquires the Fusion Helmet after finding all 12 Passkeys, he is rendered impervious to virtually any attack the Restoration can throw at him as long as he's either standing still or walking in order to activate it.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: You don't take damage from falls. This can feel a little silly sometimes when you can fall down a few stories without the repercussions.
  • Oh, Crap!: Verbatim, and in excess, when Lucius blows up the room that Jason is in.
  • The Only One: Halfway through the game, Jason stumbles into the Restoration's factory, and Claire basically says "Hey, since you're doing such a good job anyway, why don't you put looking for a way out on hold and single handedly destroy the enemies' supply line." Jason points out how silly that is, but does it anyway. Claire is actually surprised when he tells her that he did it and drops some foreshadowing for good measure.
  • Only One Save File: The original version of Shadow Complex only had one save file. Remastered however, after an update, added support for up to 10 save slots, allowing for multiple playthroughs on different difficulties and character progress.
  • Outrun the Fireball: In a certain area before the final battle sequence takes place, Jason is confronted by Lucius from outside the control center via the surveillance systems, who then remotely sets off a series of explosives that Jason must escape from. The resulting destruction levels the area beyond repair, which Jason cannot return to.
  • Oxygen Meter: The player is subject to one of these when swimming underwater... until Jason picks up the SCHCA Mask.
  • Permanently Missable Content: The Inertial Element is the only power-up that you can render completely unobtainable. If you don't get it before the control center explodes, you can never get it. This issue, however, can be circumvented if players has unlocked the golden weapons room for finding all of the golden bars, but golden weapons do not count towards item collection percentage, which is required for the Completionist achievement.
  • Point of No Return: When Lucius blows up the central control room, you can no longer access a certain area without starting the final battle.
  • Powered Armor: You eventually come across the Omega Armor XOS-7, a prototype combat exoskeleton that grants Jason a Ground Pound ability and a 30% damage reduction, which can be further boosted by Armor Upgrades. Several Heavily Armored Mooks have powered armor as well, though their version is much bulkier and more encumbering.
  • RPG Elements: As Jason fights enemies, travels the game world, access map terminals, and finds items, he gains XP that increases levels and grants him bonuses to his Stamina (affects how much damage you take), Accuracy (reduces the spread of your weapons), and Precision (affects the likelihood of scoring headshots). For every 10 levels that Jason reaches, up until Lv. 50, he gains a new special perk as well.
  • Railing Kill: Doable by killing enemies when they are standing near by railings. There's also an achievement for performing 100 of these.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: Guards make more and more alarmed comments about how unusual it is that one intruder could possibly cause so much damage.
  • Second American Civil War: The game takes place on the first day of a new American Civil War, starting with the Restoration assassinating the Vice President. (According to the book, they managed to assassinate the President too). The game contains references to the Restoration's plans to seize control of New York and San Francisco as part of their next step.
  • Scenery Porn: The forests of the U.S. Northwest are rendered in great detail, and the surface areas of the game aren't afraid to show them off.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Going back to the jeep in the beginning will have Jason simply drive off commenting that there are plenty of fish in the sea. It gives you an achievement as well.
  • Sequence Breaking: The Foam allows this, with proper use (it helps that you can stack charges to build pillars). The game seems designed around encouraging sequence breaks, which is appropriate for the genre.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Inertial Element is a rare example where it is effective in both short- and long-ranged combat, and it can rip apart heavily-armored enemies with relative ease from far away.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: The final weapon upgrade is a super-shotgun that can kill lesser enemies in one hit and high damage to heavily-armored ones, at super-long range.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The grappling hook is called the Hookshot.
    • The developers mention G.I. Joe as an inspiration.
    • The third spider tank boss fight is a homage to the fight at the end of Ghost in the Shell. The design of the tanks themselves are blatantly modeled after the GitS tank.
    • Some of the game's achievements contains shout-outs to other works:
      • Destroying the Black Falcon helicopter during the prologue rewards the player with an achievement called "To Kill a Blackbird".
      • Reaching Level 20 in the Remastered version rewards players with an achievement called "Charted", nodding to the Uncharted series; specifically the fact Jason is voiced by Nolan North, the voice actor for series protagonist Nathan Drake.
      • An achievement for killing a total of certain number of soldiers from a gun turret in the Remastered version is called "The Whole 9 Yards", and another for running a certain amount of distance with the Friction Dampener is called "Run, Forest!".
      • One of the Master Challenges is called "Jason Bailey", a reference to the "Justin Bailey" password from Metroid.
  • The Slow Walk: The final piece of your armor makes you completely invincible as long as you do this, or stand still.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Despite little music being present in the game, a calming piano piece plays when you have to navigate a base you flooded, complete with several still-drowning mooks.
  • Spider Tank: Jason runs into one of the Restoration's spider tanks early in the game, but he ends up dispatching it with a few well-tossed grenades in an exhaust vent. More of them show up later, tougher to kill because of the lack of easily exploited explosions.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: Much of the plot can be gathered from guards who talk to one another when you're not killing them.
  • Super Prototype: The Omega Armor XOS-7 is a prototype combat exoskeleton that Jason eventually acquires and uses against the Restoration soldiers, some of whom are wearing heavier and bulkier armors. The Omega Armor's capabilities can be further upgraded with additional equipment such as the Hookshot and Fusion Helmet.
  • Super-Speed: About halfway through the game you are given Friction Dampers that triple your speed, complete with breaking the sound barrier. A few of the more interesting power-up placements involve solving a few logic puzzles that can only be solved with the gravity-busting properties of the boots, which require a significant charge-up time.
  • Super Swimming Skills: Presumably, Jason's pre-game fitness regimen included a lot of swimming.
  • A Taste of Power: The game starts you off with some colonel guy in a stolen suit of power armor, armed with the game's second-best gun with a handful of Grenades, Foam, and Missiles. Unfortunately, the bad guys have the cheat codes to disable that suit and they cut him off, following with what appears to be his death.
  • Tempting Fate: In the opening sequence, the Player Character's armor locks up, via a security measure, after he beats all the bad guys attacking the Vice President. Then his Voice with an Internet Connection reveals he's actually working for the bad guys.
    Dallas: "At least... At least the Vice President is safe."
    [black SUV explodes in the background]
    Voice: "Oh, that Vice President? Of the United States?"
  • The Unfought: Lucius spends the entire climax standing in his observation tower while the player fights the final boss. He's shot in the head in a cutscene, by someone else no less.
  • Updated Re-release: Shadow Complex Remastered gives the game a new coat of HD paint, runs at 60 FPS, adds in some new challenges, tutorials, and takedown moves. A later patch also implemented 10 save slots for the game. In addition, the villains are given different dialogue to more accurately fit in with the Empire series as a whole. Explanation 
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: The soldiers scream when you send them flying (whether by punching them with the Omega Armor, blowing them up with missiles or grenades, dive-bombing them with the Ground Pound, plowing into them with the Friction Dampener, and more often than not when you "stealth" kill them with melee, notably early on when you can pull an unsuspecting enemy into the water you are swimming in, even with several others nearby), and there's an achievement for making a hundred of them scream.
  • Villain Ball: Lucius and the Restoration really should have read the Evil Overlord List to avoid things like Air-Vent Passageway escape and Just Between You and Me, but their biggest mistake has to be hovering their Airborne Aircraft Carrier over the nuclear missles to take out one guy instead of flying off to San Francisco.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Lucius has a pretty impressive one.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Jason asks this of Claire, when she tells him that she was using him as cover to get into the Shadow Complex.
    Claire: Not everything. You really do have nice eyes.