Why We Love Neon Shadow
As is the case with any genre of game, first-person shooters have changed a lot over the years. What began with slow, awkward experiences on technology ill-suited to handle them quickly exploded with the speedy, intense action of benchmark titles like id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM. Games like Valve’s Half-Life and Ion Storm’s Deus Ex brought more complex mechanics and deeper storylines, while titles like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor pushed the envelope for creating cinematic experiences. Recent first-person shooters feel as much like living a movie as playing a game.
But sometimes, you just want to fire up a game and get to the action, and that’s where titles like Neon Shadow come in handy. Neon Shadow was specifically designed with an eye to the classic 1990s shooters that popularized the genre. It’s speedy, stylish, and will have you pulling the trigger on your weapon of choice at a fairly regular tempo. The various guns you pick up represent the staples of the genre. Whether it’s rapid-fire plasma, a grenade launcher that lobs bouncing explosives, or even the trusty rifle, there’s something incredibly comfortable about the weapons in Neon Shadow.
That nostalgic feeling extends to the level designs as well. With plenty of twisting corridors and lock-and-key progression, you’ll be scrambling all over each level to find your targets and escape. You’ll often be surprised by the sudden appearance of enemies, as they can come out of the walls or through doors when you least expect it. You need to keep one finger on the proverbial trigger at all times, as it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t stay sharp and keep moving.
These same areas serve as the arenas for the bot battle modes, which see you facing off against up to three AI opponents at once. There’s the standard Death Match, where it’s kill or be killed. The Mutant mode works like a lethal version of Tag, with the first player to score a kill becoming the “Mutant”, a powerful opponent that the remaining players will have to team up on to kill. Whoever finishes off the Mutant becomes the Mutant next. Instakill calls to mind the Golden Gun mode from the Rare classic Goldeneye, with one-hit kills becoming the order of the day.
Battling against bots is great for practice, but there’s nothing quite like taking on other humans in games like this one. Neon Shadow has an online multiplayer mode that supports all of the aforementioned types of matches. Mutant mode in particular becomes an absolute riot when you’ve got human intelligence driving the action. If you just want to blow off some steam, the Death Match mode remains just as fast and fun as ever. You have to think about your weapons in a very different way when you’re up against other players. Your weapon selection is less important in Instakill mode, as the victory often goes to the player who can aim the fastest. All in all, it’s a nice suite of options that will keep you coming back for a long time to come.
Whichever mode you opt to play, what makes Neon Shadow so fun is its solid core mechanics. Your character is fast on their feet, and aiming is a breeze. The guns feel good to fire, and things explode in a satisfying way. There are even plenty of explosive barrels that you can use to your advantage, or forget about to your disadvantage. Your health won’t automatically regenerate, so you’ll have to make use of all of your speed to keep from getting the bits blown off of you. Well, it’s nothing a handy health pick-up can’t fix, provided you can find one.
This classic gameplay is all wrapped up in a modern-yet-retro aesthetic, adopting the neon colors and vibrant feel of 1980s cyberpunk. It’s a pleasant subversion of the more muted tones used by the games its action draws inspiration from, offering some pleasing sights and sounds to go along with your robot-wrecking rampages. It all zips along at a wonderfully speedy pace, making for a fast and flashy good time. It’s this fusion of old, new, and retro-future that makes Neon Shadow a stand-out action gaming experience.