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Superb sci-fi blaster
Shadowgrounds is a fairly obscure Finnish shooter that plays out like Alien Breed or Alien Syndrome but with updated, pseudo 3D graphics to give it bit of extra punch. While nothing particularly original, it remains a fun and hectic blaster with a few strategic twists to give it some extra appeal. The story relies on that sci-fi fallback of a base under siege by marauding aliens and which must systematically wiped out by the player using an impressive arsenal of upgradeable weapons. NPCs occasionally join in the fight as you progress through the story, with missions typically being quite linear but which involve completing a set of tasks in order to compete successfully, and with various upgrades and background material also avilable to be discovered by the adventurous player. Perhaps the neatest feature of Shadowgrounds is the importance of light and shadow. Most of the environments you explore are shrouded in darkness, which the aliens have an affinity for. However, in addition to your guns you also carry a torch which can be used to blind your attackers and which allows you to create safe passages where they are reluctant to attack. This adds in a nice element of tactics as you must use the torch's limited power with care. Visually, Shadowgrounds is pretty slick, with a wide range of well realised locations to explore, some excellent real-time lighting effects and plenty of destructible environments. Likewise, the sound design is highly atmospheric and really creates a strong sense of being in a classic sci-fi horror movie. While it is not exactly original, the co-operative mode, exciting action and strong audio/visuals make this a good choice for fans of classics like Gauntlet or Chaos Engine.