There comes a time when a game is released that people will reference when speaking about the greatest game in a genre or a specific mechanic of the game done very well. On the other end of the spectrum are games like E.T. for the Atari 2600 that are forever infamous for their extreme amounts of awful everything. Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops, for me, is leaning significantly towards the latter as it fails to impress at almost every turn. From the mediocre, and extremely frustrating, graphical choice to the annoying controls and mechanics, this game enraged me with the sheer amount of problems that plague it.
Going into this game, one expects the story to be nothing special, and you would be very disappointed if you thought there was going to be a groundbreaking plot. You take the role of both Cpt. Myra Lee and Cpt. Aron Alvarez as you enter a world of global conflict, evil dictators, and cliché wartime issues. Basically, you are the good guy and you must kill the bad guys. If the story alone doesn't destroy your immersion, the absolutely awful voice acting will. While listening to each individual talk in Shadow Harvest, I could only think that children could have represented these characters better (and it would have probably lessened the budget in making the game). You'll find yourself in desert towns, lots of desert towns, and the occasional stealth infiltration mission is thrown in for good measure. Either way, a bad storyline can sometimes be balanced out by redeeming gameplay. Unfortunately for players, the game mechanics in Shadow Harvest follow suit of the abysmal plot.
The trend of many of today's shooters consist of being third-person, over-the-shoulder games. When done correctly, this can be quite an enjoyable style of play. When your character takes up half of the screen, you contemplate putting your fist through your monitor. You'll try your best to maneuver around the world, and you may even find it bearable until you come into contact with your first opposition. Zooming in causes the screen to slowly creep forward, making this feature almost useless. On top of this, the AI in Shadow Harvest is horendously reminiscent of old N64 games like Goldeneye where we saw enemies running about like chickens with their heads cut off.
To redeem these sleights, Black Lion Studios introduced a cover system. Would you believe that this might in fact be the worst part of Shadow Harvest? The cover system is supposed to consist of you walking up to a wall or object and your character automatically sticking to said object. That's all well and good until your character decides it's appropriate to go into cover when you don't want them to, or they just don't feel as though you slammed down the forward key hard enough and stand there getting shot. The cover system actually killed me once when my character randomly jumped onto a wall that just so happened to be engulfed in flames, wonderful. The gunplay is very generic, and it becomes extremely hard to stay interested in this game with so much frustration going on. Just to add the cherry of sheer disappointment to this, the graphics, and the issues encountered by them, made me ponder how this game was even released.
I like to think that I have a decent PC as I can run most games today on max settings with decent fps. Knowing this, I had no issues when I saw that Shadow Harvest was using Nvidia's PhysX for shadows and effects. Plenty of other games used this and have shown no problems with me so far. I started the game only to find that with Anti-Aliasing turned off and the graphics on normal it chugged at a stunning 19 fps. Of course I thought right away that something wasn't right as even with AA on the graphics are subpar at best. Nope, thanks to whatever the developers did (I'm assuming with PhysX) my ATI 4950 just couldn't handle to mediocre effort put forth in Shadow Harvest. I settled and spent the rest of my time with the game skipping along under 20 fps, shaking my head whilst playing. I can't even say this was a promising title either because everything about it just screams "been there, done that," and yet it couldn't even follow in the footsteps of bigger games without slipping the whole way.
You may be thinking, this is an incredibly harsh review. What could have possibly been the tipping point that made this man so upset with this title? Don't believe that Shadow Harvest is this bad? Feel free to check it out yourself, its only $34.99! That's right, for only $10 more you could buy pretty much most AAA titles out there right now. I'm all for developers releasing their own take on other games, but to release a game that looks and feels 50% completed in every way for anything over $20 is robbery in my opinion. Don't buy this game, in fact, if you see this game in the hands or on the computer of anyone you know, you should burn it to save them the headache that would ensue from them playing it.
[Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops] $34.99 (PC)