What’s the difference between a remake, a remaster, an HD remaster, or a reimagining? Well, I don’t know, but I have one of those in our review today! Shadow Man came out way back when and I feel that only true 90’s PC gamers really know what it’s all about. My perspective is not the same. I never played it when it came out. I’m coming from the point of view of a fresh player. Most people buying this game will likely be playing it because of nostalgia. I won’t be talking directly to them. They probably have already or intend on buying the game soon enough. I’m talking to those who are new to Shadow Man. So let’s chat, shall we?
‘SHADOW MAN: REMASTERED is an updated version of the cult-classic originally developed by Acclaim Studios and published for the PC, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast in 1999. The remaster experts at NIghtdive Studios have lovingly upgraded the Voodoo Noir action-adventure game with 4K widescreen support, anti-aliasing, and never-before-seen content previously cut from the original game. Join protagonist Michael LeRoi as he journeys through the foreboding lands of Deadside to defeat a maniacal demon and his army of serial killers in a fully remastered title built for modern hardware.’
Features (for consoles that support said features):
- ‘4K widescreen display
- Dynamic shadow mapping
- Dynamic per-pixel lighting
- Antialiasing, and other post-process effects
- Higher density of particle effects
- Refined art, audio, and assets
- Refined gameplay experience
- Reintroduction of missing content cut from the original game
- Xbox, PS4, Pro Controller support
- HDR Rendering’
- Visuals. For a game that looks like it should be overly dark, this isn’t. As someone who has not played the original, but knows exactly how old tech used to perform, I’m going to assume the game used to be pretty dark. But even if it wasn’t, Nightdive Studios have been sure to bake in ways that you can see very well what you’re doing. You adjust gamma, brightness, and shadow mapping. I was very happy when I jumped into the game and saw it was a 90’s dark sci-fi game only to find it wasn’t too dark. I also appreciate that by enabling HD textures in combination with anti-aliasing, I really got to see that game much better. Sometimes blocky thing in front of another blocky thing equals weird effects. It’s hard sometimes to tell a human, who isn’t supposed to be polygonal but is, apart from a boulder or something. This game lets you get more juice out of it in docked mode. As such, I played most of the game in docked mode. When I played an hour in handheld mode, I simply ran it without the bells and whistles to avoid a chance of hiccups. Having said that, I didn’t experience any visual disturbances.
- Confusion. “Where the hell am I?!” I felt like I had asked myself that plenty of times in the game. Because even if you set the visuals to be the most beautiful, crisp, and clean, that doesn’t improve the texture colors. Try going through a level that is a maze of sorts and every freaking wall looks the same. I wish I had the muscle memory of the game, but I hadn’t gotten to play it in my youth. I think this game would’ve benefitted more from an on-screen mini-map. Something that shows you where you’ve already been. Even just little markers of where you have already tried to access but are locked off while you get more souls. Not knowing where you’re going as you go, mixed in with some verticality in the platforming, I’m begging for another little crutch.
- Controls. There are some tidbits to the controls that I don’t care about per se. But since some of you do, I figure it’s worth mentioning. I know for a fact that there wasn’t a weapon wheel on the old game. And I don’t bother with button remapping, but it’s all there.
What I do care about are the thumbsticks. Now, we all know what generation Shadow Man came out in. It doesn’t take a genius to assume that the original likely only used one stick. I’m not sure if this was the same on PC or if you had full control of the camera, but it doesn’t matter, you do here! In Shadow Man Remastered the controls are something that I figured we’d have no issues with. I’d played Turok, the Nightdive port, on Switch, and they enabled the right thumbstick fully. I’m certain that that is the case here. I hated it then and still hate it now; playing shooters with just one stick.
- Gameplay. This might just be one of the bigger buggers. If you’re not into 90’s games and you don’t know the feel of them, this game may not be for you. It’s from the time that I consider to be video game’s growing pains. We had them in the Atari era and we had them in the mid-90’s for a generation. It wasn’t just the look of the 3D games that caused this feeling but also how games played. Developers were really learning what 3D rendered characters could do in a world while still using hardware with restrictions. If you liked the Turok ports, and newer games like Dusk, this will be right up your alley.
Some people will find its slow, but determined pace charming and others will find it alarming. The lock-on system is also a bit cumbersome. If you don’t know what I mean when I say it’s a very 90’s game, then you likely should play it another way before dropping money on a remaster. Or wait for it to go on sale. If it ever releases physically you could borrow it from a friend.
- Audio. What a treat this was! Other games had some really bad voiceovers and I was expecting the same. Shadow Man was part of the same generation and yet was a surprise. It unsurprisingly allowed for me to become enveloped by the story at hand. Which is pretty funny. Because the story was a bit deep and the characters looked goofy because of the textures being way more obvious now. And let’s not forget the music mind you. It at times was foreboding and ominous. Sometimes it was something closer to soundscapes. Other times it was a bit frantic and matched the pacing of the level. Speaking in terms of the music and sound effects, I had a blast getting into the world of Deadside. It’s a feeling that the game gives me just from the ambiance alone.
I think that overall, Nightdive (and other teams involved) really did a bang-up job with Shadow Man Remastered. When Nightdive does a remastering, they have a set of boxes that they need to check off in order to make themselves as well as the player happy. Updated visuals, more gameplay options, potentially add in any extra content, make it run on newer systems, fix existing issues in the code.
If you liked Shadow Man on the older consoles, the Switch port is the closest that you’ll get to that feeling again. If you want the best of the best for this throwback game, run it on more powerful hardware. Either way, you’re bound to have a blast. Because at its core, the game is challenging at times, but incredible and fun. Some might even say it’s incredibly fun. I wasn’t expecting this game to be this engaging and yet, here we are. This game is worth every penny of the asking price.