The first known game to use Microsoft's new Live Anywhere technology is an online only first-person action game called Shadowrun. Based on the popular Role Playing Game, Shadowrun is an FPS that blends traditional gameplay with spells and magic, while allowing players on both the PC and Xbox 360 to go head to head online. Live Anywhere, which was announced at E3 this year, not only allows players the option of seamless cross-platform gameplay, but also enables certain mobile phones to connect to Xbox Live. For the PC specifically, Live Anywhere will only be available for machines running Windows Vista, which means we will have to wait until the official release of this new operating system before we see the first release of Live Anywhere; Shadowrun will release simultaneously for the PC and Xbox 360 at this time.
Developed by FASA Studio and published by Microsoft Game Studios, Shadowrun is set in the future, albeit not too far into the future, in the year 2021, where magic has returned after a 5000 year absence. Players can choose between the RNA and the Lineage, two opposing forces with opposite goals for the future of magic in the world. In addition, races available in the game include Humans, Dwarves, Elves and Trolls, each possessing unique abilities above and beyond the magical spells available.
The focus in Shadowrun is definitely mixed fairly evenly between tactics and action. Choosing spells and using them appropriately, as well as balancing your team, are both as equally important as destroying your enemy. In fact, poor decisions can result in catastrophic outcomes on the battlefield. This is due to the fact that at the beginning of each round, players must purchase the weapons and magic spells that they will have available. Similar to CounterStrike, weapons will only last for the current round, at the end of which the player must purchase them again. Spells on the other hand, can be accumulated over the course of the battle, and will remain between rounds. This means that it is all up to the tactics of the individual player and his or her group as to what they will purchase first, and therefore what their opponents will encounter in the game. The early rounds have potential to be complete chaos as players may not expect another person to have a certain spell, but be blind-sided when they actually use it in combat to gain an early advantage.
On top of this, there are many spells present in Shadowrun, but if any player has more than three at a time, he or she can only select three to use for the duration of the current round. This enables more strategy and balancing between teammates in the later rounds to complement one another. Although we did not get a chance to see all of the spells available, some of the more prominent ones were Glider, Teleport, Resurrect, Tree of Life and a wall see through spell. Each of the basics at the minimum are presented to new players in the tutorial, which I would highly recommend checking out before hitting the online gameplay. Although these may seem simple and intuitive, there are combinations of spells that can be used to provide a great advantage; also, some spells have certain side effects that should be known in advance of using them. Most notably, a Tree of Life can be used to heal both any member of your current team, as well as any opposition member that may be in range. The Resurrect spell also has a side effect; if the team member that casts it on you dies, then you will also die. All of these tactics, and more, are presented in the detailed tutorial in the game, which I highly recommend checking out.
In its current stage, Shadowrun looks like it will be a blast once it releases. Although the depth of gameplay is not really there, and even though it's online only, the tactical options presented by the spells and purchasing system look to make it look quite interesting to play. On top of this, the ability to go head to head between PC users and Xbox 360 users is a welcome addition to any game. Microsoft's Live Anywhere technology will no doubt present added value to both PC gamers and Xbox gamers alike. Online games are really terrible without a user base, but when you expand that user base to include this many potential gamers, one can only imagine the outcome. The question still remains though, whether a keyboard and mouse is better than a controller. Personally, I'm on the PC side of things, but I've heard recently that in matches between equally skilled players, the controller wins hands down. Lets take this battle to the real world and put it to practice once this one ships sometime next year.