Shogo: Mobile Armor Division

As the developers of the sickly-satisfying Build-engine game Blood, the folks at Monolith have shown they know a thing or two about first-person action. Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, one of their most adrenline-charged shooters, uses an overhauled LithTech game engine to pass as yet another classic.

5_1Set in a highly saturated anime universe, Shogo: Mobile Armor Division puts you in the shoes of Sanjuro, an MCA (Mobile Combat Armor) pilot caught in the middle of a war. Like most good anime flicks, the war is merely a backdrop to a more personal battle, as rivalries and loyalties get tested. Revealed through brief in-game cutscenes and many scripted events, the story isn’t intrusive, but it does have a genuine bearing on gameplay as you’ll make decisions that will lead you to one of two separate endings. A nice touch!

With its anime in full effect, Shogo’s levels are divided equally between piloting the MCAs and fighting on foot. While this mix could’ve been difficult to manage, Monolith wisely made sure the MCA moves and responds just like on foot (so don’t expect MechWarrior-style action here) resulting in smooth, fluid transitions for players as they move from on-foot to MCA-based levels.

While having two separate mission types and environments is a nice change of pace for this genre, the real treat of this double bill is the weaponry at your disposal. In the MCA, you’ll have weapons like sniper and laser rifles, a spider mine launcher, and multiple types of rocket launchers, and without exception, they chew up scenery like nobody’s business. Fire off a few rounds of the Bullgut missile launcher, and you’ll see four spiraling missiles trail to their target and explode in a shower of shrapnel, smoke, and fire.

On foot, the weapons you’re equipped with are more familiar first-person mainstays like the pistol (actually two, for some double-handed John Woo-style gunplay), shotgun, Uzi, assault rifle (with the obligatory sniper mode), and grenade launcher. While the effects of these weapons are not quite as impressive as those for the MCA, the taut design and intense action of the on-foot levels assures that you’ll be too busy spilling out hundreds of rounds of hot lead to notice.

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17_1It’s in these smartly designed levels where Shogo: Mobile Armor Division really shines. In the MCA or on foot, there’s very little puzzling to get in the way as you cut down enemies in the race for the end of the level. Monolith wisely avoided CPU-hungry showpieces that drag down the gameplay, with levels that are, for the most part, short and sweet, with clearly defined goals. There’s very little instruction needed — just shoot everything and get out. The result is a game that piles on the intensity by giving you lots of things to shoot, and less things to worry about.

First-person shooters have come a long way since Doom, and the end of the 90s marked what might have been their golden hour. There were innovations left and right, technical advancements, and an overall more clearly focused approach on delivering a cinematic experience. Shogo isn’t the most innovative of the pack, but it’s definitely highly polished and a great

The first-person action genre is getting set to peak next year, and Monolith is showing the way forward in style. Though I would’ve like to have seen more longevity in the single-player game, Shogo’s exciting levels and fast-paced action results in a back-to-basics blast-fest that no self-respecting gamer should pass up.

System Requirements: Pentium II 166 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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