Shadow Man: 2econd Coming features a night and day cycle; during the day, you control the human form of Mike LeRoi, during the night you control his alter ego, Shadow Man. Acclaim's artists redesigned the human form of Mike LeRoi, who is now a tall, muscular guy that looks much more menacing - but definitely less original - than the young man of the preceding episode. Fortunately, Shadow Man is still the skeleton wrapped in muscles and flesh that fans of the comic books love. Thanks to the power of the new console, this tormented creature is even more fascinating than in the preceding episode.
In his human form, Mike LeRoi can inflict higher melee damage and has enough strength to push large crates; when he becomes Shadow Man, he is capable of using many voodoo weapons and spells, he doesn’t have to breathe underwater, he takes no damage from dangerous falls, and he has an eerie aura that lighten the surrounding environments. At the very beginning of the game, you have to wait for the in-game time to pass in order to switch from one form to another; anyhow, later in the first level, you find Shadow Man’s pocket watch, a nice little object with the power to speed up time.
The game is basically a traditional adventure in third person that reminds both the Soul Reaver and the Tomb Raider series; like and more than Soul Reaver 2 , Shadow Man: 2econd Coming is focused on battles and explorations, but it lacks the puzzles of Crystal Dynamics' vampiresque saga; like in Tomb Raider, you often have to jump, swim, or grab edges.
The control layout is what really surprised me. It's complex, and even if you have the possibility to choose among many different settings, it's clear that the game was built with the default one in mind. The left analog stick moves your character, while the right stick is used to look up and down, or to strafe left and right. The d-pad moves the camera around the character, X is the jump button, Square is the crouch button, Circle is the classic multi action button and triangle let you draw and holster weapons. The shoulder buttons are used to manage your weapons and attack. Shadow Man can attack with both hands, so L2 is left attack and R2 is right attack. You can also switch between two pre-selected weapons for each hand by simply pressing L1 and R1. Even when you want to fight with your bare hands, you have to use both buttons if you want to defeat your opponents. Actually, there are many more movements that Shadow Man can perform: forwards and sideways jumps, diving, wading, swimming, grabbing, climbing, ducking, rolling, crouching and all the possible combinations you can imagine. At the beginning of the game, you might feel lost, and you will be lost if you haven't read the manual before playing the game. Thankfully, the game opens with a level that help you get a decent grip of the situation.
The real problem with Shadow Man: 2econd Coming is that the extravaganza of the controls sometimes leads to frustrating situations. Battles are very frequent, and an automatic lock-on target function is activated every time you equip a long-range weapon. Unfortunately, Mike will target not only the bad guys but also all the destroyable objects in the room. So, you are in front of 4-5 bad demons ready to cut you into pieces and you have decided to kill them all with a pair of nasty shotguns. You equip the shotguns, one on each hand, feeling like the ultimate badass, but surprise! Mike LeRoi prefers to aim at that useless wooden crate on his left. Things go even worse when awkward camera angles are used to frame the character. It doesn't happen often, because the graphics engine of the game is well developed, but, when it happens, it's difficult to survive because of Mike's faulty auto aim. Besides, swimming in Shadow Man is not as pleasant as in Soul Reaver 2, mainly because the swim button seems rather unresponsive.
Anyhow, Shadow Man: 2econd Coming has more than a merit that keeps the gameplay above the average. First of all, you soon get used to the "original" controls of the game, and you soon start enjoying the possibility to fire simultaneously with two guns, while avoiding enemies' blows by strafing. Then, you have an enormous choice of weapons. There are 7 types of firearms, including shotguns, pistols, machine guns, a grenade launcher, and an assassin rifle that lets you aim in first person mode. Each weapon has two versions: one for the Liveside, when you are Mike LeRoi, and one for the Deadside, when you are Shadow Man. There are also four voodoo weapons that Shadow Man can use to literally annihilate his enemies. The Faux and the Colle, for example, are respectively a curved blade with the power to set your enemies on fire and a powerful mine that can be attached on the body of an enemy. All these weapons can also be used to destroy objects in the environments, like glass, crates, barricades and padlocks. And this is just the beginning, because Shadow Man can also use voodoo magic and Nephilim weapons. Vodoo magic can increase your power in battle (like the Guerre and Famine spells), give you access to previously inaccessible places (L'Inferno), or bring death to your enemies (Peste, L'Orage, Mort). Nephilim weapons are needed to defeat the Grigori, powerful huge demons at the end of each level.
The 6 levels are massive, well designed and imaginative. You need to explore carefully all the angles in each level to find all weapons and items. You can use the Teddy Bear, an item that belonged to Mike's deceased little brother, to transport Mike to different locations he has already visited. A little idea, that despite the long loading times (about 10-12 seconds), makes traveling in the world of Shadow Man less cumbersome than in other games.
Overall, Shadow Man: 2econd Coming, despite a series of issues in the controls and in the battle system, has a solid gameplay. Nothing innovative here; but once you've started the game, you just want to play till the end.