Whatever you're expecting from Shadowrun, you're bound to be disappointed.
Are you a fan of the pen-and-paper role-playing universe that combined cyberpunk tech with fantastical magic? Don't expect to find the depth of that fiction here. Shadowrun is a first person shooter, not an RPG, and the flimsy instruction manual contains far more story and character than the game itself.
Okay, so what if all you're looking for is a solid action experience to tide you over until Halo 3? Unfortunately, you won't find that, either. While the gameplay is unique, fast and fun, there simply isn't enough of it. The lack of a single player campaign and, more inexplicably, the severe limitations of the multiplayer result in a $60 title that somehow manages to be less meaty and less satisfying than a free beta demo.
The shame is that Shadowrun actually does quite a bit right. Thanks to the source material's unusual races and abilities, the combat is incredibly diverse. You can choose to run and gun as a human, elf, dwarf or troll, and the decision makes a bigger impact than you might expect. Each race has distinct, meaningful strengths and weaknesses that force you to play them differently to succeed. The elf is weak, but can move quickly and regenerate health. The dwarf is slower and smaller, but can steal magic and survive a single head shot.
Add in the myriad of magic and technical enhancements available - plus the fact that you'll have to pay for them between rounds, Counter-Strike style - and the game's strategy grows surprisingly complex. Should the cumbersome troll improve its jump, speed and reload time with the addition of Wired Reflexes, or just try to escape more easily (through walls, floors and ceilings) with a Teleport spell? Would you rather play the role of a healer with the Tree of Life and Resurrect, or the role of a killer with Gust (blast foes with wind), Strangle (choke them with poisonous crystals) and Summon (crush them under the feet of your trained monster)?
But while the basic gameplay is undeniably fun, Shadowrun doesn't give you nearly enough ways in which to enjoy it. The complete exclusion of a single player experience (unless you count the six training levels or the option to fight against AI-controlled bots) will be a deal breaker for many. But those of us willing to pay full price for half a game should, at the very least, receive a damn good half game. Unfortunately, even Shadowrun's multiplayer is paltry.
You only get nine maps. Nine. And with rare exception, they are all remarkably unremarkable. We love the fog-shrouded, island-hopping insanity of Maelstrom, but can barely recall the generic - and woefully named - Lobby or Power Station. We're pretty sure one was full of crates and the other was full of hallways.
You only get three game types. Three. And each one is nothing more than a slight variation on capture the flag. "Attrition" is team deathmatch in which the flag, or Artifact, can be used to view enemy locations. "Raid" is capture the flag with one team attacking and the other defending. Finally, "Extraction" is... well, uh, it's basically just capture the flag.
Shouldn't a game that's selling itself solely on multiplayer ensure that each map is an extraordinary and memorable setting? Shouldn't it include other fundamental match modes like King of the Hill or Assassination, as well as introduce experimental new ways to play? Shouldn't the non-magical weapons be somewhat more interesting than a pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle and rocket launcher that charges $1000 per rocket?
Sadly, Shadowrun's answer to each of those questions is apparently "No." The innovation and surprise goes no further than the dwarves, trolls and magic. As much fun as those elements add to the shooter genre, they're simply not enough to compensate for the absence of everything else. Shadowrun is not a whole game and, therefore, we cannot give it our wholehearted recommendation.