Right off the bat, Shadowrun looks really silly. There are mech and tech gadgets, but they're carried around by trolls (who look like bulls) and dwarves who work as office security guards. The dwarves are attacked by Mayan Indian-looking terrorists, and one of the maps is a mystical ziggurat spitting white fire into the sky. There's no single-player campaign to help make sense of it: You're flipping through what was slated to be an epic, end-times-caliber story, but you only catch the highlights. Sure, this could be a fun game without making sense, but some sort of introduction would help those who never played the tabletop role-playing game Shadowrun buy into the concept of elves on hang-gliders hacking at people with katanas.
In skilled hands, Shadowrun's mishmash of ideas adds up to a fierce, tactical multiplayer game, where you choose from a couple dozen weapons and powers, though you can only use a few at a time. All of the action is team-based, and it takes two forms: attrition, where you try to kill each other, or two variations of capture the flag, where you try to grab a $5 totem pole and drag it to an escape spot. (Although you can also just kill each other.) Playing capture the flag again and again gets old: The "grabbing-the-artifact" routine fits the game's story, but that story isn't worth sticking with. You can't always rely on a team that you picked up on a public server, and with free-for-all death matches ruled out, the game's myriad strategies will probably work out best for players with a group of reliable friends.
Beyond the game: Shadowrun is the first multiplayer game to unite PC gamers and console players, though so far, it's hard to tell the difference.
Worth playing for: If you're hooked on Xbox Achievements, it's easy to fake out the game: For example, to get the "block 10 shots from a sniper" badge, you and a buddy can just stand around shooting each other.
Frustration sets in when: More reasons why Shadowrun feels underbaked compared to, say, the Halo 3 beta: No ranking. No leaderboards. No personalization. (Or women.) And matchmaking can take minutes.
Final judgment: Perfect for anyone who used to pit their G.I. Joes against their Dark Crystal dolls.