Everything I saw regarding Shadow Warrior before the games release screamed awesomeness. I was hooked on all of the teasers as well as all of the information that came out about the game. I’m a huge fan of older titles being remade too, though I’d never played the original I was sure to enjoy this title, right?
Shadow Warrior follows the journey of Chinese-Japanese, Lo Wang, who worked as a bodyguard for Zilla Enterprises. He’s sent to retrieve the Nobitsura Kage, a mystical katana connected to ancient gods which happens to get taken by a giant golem. Of course. The game begins with a scene Quentin Tarantino would be proud of with Wang offering a huge amount of cash for said katana on behalf of his boss, which of course doesn’t go down too well and you’re set upon by some katana wielding goons.
This is where the main and what I thought was the most attractive feature in Shadow Warrior, sword play, begins. You’re thrown right into a battle, you vs. six with nothing but a sword. Sadly this is where the game fails for me. Yep straight the way I’m jumping into why I think the game isn’t so great. The swordplay is shocking. It’s clunky and messy. I’ve played the game almost all the way though and it’s not improved at all. Swordplay is essentially all down to luck. I’ve found that it’s much easier to mash the buttons and try and aim with the crosshair than take time to attack whoever is trying to rip your head off.
Shadow Warrior feels like a remake, yeah I know that it is, but it feels like one too. But that’s okay because the game on a whole doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s often the use of tongue-in-cheek humour throughout, so that lessens the blow a little. What the game does have for it is that the game itself looks fantastic, Flying Wild Hog have done a fantastic job of re-imagining the Shadow Warrior world, it’s full of truly beautiful environments which can often distract you from the evil demons that are trying to borrow your skin.
So we’ve touched upon the disappointing sword play now onto the second form of combat. Shooting. Shooting in Shadow Warrior feels very much like a second thought. Keeping to it’s old-school roots there’s no ADS, in fact, there’s no form of zooming in what so ever, so you’re often spraying and praying if you want to shoot the shit out of some evil demons which for some reason take around 3 clips in order to kill. It is fun however, until you run out of ammo and you’re left with the katana and 30 angry demons who occasionally spontaneously combust.
After around two hours of gameplay the game crashed which meant that I had to start from around half an hour back, and I died, a lot, so each level took me a fair few tries to complete. Around 4 hours in now and I feel that the games main objective, to get the Nobitsura Kage, has become a pointless drag of level after level, demon after demon, with no real results.
In a hope to be a saviour for Shadow Warrior for me is the games depth. During the first level of the game you’re possessed with a comical demon named Hoji, who is a banished spirit with a great sense of humour, with Hoji by your side you’re given some demonic powers which can be upgraded and unlocked during the game. The first of which is the ability to heal yourself using an old-school button combo.
Much like the games original version, and most other 3D Realms titles, there’s a lot of secret areas that can be found and in these secret areas you’ll find the unique items needed in order to upgrade your skills, of course you’ll also come across them in normal play too, but you’re more than likely going to come across more of these items by heading deep into the bamboo forests finding secret little passageways or wandering far off the beaten path to find a cave.
These powers and skills do help you progress throughout the game and you’ll often unlock some brand new katana move which makes demons explode on the spot if you catch them right, which yeah, it adds to the game a little but most of the time you’re set upon by 10 or 15 demons all hacking at your face, and the amount of time it takes for you to successfully execute the required combination, you’re most likely dead.
Progression does become obvious however down to the demons who come at you. Like with most games, the further you progress the more difficult the game gets. This becomes present with the use of different, harder to kill demons. The actual human characters however are dumber than Pinky & the Brain’s Pinky. They’ll ususaly just stand around waiting for you to slice them up. You can even walk right up to them shooting you in the face with an UZI and get the advantage with your ninja stars.
Overall I had high hopes for Shadow Warrior, sure it stays true to old school shooters of it’s time with the excessive use of blood and gore, and there are some parts of the game that make you chuckle, like when you stumble across two rabbits literally at it… like rabbits. Or when you come across an arcade cabinet that contains other Devolver Digital titles like Hotline Miami and Serious Sam. But overall I found the game to be a bit of a drag which no amount of gore,explosions, or “Wang” jokes can save.
Sure, the game gives you a choice between wielding a sword or firing your guns, but I personally felt that I wasn’t giving the game enough of a chance when I decided to switch to gun play. The game is more about the Chinese-Japanese inspired sword fighting which at times can be quite satisfying, but at the same time it’s frustrating as hell, which is the reason why Shadow Warrior sadly, wasn’t for me.