Format – XO
Version – 1.01
We obsessed, reflected and dreamed about Duke Nukem Forever for 12 years, but when it came to the crunch, the game let us down on just about every level. Such was Duke 3D’s influence and impact that anticipation of a sequel reached fever pitch, but before 3D Realms brought back the bubble-gum chewing bad ass, we saw a plethora of clones, as well as a samurai spin-off, focused on master Japanese warrior, Lo Wang. Shadow Warrior was quirky, violent and ballsy and while it didn’t quite have the top drawer quality of its predecessor, it was entertaining enough to help us through the excruciating wait time between Duke releases.
And here’s the kicker. Coming away from Flying Hog’s unexpected re-imagining of Shadow Warrior in preparation for this review, I realise that the game does far more good reminding us how good FPS games used to play, than the Duke Nukem follow-up we pinned our hopes and dreams upon.
It really is old-school vintage stuff. We’re back to using keycards, pulling levers and killing all the bad-guys in a level in order to progress. There’s tons of secrets to find and locked entrances that will require a bit of exploring. Enemies are just good old fashioned monsters, not camouflaged marines or balaclava covered terrorists. Oh, and the game is full of cheap puns and corny one-liners, just like your favorite 80’s action movie.
There is a narrative here, but you won’t need to pay attention to it, nor will you find any of it particularly memorable. The original Shadow Warrior was designed to mock and point fingers at classic kung-fu movies, but this is a bit more sophisticated. This is actually more respectful of the source material, making smarter in-jokes and not emboldening racial prejudice and stereotypical character defamation. Lo Wang is still a bit of a fool, but he’s a fool who’s fucking good at dicing up bad guys with a Katana and ripping their skin to shreds with Uzis.
The story goes that Lo Wang is tasked with bringing back a vintage sword, the Nobitsura Kage, to his employer by any means necessary – though he is carrying a rather large case of money with him to the exchange. Of course, the greedy sword-owner not only wants the money, but he wants to keep the sword as well. So, Lo Wang is forced into combat with the owner’s mob-handed thugs. Nobody saw that one coming!
However, Wang is eventually overthrown and captured, the odds weighing too much against him. But just as his interrogation is about to come to an end, a demon intervenes saving Wang from a fate worse than death. Now, with the power of the demon burning through his veins, Wang fights back against those who have wronged him and fights back in a quest for vengeance.
Originally just a highly successful digital release on PC, Shadow has transferred beautifully to consoles. It looks great, it’s responsive, fast-paced and, all in all, a perfect fit. It’s mindless, action-packed and consistently entertaining. There is repetition in environments, however, which is sadly not a good reflection on the amazing work done on the game’s rather elegant visuals. This also causes some confusion when you’re trying to figure out your next steps.
But that’s all part of the charm. This really is a homage to old school shooters. No arrow-pointing to your next objective, no constant quick-saving or hand-holding. It’s not about building towards set-piece or forcing you through some epic, monologue with inspired speech. Shadow Warrior just wows you with its hardcore weaponry, savage brutality and simplicity.
The XP system does keep things quite fresh, however. Here you can invest points in Lo Wang which gives him new powers and abilities, as well as improve his health/life ratio, accuracy, dexterity and other things. These points are earned at the end of missions and based on your effectiveness in combat. You’re awarded a star rating after every enemy encounter and depending how many stars you get, depends on how much reward you receive.
The Good Stuff
- Fast-paced fun
- Good old-school nostalgia
- Lovely fit on consoles
The Bad Stuff
- Repetition in environments can cause tedium and frustration
- Puns are hit and miss and may cause a few eye rolls
- Some texture and environment ripping, but on rare occasions
- Some old-school elements should have remained in the past.
Shadow Warrior is simply great fun. The puns are as awkwardly entertaining as you’d hope and the action never stops being engaging. You can blast through it in bulk or take your time through it, piece by piece. It’s a reminder of where we’ve come from and that we can still enjoy the simple things, even in the face of cutting-edge narrative, technological flair and community-focused, co-operative and competitive experiences. Shadow is a surprising delight, from start to finish.
Technical Competency – 7/10
Graphical Quality – 8/10
Entertainment Value – 8/10
Sound Quality – 7/10
Network Stability – N/A