Other games could take a few lessons from Shadow Warrior in how to make the player feel like a total badass. And Shadow Warrior does this completely unashamedly from the get go with a sword fighting scene, heavily reminiscent of that one-against-many scene we all know and love from Kill Bill. It is equally, if not more visceral, and also equally playful in a sick, humourous way. This is a game that never takes itself seriously and is all the stronger for it
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Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Avg Game Length: 12.5 hrs. 36 hrs for completionists!
From its over-the-top levels of violence to its purposefully immature standard of dialogue, Shadow Warrior will have you giggling at jokes that make sense on several levels one minute, while the next you’ll be frowning in sheer concentration. This back and forth pacing from playfulness to seriousness is perfectly balanced throughout the course of the game, even if it does suffer from a diminished momentum in its final chapters.
Who Wants Some More Wang?
The protagonist of our story is ridiculously (like most other things in the game) called Lo Wang, as I am sure older gamers will remember from the game’s original release back in 1997. He is cocky, funnily un-funny and likes to monologue praises to himself as he cuts down his enemies. This gleeful reveling that he likes so much to remind us of, has us constantly trying to figure something out about him. Is he disturbingly, a crazed murdering psychopath or less retrospectively, a lovable hero? The sheer amount of blood and guts Lo Wang must step over to reach the story’s climax, is constantly bringing this question to the fore and despite Shadow Warrior’s silliness, this maintains an air of intrigue throughout. Again, surprising when in contrast to the silly themes of the game, is its gradually unraveling story. It is wonderfully told through artful insights during loading screens and through gradual tidbits, learned from your demonic sidekick, Hoji.
“Instead of a Zombie Apocalypse, We Got a Demon Invasion. Oh Well. Turns Out its A Good Day to Be A Superhero”
As the story develops, we learn why the demon invasion has been sprung upon Earth and we see how confidently Wang strides into the middle of it with a smile. While hacking up enemies, he delightfully sings “Choppin’ up loadsa dudes agaaaaiiin”. This scenario is a dream come true for Wang. So it is only fair that I inform you, briefly, of the scope for combat here. As we all know, Wang’s go-to weapon is his katana (which also plays a part in the story). Players can hold down the left trigger with a direction to hold a heavier slice in place until the time is right to strike. Alternatively, they can mash the right trigger for quick cuts. Just these two combined allow for some precision-based swordplay that no other first person melee effort can match. Seriously, in terms of control, this is better and more balanced than Skyrim.
Later, players can double tap these directions, combined with the right trigger, for cool thrusts, spins and even ki-strikes that see the power of your blade stretching out ahead of you, cutting through anything in its path. This left and right trigger control then extends to all the guns found in Shadow Warrior, opening up alternate fire modes. Lastly, the left trigger is pushed yet further in the realms of button mapping with chi powers to push or lift your enemies. Or even cast a healing rain over you or a protective shield. I won’t go into details, but hopefully you can appreciate from this, that you can really mix it up in combat and the super simple control scheme makes you want to. That is a big thing for me. Many games throw in all kinds of options for combat but they turn out finicky and you end up favouring just one playstyle. Here, you want to eat everything at the buffet.
There’s No School Like The Old School
This phrase rings very true in the case of Shadow Warrior. The developers, Flying Wild Hog, really understand how to make older gamers feel like they’re playing something new while, at the same time, having a blast down memory lane. This is what our older games would have been like if we had our current technology back then. Every aspect of this game feels like it is calling back to the old school, begging it to catch up with the modern day industry of gaming.
Now that is a bold claim, I know. First of all, there is loot absolutely everywhere and for a while, it feels like the developers are spoiling us a bit. I was a bit worried that I’d have collected enough to unlock everything by the end of the first playthrough, using my total stash as a double-up completion percentage. Remember the old Wolfenstein or Doom games? We were picking up loot left, right and center. Now, that is maintained, put in a modern game and then isn’t allowed to spoil it. I’m on new game plus now and I still haven’t reached the peak. There are also secret areas, through invisible walls. When was the last game to try that? Um, Serious Sam, I think… I hadn’t found a secret like that in years and to do it on a current-gen game felt satisfying and wonderfully nostalgic.
Crouching Tiger, Awesome Graphics
Shadow Warrior originally released in 2013 on PC before the release of the current generation of consoles. It’s developers did such a bloody good job on the art style and with the Road Hog engine, it has waltzed its way onto a current – gen release. The environments are wonderfully varied, going from bamboo thickets, to snowy mountainsides, to underground laboratories. Suffice it to say, blowing the crap out of each of them is just as beautiful. Although, the character models tend to look like stiff conglomerations of sausage rolls in suits. You see so few of these human models that it hardly matters, since the rest are just demons, soon to be splattered by your awesome might.
Not All Rose Petals And Windy Walks
When I set up this site, I promised balanced and un-biased reviews. So far, I’m sure you can tell I am a big fan of this game and my penchant for all things Eastern certainly has something to do with with it. Although, I have managed to pick out a few snags with the game, aside from its graphical mis-givings.
First of all, the loading screens take a fair old while. I mean, you could have a good look around on Facebook with your phone while you’re waiting. Which, obviously is frustrating if you’ve hit a snag and keep dying. Also, be careful not to press the dash button at the top of some stairs or a hill. The combination of speed and height will send you tumbling abruptly to your death, leaving you to go ‘Wh-What the f-?!’.
My other little gripe that, I’m sorry, is just too hard to ignore. I wanted to ignore it, I really did because, honestly, I freaking love this game. There’s no minimap and no objective marker. Seriously. Imagine a wide open sandbox of a level; you’ve just thrown a switch, Wang has just said “Now to get down there” or something like that… And you just don’t bloody know how. There are, say, three different points in the game where I guarantee this will happen to you. “I was having so much fuuuuuun….C’mon, where the f*** do I goooo”, your internal dialogue wails.
To conclude, Shadow Warrior does have its failings here and there. As you can see from this review, however, there are far more positive things to take away from this game than negative. All of the old school aesthetics that are brazenly shoved in our faces are welcome. I’d rather that than have extortionate DLCs on the menu screen, saying ‘Go to Playstation Store…Go now. GIVE US YOUR MONEY’. Ahem.
I’ve had far worse things shoved in my face than wonderful nostalgic gameplay before now. Bear in mind, that the Deadpool game that came out a while back was really a pretty bad game. It was so funny, though, that I wanted to play to the end. This is a good game and is still funny enough to make me want to slog through the ‘the hell do I go now?’ moments. Thank you, Flying Wild Hog, for this lovely experience. The story was great, the combat never got old, and I laughed a lot. Now if that isn’t good service in the name of entertainment, I don’t know what is. If you are gamer older than, say 21, and are still gaming – just go buy the freaking game, OK.