Posted October 11, 2014 by Peter in Previews

Hands on: Shadow Warrior (PS4)

Shadow Warrior logo
Shadow Warrior logo

Somewhere around the time I slash someone with such force their body is bisected I think to myself “Shadow Warrior is not trying to be subtle.”

Stepping from the PC reboot to the PS4 and XB1 port has taken a year, but I will confess that the original is on my “stack of shame” – those titles that deserve to be played but are unfairly left waiting by life. So being given a hands-on of the PS4 port just before its release recently was a chance to get a taste of why it had gotten so much attention – mostly positive. And while just over an hour of gameplay cannot be a complete assessment, that taste was a sweet one.

For those as uninitiated as myself, Shadow Warrior is the 2013 reboot of a 1997 PC title, which places you into the boots of Lo Wang, enforcer for the morally dubious Zilla Enterprises. Sent to acquire a notable sword from its owner – it goes without saying that the planned non-violent purchase goes bad pretty quickly – you start on a journey that takes you from being a violent bad-ass to a mystical one.
Shadow Warrior screen
It’s a first person shooter, but while you’ll quickly lay your hands on pistols and SMGs, the game does throw a wildcard in from the start – you carry a katana with you, and the melee combat is often preferable to the ranged. Various options are included to adjust this – whether you just want to swing at enemies, or for movement on the sticks to influence the direction of strokes, for example.

As mentioned, the anti-hero’s journey is a spiritual one, both personally and physically. At first, you simply face off against other sword-wielding opponents, but quickly things go to hell – so to speak – with demonic creatures overwhelming the situation and giving you new challenges to carve your way through. At the same time you also develop several ki powers, such as self-healing (but never to 100%), or the ability to knock enemies down. Additional sword techniques can also be learned; weapon upgrades can be bought; and personal stats can be improved. Each of these use different forms of currency acquired as you play, meaning you won’t have to choose between these forms, but will have to prioritise on each specific upgrade tree.

Let’s be clear here – this is a bloody game. Remember how it felt to play Doom that first time back in the 90s? This carries a similar feel, with demons getting left in numerous pieces in your wake, while the thugs that harass you early in the game are soon found in the scenery as tortured corpses when things have gone even more bad.
Shadow Warrior screen
It is overkill though, much as watching an action movie has a disconnect between thrills and reality. The violence is so over-the-top it reaches comic levels, with any sense of horror left behind in “did you see that?!” moments. In many ways, this is one of the greatest tributes to the original Shadow Warrior, a game built in the same engine as Duke Nukem 3D; the remake carries that same sense of satisfaction, going from fight to fight instead of set piece to set piece.

If you used to play those games back in the day, you’ll probably find a spark of that same enjoyment here… but the warning is there if you don’t like violent games, you might want to look away now.

It does sneak in some occasional humour, although mercifully just the occasional comment that doesn’t make it overstay its welcome, and I suspect your opinion of the narcissistic anti-hero and wise guy Lo Wang will be divided between love or hate.
Shadow Warrior screen
The console version also has a survival mode, with waves of enemies from the game doing their best to tear off several of your favourite limbs in an arena. Each wave gives a reward in terms of upgrade currency, allowing you to keep up with the challenge – and if playing on limited time as I was, to see some of the skills and weapons ahead in the game (there was an overly smug sense of ability when I made it through a few waves, upgrading my health beyond what I’d had the chance to in my run of the campaign. This was then taken down a peg or six when the tougher enemies arrived to show how far I still had to progress in terms of ability…)

From everything seen, Shadow Warrior is a very successful tribute to 90s first person shooters, which it does with an ironically minimal amount of shooting.

Shadow Warrior for the Xbox One and Playstation 4 is now available.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.