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Shadow Warrior 2 (Xbox 1) Review

 
Shadow Warrior 2 - featured
Shadow Warrior 2 - featured
Shadow Warrior 2 - featured

 
At A Glance...
 

Formats: Xbox 1, PS4, PC
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
8.0
8/ 10


User Rating
1 total rating

 

We Liked?


  • Exhilarating, action-packed combat
  • Huge variety of weapons and upgrades to personalise your play style
  • Great visuals and a plethora of particle effects with no frame rate problems
  • I heart infinite dash

Not So Much?


  • Dated central theme
  • Often weak jokes
  • Environments don't offer much gameplay variety


Final Fiendish Feelings?

A quick glance would make this game look like a disposable, possibly even insensitive, FPS with a ‘wacky’ sense of humour. But the mechanics, visuals, and action sequences make it some of the most fun you can have in an FPS.

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Posted May 28, 2017 by

 
Final Fiendish Feelings?
 
 

Back in 1997, 3D Realms – the then-king of first-person shooters with an 80s camp theme – released Shadow Warrior on MS-DOS to a lukewarm response. It featured Japanese bodyguard, Lo Wang (because penis jokes), slicing and shooting his way through what was basically a Duke Nukem reskin. In 2013, Flying Wild Hog rebooted the series and now its 2016 sequel has finally made its way to consoles. For those new to the Shadow Warrior reboot, Lo Wang (ha, penis jokes…) uses non-PC wisecracks, breaks the fourth wall, carries both swords and guns, and takes great pleasure in the murder of people and/or creatures. Frankly, it would save us a lot of time if I could just describe him as Deadpool.

However, unlike the Deadpool game, the focus has been placed on gameplay rather than the script. In fact, if you haven’t played the first game (and possibly even then) you might be left wondering what the Sam Hill is going on. In one of the earliest levels, you find yourself in a Tron-esc cyberpunk city, and Lo says, “You gotta love the future”. That is our introduction to being in the future. How did we get here? Did we travel through time? Is this the established setting? If so, why did Wang (Ha! Penis…) call it ‘the future’? Shadow Warrior 2’s answer is to give you the visual language equivalent of ‘SHUT UP, NERD’ by throwing robot floaty spheres at you until you stop caring. There is reading material to fill in the blanks if you want them because lore and reading are for nerds. Nerds.

Shadow-Warrior-monster

What is clear is that, due to the events of the previous game, Wang (PENIS!) is now scraping a living as a hired swordsman in a world where demons and humans coexist in a dystopian society. When a job goes wrong, he gets drawn into a conflict between drug dealers, a dangerous cultist/mafia group, and a scientist. Each sequence utilises the classic story progression systems of ‘go get me this stuff from the bad dudes’. So the story sort of phones it in, but Shadow Warrior is more interested in making jokes that telling a story. Sadly, most fall flat or rely on obvious puns and silly voices. Yes, I understand that irony and parody comes into play, in the same vein of Big Trouble in Little China, but Big Trouble in Little China was a product of its time that directly parodied the ridiculous attitude Hollywood had towards Eastern culture in the 80s. Hollywood has moved on since (mostly), so what exactly is Shadow Warrior 2 making fun of?

Luckily, Flying Wild Hog took the time they could have used answering that questions and put it into other areas, such as graphics. The sheer avalanche of particle effects on display throughout – with zero slowdown – is something that needs to be commended. Environments are vast and beautiful that somehow manages to blend colourful and dystopian themes – although mostly only switch between Japanese dilapidated rural areas and cyberpunk futuristic cities. Only the NPC human characters look a little hastily put together but, frankly, more games could benefit from caring less about the scar from a bee sting on a character’s forehead and more about creative gameplay features.

So let’s talk about said gameplay. This is FPS gold. Shadow Warrior has carved out a particular style of combat that’s unique and refreshing. While Halo and Serious Sam might rely on smooth, controllable movements or strafing, Shadow Warrior 2 wants the action to feel more like a ninja. The dash button (which requires no cooldown – I love this) and double jump will have you darting in all directions to evade enemies in quick, convulsive movements in order to get some space to fire a weapon or to flank an enemy with a blade.

Shadow-Warrior-kill

You have a huge variety of weapons to choose from, but if that’s not customised enough, there’s an RPG-style upgrades system where you collect items to power up your weapons and armour, giving them elemental and statistical advantages. You also have ‘chi’ powers (presumably not to be confused with Chinese qi or Japanese ki) that offer you stat upgrades and magic powers. You’ll find yourself wading into a battalion of enemies, spoilt for choice of methods by which you can dispatch them. If you’re anything like me, you’ll try to finish enemies with melee blade attacks to better appreciate the in-game physics when you slice an enemy into carefully coordinated pieces.

Despite the variation in combat, running into a new level would still occasionally feel like a chore, and that’s not just because it was mostly fetch-quest missions. The environments, while beautiful and aesthetically varied, have little to offer for variety in combat. The land is littered with explosive objects, but a few more interesting uses of the level design would have been very welcome.

Interestingly, this is one of too-few action games that focuses more on the Foley and didactic sound effects than music. While wandering through the world, atmospheric background music plays somberly in the background, while action sequences play suitable-but-generic high-paced soundtracks. But don’t expect to appreciate it, because the monsters, guns, explosions, and satisfying sword SFXs give a sense of increased chaos that easily drowns out anything non-didactic.

Shadow-Warrior-team

So, what could make this ridiculous, comedic, 80s action movie of a video game more appealing? A co-op feature, obviously. The co-op campaign lets you customise your character (which, I maintain, is weird for any FPS), albeit with limited options. I wasn’t able to play co-op for this review because everyone I’ve ever met hates my company, but from what I’ve seen of what’s available, it’s basically identical to the single player campaign. This sounds like it would make the game a) much easier and b) a bucket load more fun. There’s even debatable replay value because upping the difficulty changes the loot you collect (which is a little unrewarding in normal difficulty), making the experiences potentially very different.

My overall opinion of Shadow Warrior 2 is one of personal conflict. I really, really, wanted to dislike this game. With its crap jokes and Asian stereotypes that might be considered offensive even if it wasn’t all white dudes writing for and voicing Wang (because ‘wang’ is a colloquialism for penis; do you get it??), I was looking forward to tearing this apart in a cathartic release of the frustration I feel from my own inadequacies. But getting into the game, it became clear that a great deal of effort and love had gone into it. Some of the jokes were landing (God knows I laughed at worse jokes in Deadpool) and I was running into fights with the same glee with which my 5-years-old self would sprint to the sweet shop holding my 20p pocket money. So kudos, Flying Wild Hog. You made my new guilty pleasure.


Fin Carew