A while ago, 3D Realms made Shadow Warrior just as vital an ingredient of its PC-development circle as the more popular Duke Nukem. Since then, Duke has stood the better test of time, even with forgettable fare like the Forever reboot. But that didn't stop Flying Wild Hog and Devolver Digital from bringing back Shadow for a new audience to enjoy.
The game focuses on Lo Wang, a deadly ninja warrior who will stop at nothing to right the wrongs done to him by vicious gangsters and demons, all for the sake of chasing down a legendary blade. Of course, that doesn't mean he can't have fun doing it, as he slices and dices with a spiritual buddy in tow, as well as plenty of wisecracks as he chops enemies to ribbons.
Old-School, But Still Fresh
Even though the blood in Shadow Warrior has been spilling on PC for over a year now, Devolver Digital still saw fit to give the game a second chance of life on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. While some may not see the necessity of that, it still manages to fit, mainly due to the revival of old-school gameplay in a new guise.
Case in point – the game feels freshest when you combine techniques to do damage to enemies, whether it's letting loose with a machine gun and blowing up cars to do damage to incoming foes, or using your old-fashioned katana to behead multiple demons charging at you. The ability to approach however you please is pretty awesome, and also leaves you wondering what's the best way to go with particular boss battles – although a combination of both techniques can be quite effective.
In addition, most of the old-school shooter staples are here, including using a turret cannon to down a bunch of winged serpents, collecting new weapons to unleash even more chaos (how about that crossbow?), or discovering the little secrets scattered throughout the game. Whether you're seeking bathing anime babes or killing enough rabbits to send one back to Earth in a damned killing mood (move over, Monty Python), there's plenty to do – even without multiplayer elements.
The Gameplay Never Gets, Ahem, Choppy
One other factor working for Shadow Warrior is its quick, adaptable gameplay. You'll nail down the basics in a manner of seconds, and soon be slicing into heavy combos, as well as drawing a weapon effectively enough to chain together headshots.
What's more, you can level up your warrior with new abilities throughout your journey, improving gun effects, inner strength and other capabilities. Even when you think you've mastered everything, a new wrinkle comes along to add to your arsenal, leaving you that much more eager to spill some blood.
It's also worthwhile to note the "special moves" featured in the game. By activating a special technique of two analog stick jabs and a button, you can perform devastating maneuvers, including a sword stab powerful enough to destroy statues (ideal for certain puzzle situations) and a self-healing technique that'll keep you alive just a little longer – and you'll be thankful for that last one on the game's highest difficulty settings. Talk about being eaten alive.
A Bloody Good Presentation
While Shadow Warrior won't be confused with Halo: The Master Chief Collection anytime soon (it is based on an older PC property), Flying Wild Hog did great with the game's presentation. It remains at a (mostly) steady 60 frames per second clip, and the enemy animations, while basic at times, are fun to watch, especially when you start sending heads flying. The explosive effects are well done too, especially when they reflect off of other objects in the environment.
The only negative is that the level design is too derivative. Too often, we're running through confusing bamboo-filled forests, or small villages that seem hauntingly lacking in people. That's not to say they don't fit the theme of the game, but a little more variety certainly wouldn't have hurt. Also, is there any way that a small, quaint little village is able to keep an arcade up-and-running 24 hours a day? Just asking.
As for the sound, Shadow Warrior has a very good soundtrack, backed by plenty of humorous wisecracks by Lo Wang and his spiritual ally. Sometimes the jokes can be a little too cornball (especially the ones that use the word "wang"), but it's great that Flying Wild Hog took the combat tongue-in-cheek, kind of like Duke Nukem – but without going into overkill territory. The sound effects are good too, especially when your katana is slicing and dicing. It's right out of any given kung fu product.
These are the criteria I consider most important for reviewing Shadow Warrior.
Obviously not up to next-gen par, the graphics still look good enough for this generation of systems. Plus, blood.
A few cornball jokes here and there, but the banter is fun to listen to, along with the soundtrack and sound effects.
Quick and easy to learn, and the ability to change up your combat approach is very cool.
Replay Value: 8/10
No significant multiplayer, but plenty of hidden goodies, as well as rabbits to hunt – although you'll pay the price later.
While Shadow Warrior is a no-frills kind of first-person shooter, it's one that will certainly stick with you, mainly due to the joy that hacking and slashing enemies brings. The upgrade system is superb, and the presentation is pretty sharp for a year-old port. It won't change the world like 2014's other brilliant shooters, but it's a good junk food snack while you're waiting for the next big thing. Now go get you some Wang!