Sometimes you just want a game where you’re tearing through hordes of enemies while bodies are flying all around you.  My usual go-to in that situation is Diablo, but I had heard some good things about Shadow Warrior a while back and decided to snag it on a PSN flash sale a few weekends ago.  The Lo down (pun intended) — it’s … a game.  Not great, not bad.

Bloody?  Yes.  Fun?  For a while.  Should you play it?  Meh.
Bloody? Yes. Fun? For a while. Should you play it? Meh.

  • TL;DR: First-person hack-and-slash with insane levels of gore, too many unimportant skills, and frustrating load times
  • Platform: PS4
  • Hours Played: 13.5
  • What I Played: Main story on normal
  • Recommended?: Not particularly.

A reboot of a 1997 game from 3D Realms of the same name, Shadow Warrior puts you in the shoes of the assassin Lo Wang.  Wang works for Orochi Zilla, a powerful businessman, and is sent to purchase a katana.  When the seller refuses and Wang attempts to take the sword by force, the whole operation is broken up by a demon attack.  Wang sides with one of the demons, Hoji, and the two set off to find the sword.

Shadow Warrior ups the hack-and-slash ante by having first person perspective.  It’s pretty fun to take on hordes of enemies up close with a katana, slicing and dicing demon after demon.  You are even graded on how efficiently you kill those demons and are rewarded with bonus karma, which is used to unlock skills like the spinning slash, armor channeling, and a hadoken-style stun.

At the very least, Shadow Warrior will satisfy anyone looking for blood.  Literally.  It’s one of the bloodiest, goriest games I’ve played in a long time.  I’m talking about straight up hoses when limbs get cut off, heads flying across the screen, and everything around you turning a single shade of red.  You can even use demon’s hearts and heads as weapons.

KA-LI-MAAAA
KA-LI-MAAAA

Wang also has an array of guns at his disposal ranging from a revolver and a submachine gun to a crossbow and rocket launcher.  Each gun can be upgraded for a secondary fire mode, like the single-action for the revolver and akimbo SMGs.  While the guns can be a nice diversion, the katana is the real star of the combat show.  One confusing note is why 3D Realms included the ability to do a quick slash with the katana while using a gun.  It’s incredibly weak and seems like a wasted button assignment that could have been used for something else.  Similarly, you can throw ninja stars while wielding the katana, but calling them pointless is an understatement.

Shadow Warrior’s story is broken up into chapters.  Those chapters don’t have anything in the line of a map or a “go this way” arrow a la Bioshock.  This is a game that really embodies the gaming era it came from, making you work for progress and assuming you listened to anyone that may have told you where to go.  Chapters are largely linear but have a surprising number of collectibles to find for anyone looking to go for a full completion.

So, we’ve got first-person katana gameplay, demons, guns, and gore.  What’s not to like?  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but for some reason, Shadow Warrior just didn’t really grab me.  I was enjoying it way more during the first few hours than I did for the last few.  It could be because the later levels don’t introduce new or more challenging demons, but rather just throw larger concentrations of the same ones at you that you’ve been seeing for 10+ hours.  Also, while there are a half dozen or so skills to learn, only two (heal and stun) are really useful.  Mashing the attack button at the same enemies over and over with largely unnecessary skills gets pretty tiring.

I have a crossbow aimed at a demon with explosions in the background.  I should be having more fun than I am.
I have a crossbow aimed at multiple demons with explosions in the background. I should be having more fun than I am.

 

I will say that, for the most part, Shadow Warrior is a pretty game.  There is a surprising amount of detail on both the environment and the enemies, which makes it even more surprising that there is little to no clipping or glitches of any kind with so many enemies (and parts of those enemies) flying around the screen at a given time.  Sure, making six enemies explode all at once may bring the framerate down for a second, but overall it’s a smooth experience.

Since Shadow Warrior is a 3D Realms game, you may be expecting some Duke Nukem style humor and if so, you won’t be disappointed.  They did not overlook the fact that the main character’s name is Wang, leading to many sex and dick jokes which go over pretty well.  The banter between Wang and Hoji is fairly entertaining except near the game’s conclusion, when Hoji’s entire tone takes a surprisingly hard left turn.

While the visuals and the gameplay were clearly given some loving during development, it feels like the portion of the game’s engine devoted to load times was a straight port of the original 1997 game.  Throughout the game, you’ll be treated to two or three second load times that make the screen grey out.  Oh, and you better hope you don’t die too often.  Each death results in a ~30 second reload of the level you’re playing through.  Very frustrating.

Shadow Warrior was alright.  Not mind-blowingly good, not particularly bad.
Shadow Warrior was alright. Not mind-blowingly good, not particularly bad.

I’m having a hard time calling Shadow Warrior anything other than an average game.  Slicing up demons with a katana is a hell of a good time in first person, but the gun play leaves something to be desired.  There are skills to unlock and modify, but most of them are more or less useless.  It’s a good looking game with frustrating load times.  I wouldn’t particularly recommend Shadow Warrior, but I wouldn’t call it bad.

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