Too Much “Wang”…
Played on the Xbox One
First-person shooters during the days of Doom were all about fast-paced, no-nonsense fun by running around shooting bad guys in their pixelated faces and stumbling upon a few secret areas. The game’s story sole purpose was to introduce the gamers to the game; no need for a Steven Spielberg storyline. First-person shooters these days offer “Hollywood-esque” moments and have become more story driven than before. The days of fast-paced shooters such as Doom and Duke Nukem seemed to be all but forgotten. Devolver Digital and Flying Wild Hog brought back an old-school favorite to life and decided it was time to remind gamers what first-person shooters were once about.
I never played – or even heard of – Shadow Warrior before the remake. The only information I knew was 3D Realms was responsible of the birth of Duke Nukem. Just like the original, a bloody orchestra and cheap puns were all present. But is it a nostalgic piece or a terrible reminder of the past?
You take control of Lo Wang, an assassin-for-hire, working for a powerful man named Orochi Zilla. Wang is set to retrieve the Nobitsura Kage, a sword worth millions and rumored to harness mystical powers, from Mizayaki, but Mizayaki denies the sale of the sword to Orochi Zilla. Wang forced into his only option of using violence to obtain the sword, fights his way through Mizayaki’s henchmen. But things get a little weird once he faces Mizayaki as a mystical being appears from thin air and harnesses a force that subdues Wang and captures him. Sedated and thrown in a cage, all Wang could do is wait. But during his time in the cage, horrific beings arise and raze the compound. Freeing himself from his cage, Mizayaki’s personnel and demons stand between you and your ride out. In the middle of the compound, Wang finds Mizayaki dead, but the same mysterious figure shows up beside him and offers Lo Wang his powers. The being’s name is Hoji, and explains why the demons are running amok in the world. Hoji was banished from the Shadow Realm, but unfortunately he does not remember the reasoning behind his banishment and seeks answers and revenge. Wang agrees to team up with Hoji to fight the demons and bring the Nobitsura Kage for Zilla.
Ironically, I brought up that fast-paced shooters of the past had no storyline, but the best part of this game was the story. If it wasn’t for the story, I would have stopped playing this game long ago. Lo Wang’s journey with Hoji brought a lot of twists and turns and expanded the story of Hoji’s past and the other ancients in a beautiful narrative. Cutscenes portrayed each scene similar to ancient Chinese paintings and the voice overs gave life to each character and added to the narrative of the story. The interaction between Hoji and Lo Wang reminded me of a buddy-cop movie and developed an entertaining growth between the two characters that many games failed to manage in the first place. Lo Wang’s random input during gameplay was the only part where the writing and voice-over fell apart and became annoying to listen to.
Boss battles were the only fun parts.
The gameplay followed old-school first-person shooters with fast-paced action and vast amounts of blood and gore. However, I was never truly fond of old-school shooters in the first place. It was mindless fun, but the lack of story led to repetitive gameplay. The repetitive play in Shadow Warrior was treading the fine line of continuing or quitting for me. I got bored at some points to a degree where I hoped there would be no more combat until I reached the end of the level. There was little variation to the fights; even with the sword/magic play available. Pulling off simple button combinations to perform special moves was interesting at first, but became tiresome and frustrating towards the end, because the input seemed to lag or would not respond if you were too fast on the button combinations. The boss fights were the only refreshing parts, since there were so few and the scale of the fights were grand, and offered simple, yet challenging fights.
There are a few RPG-like elements to the game as well. You collect “karma” points by finding hidden wells or killing bad guys with various combos and combat efficiency. Karma points upgrade your character’s damage, HP, weapon techniques and other abilities. There are a variety of “Ki crystals” to help increase your healing powers and other magical defensive/offensive capabilities. Weapons can also be upgraded by finding piles of money throughout the level and buy improvements on each weapon.
The game offers more than just a katana; Wang has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal, but the weapon choices does not give enough variety or uses to kill your enemies. Out of the nine weapons, the SMG proved to be the most useful of the bunch. It makes boss fights easier and fully upgrading the weapon tears through almost every baddie like rice paper. Guns don’t do much still compared to what the katana can do, letting players play more close-quarter combat than just staying from afar and shooting the crap out of everything. Even when ammo is plentiful, the damage from your weapon arsenal uses up more ammo than anything.
Shadow Warrior keeps players moving around. You can’t just stop and regenerate health. You have to keep picking up health kits and your magic health abilities never restore 100% of your health; keeping you moving instead of running for cover. Magic abilities come in handy during critical moments and can tip the battle into your favor when used right. Katana can be the most brutal of ways to beat your enemies senseless, but using the wrong ability can get you killed more times than you like.
The game’s presentation was sub-par at best. Shadow Warrior looked and felt like an HD remake of an Xbox 360 game than a stand-alone game. Graphics didn’t impress with the effects and character and level designs were basic. Levels can sometimes be confusing, but offers up a lot of secret areas and fun easter eggs when explored fully. Characters models are not the prettiest and with the limited amount of enemies. It’s awesome to see enemies get cut and dismembered when your katana slices and dices, but offers nothing else in spectacular fashion. Sounds from the game seemed like they were left over unused sound clips from past games. Don’t expect much from this game to get you immersed into its world.
Shadow Warrior offered some fun moments and a surprisingly well-written story. But the repetitive gameplay, annoying dialogue, and controls did get in the way. If you like old school first person games, this would be right up your alley. But, sticking around for the story does make the game still worth playing through.
My Rating: 3/5 (XB1)
Metacritic: 73/100 (PC)