Shadow Warrior | Steam
Released: September 26th, 2013 (reviewed January 2014)
Developer/Publisher: Flying Wild Hog/Devolver Digital
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz
I almost shat my pants when I saw that Shadow Warrior had been remade. I have fond memories of playing the near-Doom era FPS classic in which you are ninja extraordinaire Lo Wang. It had the sense of humor of Duke Nukem 3D plus secret rooms full of pixelated porn. I still remember where most all of them are (first level: go inside past the bunnies, open the round door and find a naked anime girl on the toilet — she shoots at you if you stare too long). But the days of using the arrow keys to move and look around are long gone for FPS games. Duke Nukem’s long-awaited foray into the next gen turned out to be an over-processed turd. Why would I expect Lo Wang to update well? Precisely because there is no large public expectation for the game, there is just a lot of room to grow.
I never imagined that this game would turn out to be one the absolute best FPS games that I have ever played. It rivals Half-Life, both in size and playability, and outdoes every other FPS in its leveling system and melee combat. The katana is key in this game, which is funny because it was just an over-glorified knife in the first. As you kill, you gain points to learn new, powerful moves with the katana, like a hyruken-style burst of energy or a powerful spinning-blade attack. The best part of these moves is that you have to learn a short fighting game-style combo to pull them off (i.e., forward-forward-attack, down-left-alt-attack). This adds another element of skill to every battle since you must use these same combos to heal and defend as well, and thankfully, the combos are all a snap to remember.
Movement in this game is substantially important. You are a ninja, and the controls really make you feel like one. The "run" button is really more of a dodge — you teleport forward about ten feet so swiftly even light cannot even convey your speed. This makes sword fighting a snap, as you can stay out of reach of the enemies to charge your attacks, and then appear right in front of them to let ‘em have it. I used ammo pretty wildly, so I found that katana combat was my go-to for almost every battle, and these battles get pretty large — so large that the only game featuring anything even near this scale is Serious Sam. When battles on that scale can be fought most successfully with a katana and some slick moves, I am in a happy place.
There are two other gameplay elements that are definitely worth mentioning: the first is that you can use all of your defense and healing spells while attacking and running. This is of note because it means when the going gets rough, you don’t have to choose between blocking and shooting, or healing and slicing. You will hit left-left and hold down alt-attack, and then aim and shoot with primary attack so that in the game you are holding back damage with your glowing Chinese-character-bleeding left hand while firing away with your right. It looks cool as hell and is not as cheap as it sounds. The second element worth mentioning is that the game has full controller support. This means that if you prefer, you can grab your Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 controller and use it instead. I admit, I did this on some parts, and it worked well. When the shit hit the fan though, I always retreated to mouse and keyboard.
I say this as a compliment, but the storyline almost doesn’t matter. Playing the game is such sheer joy. But there is one, and it isn’t bad. You are an assassin who has been possessed by the spirit of a fallen ninja hell bent on revenge. You need to kill some giant shade-demons and steal their stuff. There, not so hard, eh? You (thank god) have the option of skipping the cutscenes as well.
So, katana aside, there are plenty of other weapons at your disposal, most of them with the next-gen option of aiming down the sights (don’t know why it’s so much fun to do that, but it is). You have a lousy pistol, a wooden-stake gun, a rocket launcher, shotgun, SMG, and many more — all of them quite upgradable. The shotgun goes up to four barrels; the SMG gets a dual wield; even the katana has some tricks up its sleeve. The best part of the game is actually how well they stagger the weapons throughout. You don’t get all of them at the beginning, and you don’t have all of them even four levels away from the end of the game. You find a new weapon about every three levels out of a total 17. This makes beating the game all that much more rewarding. Using the weapons is pure joy, although most of them start out a little underpowered to encourage you to upgrade. Headshots are tough and satisfying, and mowing down hundreds of enemies is challenging but very possible. Every aspect of this game feels polished and perfect, especially the gore. The blood comes in sheets that are shimmeringly beautiful, more real and splattery than in any other game I have seen.
The bosses flat out rule. They have enough health that the battles took me, on average, about 30 minutes apiece. The art on the bosses themselves is simply breathtaking, and each of them stands at least ten stories tall. The bosses also have multiple stages, so that as you damage them, the gameplay changes.
Amidst all of this blisteringly-fun gameplay, Shadow Warrior also retains its sense of humor. Your name is still Lo Wang, but gone are the secret pervy areas with women on toilets. The rabbits do still hump all of the time though, and as I found, if you kill too many rabbits or kill them while they are humping, one of them will turn black and powerful, and come after your ass aggressively, much like the chickens in Zelda.
Shadow Warrior surprised me. It is much more than just a nostalgic purchase; it is half the price of a new Xbox/Playstation game and contains twice the content and entertainment. This game is sure to be ported to consoles quickly, but until then, overclock your video card if you have to, and if you value your own joy and sense of wonder, play Shadow Warrior.
Shadow Warrior | Steam