The original Shadow Warrior was a guilty pleasure for me as a younger gamer. Chock full of immature toilet humor and sexual innuendo, the underlying game was still a solid, lengthy romp built on the famous Duke 3D engine. Fast forward to 2013 and I never thought I would be typing the name Lo Wang ever again. I mean who asked for this remake? Short answer, I did, and I am thrilled to see Flying Wild Hog craft such an amazing reboot of a franchise that so few remember. Now time to insert 50 “Wang” jokes into this piece.
Shadow Warrior has a plot; a surprisingly good plot actually. Spanning 17 levels and roughly 20 hours of game play, there is no shortage of time to develop the characters and layout the story. I was shocked at just how dramatic things become behind the constant genital jokes. Lo Wang is a smug, sarcastic guy, but the real star of the show is his sidekick Hoji. The story starts off with Lo Wang in search of a mystical sword, but by the end so much more has transpired I was shocked how much I cared. Not something I expected from this series.
The highlight of Shadow Warrior for me though is the sword combat. Sure there are guns, and the guns are fun in a pinch, but whenever I could, I had my sword at the ready. Slicing starts off rather simple. Aiming directions with the mouse, or analog sticks (controller support is here) and tapping the attack button to cut up enemies. What makes it so satisfying is the over-the-top violence and gore. Enemies fall apart like warm butter when hit by Wang’s sword. Heads go flying, blood is spraying, all while Lo Wang is making crude observations about their certain lack of appendages.
Swordplay does progress as Wang learns new moves. Eventually he gains access to spinning and lunging attacks that spice up the combat. Everything is also built on a score system, which rewards types of kills, as well as accuracy and speed. It isn’t imperative to progression, but it makes encounters a little more fun and competitive.
Weapons outside of the sword bring back some of the classic (ridiculous) ideas from the original. Things like the demon head and heart are here, but none of them feel powerful enough to warrant putting the sword away. Every time I got a new weapon I tried it out, but found the sword simply does more damage, while also being more enjoyable to use. Outside of certain enemies, mostly those flying above me, I rarely ever pulled out a firearm, or demon heart for that matter.
Lo Wang has three various skill trees that all have to do with leveling up, whether it is to increase speed or health. Honestly it felt shoehorned in and I never got that sense of progression. I wish they had simply focused on adding new attacks, not to mention the menus are confusing at first.
Controlling Lo Wang is fine whether I chose the gamepad or keyboard/mouse combo. Aiming my sword was more friendly with the mouse, but general combat felt more at home on a controller. Wang’s advanced moves are also a bit easier with a gamepad. Special powers are performed by double tapping a direction, then hitting a button, which is why a gamepad felt easier for me. It isn’t ideal considering how fast-paced combat is most of the time, but it works. I didn’t use it as much as I wanted to because of these caveats.
As far as visuals are concerned, the game feels a little hollow. I am not sure how to best describe it, but the characters don’t look particularly great, and the animations are hit and miss. I do love the rock solid frame rate though. Even cranked up I was blazing through areas at 1080p. The locations are hit and miss. I loved some of the traditional settings, while others felt like FPS fodder. Of course with a game spanning that many levels and time, some things are bound to drag on.
Audio is impossible to hate. Opening the game with Stan Bush’s ‘The Touch’ is enough to get me excited. The voice acting is also really solid throughout. I was amazed that the humor retained that Shadow Warrior mentality, while also managing to be humorous for the duration. Rarely did a joke cause an eye-roll, and they even managed to keep it from being overly offensive. That certainly had to be a fine balancing act.
Shadow Warrior continues the trend of revitalizing classic franchises this year. Rise of the Triad preceded it, and perhaps the cult-favorite Blood will follow, but if this trend of 90’s FPS titles re-emerging from the grave continues, I will be unable to find enough time to spend with all my favorites this year. Shadow Warrior is great for both fans of the original and anyone looking for something fresh in the genre. There isn’t much else out there quite like Lo Wang and his sword.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.
- Motherboard: ASUS P8Z77I Deluxe
- Liquid Cooling: Origin Frostbyte 120 Liquid Cooling
- Processor: Intel i7 3770K with Professional Origin PC Overclocking
- Memory: Corsair 8GB 1600 Mghz Vengeance
- Graphics Card: EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670