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Shadow Warrior

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Classic/Retro

Graphics & Sound:

Back in the mid 1990's, when the classic shooters were all the rage, I never knew of the original Shadow Warrior. I was too busy focusing on the heavyweights (that is, the games I managed to get, despite my parents' disapproval). Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and 3D Realms' flagship property, Duke Nukem. So here we are, nearly twenty years later, and only now am I making up for that lost time. Having recently tried out the original 1997 game, Shadow Warrior, there's only one question in my mind: in the world we live in today, how in the hell did this reboot get greenlighted? The original came under fire for having a protagonist who was basically Duke Nukem with Engrish probrems that could onry be heard to be berieved. It's 2013, and you can't get away with that anymore. So it's to my surprise that Shadow Warrior is not only absolutely worthwhile, it's a great blend of the old-school and the new.

Shadow Warrior is an attractive game that happens to be remarkably violent. It's maybe a step or two down from the insanity of Hotline Miami, but make no mistake: the character models designed for this game were meant to be bisected, trisected, and straight up diced. The blood runs and the gore splatters, and all of it results in a gameplay experience that is impactful and satisfying. This is a great game to play when you've had a bad day.

Lo Wang is still very much an asshole, but developer Flying Wild Hog has toned down the blatant racism a bit. There's definitely an accent and nearly every line is delivered in extremely poor taste, but it's more like something out of Sleeping Dogs, which was praised for its approach to Hong Kong culture. As far as the action goes, you can close your eyes and click madly and still get a good sense of the kind of pain you're causing Lo Wang's enemies. From the swings of his trusty katana to the death-dealing effects of his arsenal of traditional projectile weaponry, Shadow Warrior is sonic chaos.


Gameplay:

You can pay attention to Shadow Warrior's batsh*t story if you want to, but the real treat is in the uncompromising stupidity of its script. You play as Chinese-Japanese shogun Lo Wang, a warrior under the employ of Zilla Enterprise. He starts off on a mission to retrieve a blade of legendary power for his employer, but before long, he is betrayed and left for dead. On top of that, forces of the Shadow Realm threaten to invade. You know the drill. Kill them all.

Shadow Warrior effortlessly bridges the gap between progression-based gameplay and quick-fix twitch fests, resulting in an experience that is nostalgic yet modern. Not everything works to the game's advantage, but if you hold it up alongside new old-school experiences like Serious Sam 3: BFE, it clearly comes out on top. Shadow Warrior is all about getting from one part of the map to another, slaughtering literally everything in-between with whatever tools you have at your disposal.


Difficulty:

Shadow Warrior remembers the days when difficulty level meant nothing more than enemies that hit harder. Like in many of its early 90's contemporaries, situational awareness is a big deal in this game. If you're not careful of where you step and what you're shooting at, you can blow yourself up. And be sure of it: things in this game like to explode. Of course, where this game differs is in your enhanced offensive and defensive options.

Perhaps Shadow Warrior's biggest problem is inherent to the old-school shooter sensibilities it tries so very hard to keep intact. If you've played one of these, you have undoubtedly gotten lost at some point. Top-down maps aside, sketchy level design forced the player to search high and low for keys. Scavenger hunts don't always work in first-person shooters, and they never work in shooters that are as fast and explosive as this one. It's a severe pacing issue that crops up from time to time and chips steadily away at the game's quality.


Game Mechanics:

Old-school shooters are pure WASD, point-and-click affairs and nothing more. Shadow Warrior is mostly that, but deftly avoids the shallowness that plagues most of them. As Lo Wang fights monsters and finds treasures, he can upgrade his abilities. Lo Wang is an exceptional swordsman from the start, and he only grows in power from there. And what's particularly unique about his abilities is in how you use them. Sure, there are some passive abilities, but certain maneuvers can only be executed with the correct button combinations. This is often reserved for console games, and rarely work in shooters. But against all odds, they do here. By the time you reach the endgame, Lo Wang is essentially Bruce Lee Campbell, a badass of the highest order.

Much of this also has to do with the arsenal of weapons at your disposal. Lo Wang's katana/shuriken combo seems to be what he's best known for, but he's not one to turn his nose up at an awesome gun or two. Or three. Or ten. All of the weapons in Shadow Warrior carry a tremendous sense of impact, and if the mere act of firing them doesn't make you giddy, the act of maiming, executing, or straight up obliterating the demonic hosts with them will do the job.

Of all the reboots that suffer from identity crises, Shadow Warrior stands tall as a confident example of what can go right. It isn't perfect, and it's best enjoyed in quick bursts, but fans of the old ultraviolence will find sweet, sweet catharsis. If you turn your nose up at Shadow Warrior for being more politically correct than the original, you should know that it's still completely trashy in all the right ways.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8, 2.4 GHz Dual Core Processor or higher, 2 GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD 3870/NVIDIA 8800 GT or better, DirectX 9.0c, 8 GB HDD space
 

Test System:



ASUS G74S Series, Intel Core I7 - 2670QM, 2.2 GHz, Windows 7 Premium, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M, 12 GB RAM

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