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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:

Flying Wild Hogís stylish, energetic reboot of that other 3D Realms shooter has come to Xbox One, and this may be one of relatively few single-player first person shooters that I actually prefer on console. If you missed it last year on its first go-around, Shadow Warrior is an outrageously fun old-school shooter. Itís ambitions, much like its sense of humor, are in the toilet, and it is only concerned with keeping you entertained. And to that end, Shadow Warrior is a success.

This isnít a next-gen game from any point of view. Technically, this game might be right at home among the first wave titles of the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. But in terms of artistic vision, Shadow Warrior carves out its own identity with panache. Eastern aesthetic sensibilities are delivered (and mocked); the bamboo, cherry trees, and koi ponds do not go unnoticed by Lo Wang. Combat animations look great, especially when they culminate in dismemberment and evisceration. The ways in which Wang can dispatch his enemies are numerous and entertaining. So many games these days are afraid to market themselves as a good old-fashioned blood and guts extravaganza. While I appreciate the literary ambitions of games like BioShock and Spec Ops: The Line, itís great to see a title that rejoices in its own insensitivity.

Shadow Warrior sounds as tasteless as it looks. The voice acting is ridiculous, in a good way. Wang definitely sounds Asian, but he doesnít speak the hysterically-butchered Engrish. That being said, his lines are plenty stupid and full of that wonderful self-awareness that is so lacking these days. Letís put it this way: when we are first introduced to him, heís letting loose to "Youíve Got the Touch." Your spirit companion Hoji is an interesting character; heís an imp with a wicked streak to him.


Gameplay:

Shadow Warrior casts you as Lo Wang (that name is most definitely not an accident), a bravo in the employ of Orochi Zilla, an incredibly powerful Japanese businessman. Your mission is to retrieve the Nobitsura Kage, an ancient blade with unspeakable power. Itís not that simple, however, as the forces of the Shadow Realm invade and throw themselves between Wang and his quarry. After his capture at the hands of the last known holder of the sword, he is rescued by an amnesiac demon named Hoji and sets off on a blood-spattered quest through bone, sinew, and entrails to recover the blade and resolve an ages-old conflict within the Shadow Realm.

If you remember the days when shooters were no more sophisticated than running from point to point while killing everything in sight, Shadow Warrior is a hell of a welcome home party. As Lo Wang, you slice, dice, shoot, and explode your way through a series of open but guided levels. Lots of these levels force you to find keys or destroy magical seals to progress.


Difficulty:

Shadow Warriorís difficulty level is variable, and each one offers exactly the kind of challenge that it advertises. That being said, if you fail to keep moving and shooting in any of these, you can probably expect to get put down quite a bit. It's also a good idea to stay mindful of your abilities and how each one would help or hinder you under each circumstance. It's not a bad idea to heal when in retreat; especially when you unlock the ability to maintain your channeling even when you're hit.

Like every good old-school shooter, secrets are everywhere in each of Shadow Warrior's levels. Exploring off the beaten path is a joy in this game, even though the level design can sometimes get you lost. But honestly, it's worth it once you stumble upon that Karma basin full of blood. Or that fortune cookie with the ridiculously stupid fortune inside.


Game Mechanics:

As I mentioned earlier, Shadow Warrior isnít subtle or sophisticated. Its inspiration comes from the golden age of first person shooters, and great care has been taken to ensure that this game feels like one of them. But of course, there are some modern touches. In one very common example, you can aim down the sights, though the mechanic for doing so (pressing in the Right Analog Stick) is a bit dated.

Less conventional is Lo Wangís ability to channel his spiritual energy. By spending the Ki Crystals you find around each level, you can unlock abilities that allow you to do things such as protect yourself, do more damage, recover lost hit points, or suspend enemies in midair. This extends to learning new techniques for the katana, which is already super fun to use. Itís not the most personal growth tree, but itís nice to have these options. And what makes them particularly interesting is the fact that these abilities arenít simply mapped to their own buttons. Instead, you must execute a particular directional/button combination to activate Wangís powers. None of these are complicated, though you might screw up every now and then.

Shadow Warrior isn't a full-priced game, though there's enough content to make it one. Either way, if you missed out on it last go-around, you'd do well to give it a shot on Xbox One. If only to help send a message that not every shooter has to be high-minded and cultured.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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