Shadow Warrior 2013 – Sorta Review
Posted by varewulf
Considering the original game had the same title, I felt I had little choice but to precise the year. So it goes.
First off: I did not play the original title from 1997, so I have no basis to judge just how close of a re-make this is, and can really only judge it upon its own merits.
So let’s just take a look-see at what Flying Wild Hog have managed to pull off after Devolver Digital handed them the Shadow Warrior license. I assume the instructions said something like “Go nuts”.
After the nicely animated and slightly dramatic intro you get once you hit New Game and select your difficulty (I went Normal, for the record), you will suddenly hear Stan Lee’s “The Touch” and the vroom of a muscle car. I feel this sets the tone of what to expect quite nicely.
The main man is named Lo Wang. He answers the phone with “You’ve got Wang!” and has a place he has affectionately named the Wangcave. He collects comic books. His occupation I can diplomatically describe as ‘problem solver’. He likes his job.
While the story is actually quite interesting, all you really need to know before you start is this: You have a sword. Demons invade. Kill they ass.
First thing that struck me once I actually got control is that this game is very pretty. I give top score for art direction, colour usage, contrast and style. The whole game oozes presentation. I keep wanting to paraphrase Yahtzee’s Painkiller review. So let’s: once they’d committed to making an unsophisticated shooter, they spent the rest of the budget on tarting it up. The levels are huge with lots of neat secrets (I think I only found about half of them), and the locations are varied.
Shadow Warrior does make itself slightly more sophisticated than Painkiller though. There are some light puzzles. And there is a keycard in it. Just the one. And they actually take the effort to make it make sense. But they didn’t seem to feel like doing more of them. Just as well, probably.
While there are a total of nine different weapons (and you can carry them all at once), six of which you can actually spend money to upgrade, I usually found myself defaulting to the sword. Because it is fuuuuuun. The slicing and the dicing feels great. And as I unlocked the various Ki strikes, especially Wing of Crane, I found myself using guns less and less, even for ranged enemies. The guns can be nice for mixing things up, and for sorting out certain situations more efficiently, but I can’t really say the sword ever got old. Sending out a wave of deadly Ki that causes a demon’s torso to fly away from its legs is always a spectacle.
You will also find silly fortune cookies, lots of easter eggs, a variety of demons, a protagonist who’s actually having fun and a snarky demon sidekick. I love Hoji, I really do. I wish he had more lines, because so many of them are excellent. I will admit I was skeptical of Shadow Warrior to begin with, but the sword and the snarky demon sidekick was enough to get me started. And also to see it through to the end.
Even with it being a reboot of a 90s game, I hadn’t expected the single-player campaign to last for about 14 hours or so. But it did. And fortunately I didn’t get sick of it. The swording, the secrets, the variety, it all held up for me. I only found out the length by checking how long Steam told me I’d been playing after I was done, and then deducting a couple of hours for various breaks and distractions. All I really thought when playing was “this has been going on for a while” in the breaks I got between demon-slaying.
While I at first got fooled into thinking this was a first-person spectacle fighter with little actual challenge, bigger demons started showing up soon enough and made things more challenging. Amusingly enough charging in with the sword will more often than not help out. To begin with I mainly flailed about like a lunatic with the sword, and that can be a valid tactic sometimes, but applying the right Ki strike at the right time from the right location (or just wildly flinging Wing of Crane into a crowd) will often yield more satisfying results. And once you learn how to take down the large demons without needing your guns it’s hard to do anything else.
The whole thing just has a nice mix of old-school and modern design. You can save and quick-save whenever you want, but there is also a decent auto-save system in place. You can carry all the weapons, and you can also upgrade them. It looks very stylish and varied, and has a nice physics system. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and has a nice sense of humour.
I can’t really come up with any meaningful criticisms for this. I enjoyed it too much. It’s not deep, or life-changing, but if you want to sword some demons, I doubt you’ll find a better choice.