After playing Shadow Warrior I now consider there to be two periods of my life: Before Wang and After Wang.
Before Wang (BW) I now realise was a mundane existence, littered with only glimpses of what life could be if I were to become a certified badass armed with a samurai sword, a cache of firearms and a supernatural companion granting me mystical powers. After Wang (AW) however, well, let’s just say, HELLO CERTIFIED BADASS!
A reboot of the original Shadow Warrior, released in 18BW (1997 to you normal folk), developers Flying Wild Hog have finely crafted a game that remains true to the spirit of the original whilst building on its foundations to create an experience like no other. From its balls-to-the-wall action combining thrilling swordplay and meaty firearms to its over the top humour and special powers, Shadow Warrior is a rollicking adventure that will put a smile on your face from beginning to end.
Playing as the wisecracking Lo Wang, assassin for the industrial magnate Orochi Zilla, the game begins with your failure to broker a deal to obtain a sword called the Nobitsura Kage from a collector. Captured and caged, things are looking bleak for Wang until demons attack, allowing him to escape in the frenzy that ensues. Loyal to his boss, Wang continues to pursue the sword, forming an alliance with a demon called Hoji to aid him in the task. It’s not long before Wang learns of the true power of the sword however, and after becoming embroiled in an age old saga set into motion by your new demonic ally, he must give serious consideration as to where his loyalties lie.
Strictly a single player experience, Shadow Warrior has its ties firmly set into the no-nonsense first person shooters of old. What’s surprising though is that despite this, it also brings to the table a healthy amount of modern gameplay innovations as well as a few tricks of its own. This means is that whilst you won’t be exploring a vast open world, engaging in stealth missions or completing a myriad of quick time events, you will be shooting hideous monsters in the face across a 17 chapter long campaign with a large arsenal of upgradable weapons and powers at your disposal. When you’re not gleefully swinging your samurai sword, maniacally decapitating and dismembering all those that stand in your path, you can choose to perforate your enemies with the usual bevvy of firearms such as a handgun, shotgun, crossbow or missile launcher, each with alternate fire modes to spice things up a little. A little more leftfield is the use of demons’ hearts and heads as powerful weapons, with hearts instantly killing all lesser demons in close proximity to you when crushed, and heads emitting a laser-like beam when held, searing your opponents with ease.
Complementing your arsenal are four mystical powers that can be acquired and upgraded as you progress through the game by finding Ki crystals. Able to restore your health and protect you from damage, as well as momentarily knock enemies to the floor or suspend them in mid-air, you’d be a fool not to make effective use of them in battle, especially as they’re free to use as often as you like. To further increase Wang’s abilities, a large amount of stat-boosting skills can be obtained by finding and earning karma points. Similar to the scoring system in Bulletstorm (which isn’t surprising since Flying Wild Hog has roots in its developer, People Can Fly), Shadow Warrior rewards you for killing with skill. Each encounter grades you out of five shurikens when resolved, with higher grades indicating a higher payout. Whilst it’s fun beheading demons or setting them on fire before pinning them to a wall with a well-placed crossbow shot, it’s even better to be rewarded for it, so this a really nice addition to the game. A fantastic touch is that you can carry all your skills, powers and upgrades into the game’s EX mode upon completion, enabling you to use them right from the very beginning and develop them further if you’ve not already maxed them out.
Despite my newfound love for Wang, I did encounter a few minor issues during my time spent with him. Problems such as the occasional freezing that happens for a few seconds when the game autosaves aren’t game breaking, and are forgivable as they only occur during the brief moments of exploration between bouts of combat, but they do unfortunately break your immersion within the game world. Also, the game suffers from a few difficulty spikes, particularly during its last seven or so chapters where it introduces some fiendish enemies that are thrown at you with reckless abandon. What may be the biggest issue to most however, is that you can’t look down the sights of your gun with the left trigger. With the left trigger used for alternative fire and activating powers in conjunction with a combination of taps on the left stick, looking down the sights of your gun is activated by either clicking in your right stick or pulling the right trigger half way. Again, this isn’t a major issue as you quickly learn to adjust, but it is a quirk that may alienate some players early on.
With Shadow Warrior available for around £10 now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox, and frequently even less than that on PC, I can’t recommend this title enough. Providing you with a campaign that takes around 15 hours to complete plus multiple difficulties, collectibles and a Survival mode to further extend your playing time, you’re getting a lot of Wang for your buck. It may not be the best looking title, but it more than makes up for it by being a whole heap of fun and quite possibly one of the best first person shooters in years.
My only regret having finally experienced Wang is that I hadn’t tried it sooner. Maybe you should try it too?
Shadow Warrior is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Our review is based on the Xbox One version of the game. Buy it now on Amazon.