Shadow Warrior Review
This is one Wang you should play with
First-person shooters were not always about inching your way across a battlefield while taking cover behind every available chest high wall. In the 90’s, the name of the game was run and gun; and you didn’t stop moving until every living thing on screen was taking a dirt nap. 3D Realms’ Shadow Warrior, released in 1997, was one such game and is still regarded as a classic by many old-school shooter fans for its fast-paced gameplay and its stereotypical protagonist, Lo Wang, spouting more one-liners than Duke Nukem. 16 years later, Flying Wild Hog hopes to reincarnate the legend of Lo Wang for both old and new consumers alike with their newly released PC title, Shadow Warrior. Clever, don’t you think? The problem with this is that remakes of old school first-person shooters have not had a superb record as of late. Can Flying Wild Hog break the cycle with their Wang?
If this is not your first encounter with the Wang, you are going to notice a sizable amount of changes; the most prominent one being Lo Wang’s personality. In the original, his accent and phrases were meant to parody Kung Fu films but were met with controversy as some believed they were offensive to East Asian culture. In response, Wild Hog has kept the accent, but has turned in the “offensive” sayings for a more serious, one-liner killing machine. Similar to Lo Wang, the entire game follows a more serious tone due to its simplistic, yet effective, story. The comedy is still there, and even shines brightly at points, but it is greatly overshadowed by Wang’s surprisingly engaging journey.
The story begins with Lo Wang, a.k.a. Mr. Two Million Dollars, attempting to obtain a sword by the name of Nobitsura Kage. Of course, everything goes wrong for our sword-wielding protagonist and before long demon heads are being sliced off or filled with lead. Along the way, Wang meets a banished spirit named Hoji who decides to help aid his venture. At first glance, the story seems like filler. I mean, the game is trying to contain the heart of an old-school FPS. When has the story ever been priority for those? For the first few chapters, this was the question running through my head until I realized how much care was placed into the narrative. The story transforms from an action-packed fetch quest to a sorrowful tragedy that will fuel a player’s drive to reach the game’s conclusion. Helping make this possible is the voice acting. This was another instance of “at first glance” because I believed the acting fell short. Nevertheless, once the story started to become clear and I learned of the characters’ goals the voice acting became enjoyable to listen to; specifically the bickering between Lo Wang and Hoji. There is no need to fret, though. The care given to the story and its delivery, and the lack of memorable music in the campaign, does not take away from the primary focus of the game: killing copious amounts of demons with style.
Shadow Warrior wastes no time thrusting you into the oven and cranking the heat up at a steady pace. However, the game does not leave you between a rock and a hard place without equipping you properly. From a revolver to a crossbow to a rocket launcher, the weapons are entirely different from one another, but each will come in handy during many of the game’s sticky situations. It does take some time to unlock the complete arsenal of weaponry, but each new weapon becomes a vital piece of survival against the hordes of demons clawing at Low Wang’s throat. Of course, my favorite weapon was the sword as Flying Wild Hog did wonders with its gameplay. Cutting off limbs and beheading demons has never been so much fun… and bloody. The only qualm is that I wish I could have controlled the vertical and horizontal swipes of the sword since there were times I felt I was maniacally waving the pig sticker around worse than George Michael Bluth’s Return of the Jedi home video.
Each weapon has the ability to be upgraded and, trust me, it is a necessity. The game has no shortage of enemies it is willing to throw at the player resulting in multiple instances where just when you thought the fight was over, another wave shows up. This wouldn’t be a problem if the variety of enemies were just a little more… varied. There are some interesting designs, but the game’s length (which we will get into shortly) diminishes their value as you start to see the same enemies over and over again. Even so, every time you confront these enemies they will try both your skill and your patience. Thankfully, Lo Wang’s personal stats can be upgraded as well. With the decision up to the player, Lo Wang’s health, his sword mastery or his stamina and speed can be increased. Wang can also receive tattoos that give him special chi abilities such as shockwave (think “the force”) and healing. Because of this give and take system, Shadow Warrior offers balanced combat that is extremely rewarding. For every powerful enemy you encounter, you are treated to a weapon or ability that grants you the opportunity to take them head on. It continues this way until you are literally a one man army facing off against incredible odds; and even though it may be challenging, Lo Wang has the tools to overcome any obstacle.
Every asset granted to the protagonist must be, and most likely will be, close to mastered to make it through the challenging gauntlets littered across the game’s 17 chapters. This leads me to my major concern: the chapter length. In a day and age where almost everyone is on the move, and quality use of time is important, Shadow Warrior is a game that asks for dedication. The campaign, if you run and gun from point A to point B, will last you around 10 to 12 hours. If you decide to soak in the environment, check your corners and search for valuables, then a majority of the game’s chapters will take close to an hour to complete resulting in an experience that lasts around 16 to 20 hours. Don’t get me wrong; I love the bang for your buck players will receive with this title, but there are some chapters that just seem to drag as you run around in circles blasting away at enemies you’ve seen for the hundredth time. Simply put, Shadow Warrior could have benefited if a few of its chapters were cut in half to create more, yet shorter chapters. There is the save game option, that can be used at almost any time, allowing for players to pick up right where they left off; but, what can I say, I’m a sucker for the chapter complete screen.