By Tom Hooper aka Atomp
Shadow Warrior was originally a 1997 released first person shooter built upon an improved Duke Nukem 3D engine. The 2013 Shadow Warrior that I’m looking at here is the reboot of that title, and if the term ‘reboot’ has you sceptical then I don’t blame you. However in this particular case judging by the roster, scepticism may be misplaced. Flying Wild Hog who previously brought to us Hard Reset were approached by Devolver Digital to reboot the 1997 classic and that is a good combination. As a developer Flying Wild Hog have proven skillful at creating old school shooters and as a publisher Devolver have seemed savvy in letting their developers do their thing just right.
The original Shadow Warrior had a good sense of humour and capitalised on parodying kung fu movies and the reboot is no different. Having recently finished Saints Row 4 the silly comedy and use of parody still feels good and Shadow Warrior arguably does it with a little more subtlety and finesse than SR4, only a little more mind. Much like Saints Row this style of humour may not be everyone’s cup of tea, some may find it crude and some may dislike the idea of humour (or fun) in their games altogether, but that’s all a matter of taste.
The gameplay in Shadow Warrior feels exactly as it should for a reboot of a 90’s FPS. Character movement speed is fantastically fast, there’s no tactical walking here just straight up running around levels. The guns feel fun (although I’d criticise them in that they feel somewhat detached, not enough ‘oomph’), and of course, the sword: The katana/magic-katana/DLC laser-sword/Saints Row purple dildo-bat has two modes of control available; one will judge swing direction on the player’s current movement and the other advanced mode will judge the swing based upon mouse movement. The advanced mode is by far the most fun and when combined with the most destructible environments and enemies that I’ve seen in a long time you’ll have a blast with that good old sword. Slicing through enemies is entertaining and powerful however is never over-powered. In short the combat is what you came for and it’s what you’ll stay for.
Flying Wild Hog have added more though, rather than just updating Shadow Warrior graphically they have also bulked it out with additional options such as a rather in depth character customisation system. There are no less than three collectible currencies for spending on powers, abilities and upgrades. Ki is gained through finding Ki crystals in secret areas around the levels, old school style, karma is earned through the use of combos when tearing through the enemy hordes and money is gained through general collection. This is a very clever way of doing a game like this as upgrading is not necessarily given to the player as they progress as has become the norm. The player has to explore to find secret areas and fight using combos and skills to gain other upgrades which then make the combat more interesting. This is a form of playable character development that has died out and it’s really awesome to see it return in this context. The powers and abilities that these resources unlock vary from a magical shield, to healing, to a spinning death attack, to a force push… In short they add some real variety to the sword combat and present options for further combo earning. As the enemies get harder these become necessary in one character build or another, as a normal sword slice will no longer cut it. The manner in which these combos is also different, these are not numeric key presses but instead combos of movement key double-taps and mouse clicks. The trade off for this combo system is that these magical abilities do not drain any specific pool of mana or such and can essentially be used as quickly as they can be cast. Personally I find this combo system to be brilliant in this particular context, the fast paced action means pulling off the combos correctly and quickly has a really satisfying feel that a simple numeric key press or use-power button wouldn’t give. This is all an extension of what Flying Wild Hog have managed to do in Shadow Warrior, they have stayed faithful to the original material whilst innovating on it enough to keep it fresh, fun and distinctive.
The old school style of level design took a while to get used to as I’ve become so used to the modern style but once that initial level of familiarisation is over everything falls into place. In terms of aesthetics and graphical fidelity the game looks good, and runs well too. The world aesthetic is appropriately grim where it needs to be and the effects are awesome, which is good considering how much stuff you’re going to blow up. Texture quality is great and the overall art and design is solid. There’s not really much more to say about the aesthetics and graphical fidelity as it is, on short, very very good. The same can be said for the sound and music, what with the introduction being to ‘The Touch’ by Stan Bush from Transformers The Movie and also recently in Saints Row what more can be said…
In short; Shadow Warrior turned out to be a pre-order that I didn’t regret and is an absolutely enjoyable experience. There’s enough content and replayability in terms of score attack that it’s easily worth the price although even if you run it through once you’ll have a lot of fun with it. What we’ve got here is an old school reboot done right, much like the new Serious Sam game but with more substance added. The game is currently available from the game website through the Humble Store for $35.99 (approx £22.23), Steam for $43.72 (approx £26.99) and GOG for $35.99 (£22.22). This is a good price for what you get and I encourage you to go with the Humble Store as usual. In terms of the system requirements, it’s going to take a reasonable machine to run properly with the Steam system requirements including a minimum requirement of; “An unabashed love of katanas is preferable.” and a recommended requirement of; “The will of a true ninja warrior and an appreciation of Wang jokes.”
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