Shadow Warrior Review (XONE)

Killin' Demons With Lo Wang in Shadow Warrior

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Shadow Warrior screen 1. Devolver Digital

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Shadow Warrior brings fun oldschool FPS gameplay to Xbox One with a unique combination of guns, sword, and magic along with gorgeous visuals, a nice sense of humor, and tons of gore.  This is pure oldschool gaming mayhem with a current-gen coat of paint, and we had a great time with it.  Our full Shadow Warrior review has more.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Devolver Digital
  • Developer: Flying Wild Hog
  • ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
  • Genre: FPS
  • Pros:  Great visuals; fun oldschool gameplay; the sword rocks; tons of content
  • Cons:  Guns are weak and dull; runs a bit too long

Shadow Warrior is actually a reimagining of a 1997 PC game of the same name from 3D Realms.  The '97 Shadow Warrior was crude, rude, unapologetically racist, and pretty over the top.  It was also pretty darn obscure and mostly forgotten (and I have to admit I didn't even know about it until this new game came out ...).  Shadow Warrior 2013 (as it was first released on PC last year) is a new game, not a remake, but it uses the same core gameplay ideas of the original.  The sense of humor is also still present, just, you know, not stupidly offensive 100% of the time.  The result is a decidedly oldschool playing FPS, but with modern presentation and a mostly solid sense of humor.

Shadow Warrior's hero is Lo Wang (get it?), who is sent to retrieve a powerful ancient sword.

  Bad stuff happens.  Wang gets paired up with a spirit who grants him crazy magical powers.  And they set off again to get the sword in order to both stop the demons now pouring into the world (I told you bad stuff happened), but also solve the mystery of who the spirit really is. 

Gameplay

The gameplay in Shadow Warrior is delightfully oldschool (give BulletstormWolfenstein: The New Order, or  Wolfenstein: The Old Blood a look for other oldschool games).

  You begin with a trusty sword that you can swing in any direction to slice off enemy limbs, but quickly find an arsenal of guns and you start learning to use magic early on as well.  The enemies are fairly stupid and easy to kill, but they come at you in bunches.  The levels are mostly linear, but feature lots of side paths that lead you to secrets and collectibles.  Progression through each level is mostly moving from one enemy arena where you fight off waves of enemies to the next while destroying color coded statues or finding keys to open the next door sandwiched in between.  There is no other way to describe it than "oldschool".

The combat is at the same time interesting because of the potential variety, but also sort of limp.  Your sword is easily the best weapon in the game, and what you'll use a vast majority of the time.  The guns aren't really so great, though.  They are underpowered and unsatisfying to use.  You can empty entire clips from your SMG into even low level demons and they barely react.  Even when you upgrade your weapons to let you dual wield SMGs, attach extra barrels to your shotguns, and other over the top nonsense, the guns just are never all that fun to use.

  Your sword is a better option for any enemy you can actually reach, but flying enemies or certain bosses will force you to lean on the guns.  Magic is also sort of so-so to actually use because you have to use weird inputs to activate it.  You'll double-tap a direction on the analog stick and then press a trigger to do things like raise a protective shield, charge your sword for a powerful blow, cast a shockwave attack, or even recharge your health.  While the magic definitely has abilities you'll need to use, I still preferred to just use the sword. 

There are no multiplayer modes in Shadow Warrior, but the campaign will take a good 15-20 hours to play through.  Honestly, the game is a bit too long, though.  I'm all for getting bang for your buck, but the gameplay is stretched pretty thin by the end (by the halfway point, really) and the humor has already run its course well before you reach the ending.  The game does have a seemingly interesting progression system where you upgrade your magic and weapons with money and Ki energy you find, and it throws new enemy types at you all the time, but your sword remains your best option in combat a good 95% of the time.  It gives you an illusion that there's lots of variety, but no real substance to most of it. 

Graphics & Sound

The presentation in Shadow Warrior will definitely catch you off guard.  The environments look kind of amazing and it is pretty impressive early on as you're exploring Japanese temples with pink cherry blossoms raining down on you with great lighting effects kissing everything you see with just the right touch of light.  But then you'll see not so great things.  Wang's car in the first cutscene is last-gen and ugly.  Character models for enemies and even Wang himself are decidedly not great looking.  Still, it will impress you more often than not and looks good overall.

The sound is also pretty solid.  Wang and Hoji (the spirit)'s dialogue and one liners are well delivered and sound fine.  The music is solid.  And the sound effects for the demon hordes you're slicing through are just as you'd expect.

Bottom Line

All in all, Shadow Warrior is a welcome surprise on Xbox One.  Despite the criticisms I have about it, the game was still pretty darn enjoyable overall.  The sword combat is just plain brutal gory fun, and the slick presentation will keep you moving forward just to see what the next area looks like.  Sometimes you just want to play a dumb shooter that doesn't take itself seriously and not think about stuff, and Shadow Warrior is the best example of that on Xbox One.  The $40 MSRP also makes it more attractive, despite the flaws it may have.  If you're an oldschool shooter fan, or just want to try out something unique and new on Xbox One, Shadow Warrior is worth a look.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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