I’ll start this review with a bit of a history lesson. Many gamers who didn’t grow up during the 90s PC gaming era won’t recognize Shadow Warrior. It was released back when Doom clones were cash cows (much like free-to-play games with hidden price tags are the current cash cow). The only thing that set this title apart from the ravenous horde of other Doom clones that were destroying the game industry at the time was its ridiculous sense of humor, and melee-centric gameplay. If you’re curious about the original, you can find it over at GoG.
Truth be told, I’m a bit hesitant about these remakes of classic Doom clones. Rise of the Triad wasn’t that special, and Duke Nukem Forever is one of those titles that is listed everywhere as being almost as bad an idea as Windows ME. Here’s my concern. Shadow Warrior was a half decent game back when its genre is popular. I’m just having a hard time imagining it fitting in to the current FPS mold.
Classic Reimagined - There were 2 paths that Flying Wild Hog could have taken with the new Shadow Warrior. One route would involve remaking an entire game to fit into the current FPS mold, complete with regenerating health and chest high walls. The second option would involve making another run-and-gun title that would risk losing popularity due to its archaic gameplay design. They went with the second. By no means was this a bad choice. Shadow Warrior can be a refreshing break from modern shooters. The style from the early 90s where quick trigger fingers and situational awareness were key to victory feels great. Though, there are some things that came back that I didn’t miss which I’ll explain later.
Controls Like a Balanced Katana - It takes a little while to get used to it, but Shadow Warrior has some pretty solid controls. The ability to channel skills in the middle of combat is pretty impressive, and I wish more developers had the brains to make such nice controls. Spells and attacks blend seamlessly as they mostly use the exact same button, and nothing gets in the way of the player’s movements.
Sword Fighting Bliss - I mentioned it a bit in the above statement, but I really enjoy the sword fighting in Shadow Warrior. Having to block attacks by matching the incoming swing while using a small arsenal of spells to back you up in combat is something that just feels good. Granted there wasn’t quite as much sword fighting as I would have preferred, but the fights they did have were all worthwhile.
Alright, I Chuckled - The terrible voice acting, jokes, and characters should be a major turn-off, but Flying Wild Hog knew what they were doing.
I HAVE NO WANG
Go Here, Shoot That - One of the bothersome things about Shadow Warrior is the pacing. Much of the game consists of going to a location, having to shoot a couple of things, and then walking for 3 minutes to the next location. I get that there is a certain amount of time that should be spent between killing things and not killing things, but the amount of time not spent killing things gets flat out boring at time.
Why Do I Have Guns - I remember back when I reviewed Dark and mentioned that it seemed pretty dumb that my character couldn’t pick up guns dropped off of dead bodies. Now, it seems the tables have turned. Lo Wang has a pretty good arsenal of death available to him, but why use it? The sword is easily the most powerful weapon in the game and the shuriken nearly stuns anything long enough to close the gap and kill them. There’s literally no point to any gun aside from the SMG.
Booooooring - The opening to Shadow Warrior promised a great deal of what was to come. Smart-mouthed demons and epic sword fights to wet my appetite, but as I soon learned, that was the exception and not the norm. Most of the game’s personality was reserved to small cutscenes while the majority of the game came down to spam clicking and twirling in random directions as my katana murdered everything.
Regenerating Health? - Part of what made classic Doom shooters fun was the intense realization that one screw up could cost you everything. Health was a rare commodity, and every bullet had to be well placed. Now you can just run around swinging a sword and then run away the second your health gets low to regenerate it. The worst part is, health regeneration isn’t even on a timer anymore, you literally regenerate it anytime you press a button combo.
Shadow Warrior is great and disappointing in many ways. In some ways it’s a great arcade shooter for when you need to kill 30 minutes before your date. Then, at other times it’s a boring click fest that reminds you why Doom Clones no longer exist in the mainstream. Ultimately it’s a game for fans of the first one. If you liked it back when it was a mediocre shooter, you’ll love it now that it’s a mostly alright 3D shooter.
*This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.