- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 29 March 2017
- Written by JOHN MORANO | STAFF WRITER
The first Shadow Warrior title released in 1997, and is considered by many to be one of the best games of its decade. It is best known for its implementation of role playing game (RPG) elements within the first-person shooter genre. Shadow Warrioralso had something of an unusual and compelling plot, which helped make it a crowd favorite. The newest entry in the series, Shadow Warrior 2, attempts to create a successful, modern game from this classic hit, and, at least in my eyes, it succeeds with flying colors.
In the game, you play as Japanese mercenary Lo Wang. The story is character driven, and Lo Wang makes an excellent driving character. If you’re familiar with Deadpool, you more or less know what you’re getting with Lo Wang; he’s a wisecracking character with a tendency to both amuse and annoy friends, enemies, and Shadow Warrior 2 players alike. The game starts out with Lo Wang accepting a contract from the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) to rescue one of their associates; unfortunately, Lo Wang is somewhat late with his rescue, and his target falls victim to a nasty case of demonic possession. Without giving too much away, the rest of the game is pretty much Lo Wang attempting to pick up the pieces from this debacle, while saving the world (again). Shadow Warrior 2 never takes itself too seriously, which makes the plot a pleasant and entertaining ride.
Combat in Shadow Warrior 2 is best described as hack-and-slash. Rather than attempt to be tactical, Shadow Warrior 2 tries to stimulate its players with fast-paced action combat. There’s a sense of momentum to the gameplay reminiscent of Warframe, where one can hurl oneself at enemies to minimize incoming damage. An average encounter typically involves fighting a large group of enemies and quickly focuses on the least-tanky opponents. One would do this by running, sliding and jumping towards target enemies/away from others, and using one of nine carried weapons. The lack of a third-person perspective seemed to make the gameplay more frantic than similar third person experiences, and gave Shadow Warrior 2 a unique feel. Combat in Shadow Warrior 2 darted in and out of enemy groups, dealing as much damage as possible, before retreating and recovering.
Weapons are another aspect of this game that are worthy of praise. There are over 70 weapons in Shadow Warrior 2, including various assault rifles, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers and more. Collecting weapons adds depth to gameplay, compounded further by the ability to customize them with mods. One mod may add a variety of characteristics, such as life steal, elemental damage, or attack speed. This customization of a large weapon pool allows for diverse gameplay, and considering that so much of Shadow Warrior 2 is hack-and-slash gameplay, it’s important for combat not to become stale.
The production values in Shadow Warrior 2 also pass muster. It’s a beautiful game with incredibly detailed environments and character models; beyond this, the music is upbeat, and the visual/audio effects are impactful. These elements complement the gameplay effectively, and allows one to become better immersed in the hack-and-slash rhythm.
It’s also important to note that corners were not cut on voice acting. Shadow Warrior 2 featured many lines of recorded dialogue and top-tier voice actors. The voicing of series protagonist Lo Wang in particular was well-done; I was impressed by how the varied taunts he yelled at enemies mid-battle helped establish his personality.
One thing I want to be absolutely clear on: Shadow Warrior 2 earns its M-Rating… and then it earns it again. In this system, bodies and weapons are designed to interact so that different weapons and damage types dissemble bodies in unique ways. For example, a pistol will take different sized chunks out of an enemy’s body than a shotgun will, and flame damage will affect a body differently than electricity, poison, or ice.
However, shooting limbs off of enemies mid-fight serves a gameplay function. Most of the enemies you’d be fighting are demons, and I personally found the strangeness of such fights kept the gore from being disturbing. That said, there are a reasonable number of human encounters, and some might find the procedural gore system disturbing when fighting humans; early-on it caught me a bit off-guard.
Shadow Warrior 2 is not remotely politically correct. Actually, it goes out of its way to be politically incorrect, and as such those who value political correctness may not enjoy this title. Case and point: the game’s protagonist is a Japanese man named “Lo Wang.” For those unfamiliar, “wang” is a euphemism for male genitalia, and the game uses this fact to create numerous jokes, as humor is a core element for this series’ plot. Humor in Shadow Warrior 2 is often sexual and/or racial, which could be either a draw or a downside. I found Shadow Warrior 2 to be quite funny, and judging by the title’s positive rating on steam – overall 90% positive feedback – most who played it felt the same.
I’m typically not into hack-and-slash style games, but Shadow Warrior 2 won me over. Between the gameplay depth, production values, tongue-in-cheek humor, and surprisingly decent plot, I found it to be a fun 30-hour ride. In fact, if the game gets any more DLC/postgame expansions, I would be quite eager to pick it up again. I’d rate Shadow Warrior 2 at 8.5/10, and I wouldn’t be shocked if someone who appreciated hack-and-slash more than I do scored it higher. For everyone else with a fondness for action games, particularly hack-and-slash, I’d highly recommend this game. That said, this game is clearly not for everyone, and if you could see over-the-top gore or politically incorrect humor hurting your experience, then I’d have to recommend passing on Shadow Warrior 2.
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