Pitting Wang against the demon hordes.
Following the current trend of remaking old school shooters, Flying Wild Hog offer up a reboot of the almost classic Shadow Warrior game from 1997. It may not be the most memorable title from that time, and it certainly wasn’t the most interesting, but the reboot looks set to make a mark for itself with an entertaining story, loveable characters and more blood than you could shake a Shadow realm demon horde at.
The loveable characters to which I am referring take the form of Shadow Warrior’s hero, the unfortunately named Lo Wang, and his demonic sidekick Hoji. Wang manages to endear himself on the player right from the offset as he rocks along the highway in his car, music blaring. The guy is a nerd and, frankly, a bit of a loser, but fortunately he is tough as nails and decidedly handy with a Katana. His sidekick Hoji is introduced a short way into the story, and the banter between these two makes for plenty of smile-inducing moments.
The story has Wang working for the Zilla Enterprises and begins with him going to buy a fabled sword, called Nobitsura Kage, from a Mizayaki on orders from his boss. The sword obviously is something special and no sooner has Mizayaki refused to part with the sword and things have turned ugly for Wang, than demons from the Shadow Realm massacre everyone and take the sword for themselves. Nothing is ever simple, is it?
It is soon after exploring the area of the massacre that Wang meets up with the demon Hoji, who happens to offer to help him. And thus begins a slog of decent length, coming in at well over 10 hours, in which Wang and Hoji will find themselves slicing and shooting their way through a varied collection of enemies in an attempt to move the story forward.
It is not exactly deep and meaningful, but that doesn’t mean that Shadow Warrior is not a hell of a lot of fun. Wang begins with just his trusty sword, which is quite honestly more than enough to deal swift justice to the enemies of this game. However, very early on our hero starts getting to grips with a nice selection of different guns, from pistols and shotguns, to Uzis and a rocket launcher. The weapons are easily switched between, there is no limit to the number of weapons the player can carry, and ammunition is relatively plentiful.
The player is completely given the choice of how they dispatch their enemies, whether from a distance with guns, or close up with the sword. The mechanics for both are incredibly smooth and satisfying, with an emphasis on blood and gore.
In keeping with the rules of the old school shooter, Wang’s health doesn’t regenerate, so frequent use of the plentiful health packs are required. Wang has another trick up his sleeve though, in the form of magic. Progression through the game will see Wang’s magical abilities awaken, with the inclusion of a healing spell. The magics, rather than being assigned their own keys, are activated using a double button press and then the right mouse button, which can cause a few problems when trying to heal in the middle of a massive battle. But still, it keeps things as simple as they can be.
Progression through the game also leads to improvement of Wang through three different ways. Firstly, his skills can be improved through points accrued by killing enemies. Secondly, the weapons can be upgraded by spending cash found throughout the game. And thirdly, the magics are leveled up with crystals that are picked up along the way. This gives the player plenty of scope to make their character even more impressive.
There are secrets hidden through the various levels, some cleverly hidden while others are just frustrating to find, and the game scores the player depending on the variety of moves they use and how creative they were when hacking off limbs. There really is a lot of fun to be had in Shadow Warrior.
But that is entirely dependent on what the player is looking for. Shadow Warrior does have its faults. While the game looks very nice, the levels can become a bit bland at times. It is also a very linear game, with the exploration side for finding secrets often frustratingly obscure. And, let’s face it, even imaginative beheadings can get a bit repetitive after a while – Shadow Warrior does start to drag before the end.
None of this means that players should put away their Katanas and avoid the game though. Shadow Warrior is not a clever game, and neither is it a game that should be approached with any seriousness. It is about quick reflexes and having fun, and is a damn good way to spend some time.