Review: Shadow Warrior (PS4)

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Title: Shadow Warrior
Format: Blu-Ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6.6 GB)
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: M
Shadow Warrior is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.
PS Nation Review Policy

Shadow Warrior released on PC in 2013 by Flying Wild Hog and was a reboot of the franchise which was first made by 3D Realms back in 1997. The game now finds itself ported over to the PlayStation 4 with its fast action and low brow humor intact. So how does Shadow Warrior translate to consoles, find out in our review.

Shadow Warrior is about an assassin named Lo Wang who is hired by a powerful crime lord named, Orochi Zilla, to retrieve an ancient and powerful sword. When the deal goes bad, Lo Wang is captured only to find his release coming from a demon attack. During this demon invasion Lo Wang crosses paths with a demon named Hoji. Hoji explains to Wang the importance of the sword that when combined with two other swords wields mighty power. This leads to Lo Wang and Hoji joining forces and setting out to find the other two swords and form the sword known as the Nobitsura Kage.

The writing in the game is lighthearted and filled with crass humor. There are many dick jokes with the occasional fourth wall breaking humor and for the most part never do more than make a smirk appear as it lacks any true laugh out loud moments. Aside from all the jokes the main storyline about the lore of the demons and ancient swords is actually interesting and is told through interesting animated cut-scenes. These stylized spots explain tell the story of the Shadow Realm and Hoji’s family siblings and troubled past.

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Gameplay:
A fast paced hack and slash is the best way to describe Shadow Warrior. Lo Wang is equipped with a katana and various firearms which include a revolver, machine gun, crossbow, shotgun, flame thrower, and rocket launcher. The melee combat is by far the strongest aspect of the game as each slice and dice is powerful and the damage it inflicts on your foes is both gruesome and satisfying. The gunplay is your standard fare in terms of mechanics and creativity. The guns have their use as the game throws various types of enemies at you that will require long range weapons, but for the most part the melee combat is the quicker and more enjoyable way of combating enemies.

Speaking of enemy types, the game has a decent variety. Nothing groundbreaking in terms of design, but a nice assortment that is only throttled as the game’s length drags on. The enemies include your grunt types both in demon and human form, exploding demons, and flying demons, each requiring a different tactic to overcome. Also included are mini-bosses that are either shielded and/or bigger with different powers and abilities. As for the main bosses, they are huge enemies that follow the “shoot the glowy bits” trope seen many times before which works well enough for this type of game. This is an old school call back to a franchise from the 1990’s after all. These boss battles take a good amount of time and require you to learn the boss’s movements and weak points. With only a handful of major bosses in the game their appearances make for a fresh feel to the gameplay that give a nice change of pace. These beats are mighty big compared to other creatures Lo Wang faces and despite just being “glowy bit” monsters their inclusion fits the style of the game well.

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In addition to the first person fighting and shooting Lo Wang has many collectibles to find scattered throughout the world which definitely scratch the completionists’ itch with well hidden collectibles. A recap at the end of the level informs the players of the number of items found and unfound in the level causing the player to question what stone was left unturned in their initial playthrough. Finding these collectibles rewards Lo Wang with money, karma, and Ki Crystals which can be used for upgrades to weapons and new abilities. Some of these abilities include a shockwave, healing, and various other powers that help fight enemies. Most of them require a combination of buttons to activate, but an easier way of summoning powers was developed that specifically takes advantage of the Dualshock 4’s Touchpad. Instead of pressing Left, Left, R2 for example the player could just swipe Left on the trackpad and hit R2 to summon a power. This little addition made the flow of the combat much more enjoyable and smooth as it was a quicker way to switch between powers and weapons without breaking concentration. I found myself leaning on it towards the first third of the game and then using the Trackpad exclusively for the rest of my playthrough.

Visuals:
Visually Shadow Warrior is a sharp looking game. The environments are diverse and use a pretty wide color palette with the game starting out in a brightly colorful area before finding itself set in the dark and gloom Shadow Realm. Everything from the the character models to the lighting in the game looks great. The only drawback is the occasional frame-rate hitch that happens when the game throws a ton of enemies at you. This isn’t always the case as it seemed to only be an issue in small confined areas especially when the more powerful weapons are being deployed like the flamethrower or rocket launcher. Overall Shadow Warrior is nice looking game with an impressive diversity in environments that helps keep the visual experience fresh.

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Audio:
Musically the game is mostly forgettable with a soundtrack that sticks to being background music that does not try to overshadow the action happening. Gunshots and explosions come through crisp and loud and by far sounded like main focus of the game’s sound design. The voice acting on the other hand is loud and sometimes bothersome as some of the humor misses its mark from time to time which either can be the fault of the delivery or the writing. Aside from the hit or miss humor the actual acting from from some characters is average at best. Hoji’s performance is by far the strongest as it borders on creepy and funny only to go for a more dramatic turn towards the end while still walking that fine line.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only but features online leaderboards that rank the numerical scores obtained at the end of each level.

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Conclusion:
Shadow Warrior is a throwback to a simpler era of when games were just trying to be a game and it rarely tries to be more than that. It wants to be a fun, fast moving, action packed adventure, and it delivers on the fun part with its solid combat system. The upgrades and weapons combined with the variety of enemies keeps the game fresh for the most part. It took around 12 hours to complete and might have gained something if it was tightened up a bit. This playtime does not include collectible hunting which would likely add more time to completion.

While the humor sometimes clashes with the semi-serious overarching story of the game it does not reflect too poorly on the overall experience. Shadow Warrior makes gameplay the first priority which is apparent with its level of entertainment and is only held back with an uneven story and minor hitches. For those looking for an old school game with modern controls and up to date visuals, Shadow Warrior does an adequate job at being that experience.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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