Review: Shadow Warrior 2 (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Shadow Warrior 2
Format: PSN (6.99 GB)
Release Date: May 19, 2017
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Lo Wang is back and the world he roams has changed a bit since 2014. The dick jokes remain, but the linear arena battles are mostly gone and have been replaced with a larger playground for him to slice and dice through.

The story finds the hero Lo Wang trying trying to lay low after the events of the first game, but because he is a mercenary by trade he is still taking odd jobs from various criminal organizations. One particular job involving a young women leads to Wang having no choice but to get more involved as his life is turned upside down by the job.

The story is filled with twists and turns, but at the end of the day the game is all about the action with the plot falling to the wayside, only serving to bring Wang to cooler and cooler locations.

Shadow Warrior 2 features some of the best and most satisfying combat I’ve played in a while. The action is fast and the depth with which you can build your arsenal is fantastic. The game is consistently dropping bigger and badder weapons throughout the story or through the in-game store from katanas to shotguns to demonic guns that fire god knows what. The level of creativity for the weapons gradually builds and it’s easy to finish the game with a few favorites.

As you play, you’ll acquire skill points which can be assigned to cards that build up your character’s chi powers which can be anything from self-healing to invisibility. For the most part I only relied on the self healing because the gunplay was all I needed to get through the normal difficulty. It was only during boss battles that I had to really use the full bag of tricks at my disposal so that’s something to think about on the harder difficulties when it comes to building out your character.

In addition to skill points there are gems that are randomly dropped and these can be assigned to individual weapons and they alter the weapon’s DPS (Damage Per Second) and abilities. The system can seem overwhelming at first with all the variables that can be added to the weapons, but on the less challenging difficulties it isn’t very necessary to dabble in this mechanic.

… I could just bypass the enemies by running by them …
One of my issues with the original Shadow Warrior was how linear the story felt and how it seemed like I was being shuffled from corridors to arenas over and over again. In Shadow Warrior 2, the developers decided to go for a semi-open world experience.

Now Lo Wang has a hub world to travel to between story missions to pick up side quests and interact with other characters. It’s a nice change of pace though it doesn’t feel like a fully fleshed out world.

The mission structure sometimes seems too simple for its own good which leads to a lot of repetition in format. Too often missions require Wang to travel to one end of a huge area only to find out that he needs a key to open a gate and must backtrack to find it.

This quickly grew tiresome for me and lead to me discovering that I could just bypass the enemies by running by them. It felt cheap, but after fighting my way to an objective only to find out I had to fight my way back and forth a couple more times, running became a time and life saver.

… from Asian inspired lands to dangerous hellscapes …
Most quests, main and side, end up all the same. They are either fetch quests or the general kill all the bad guy type missions. This is fine since the combat remains exceptional and the game has stepped up significantly in terms of the variety of weapons and enemies you find.

The right changes were made in this sequel to expand the gameplay and therefore the replayability, but it doesn’t feel fully fleshed out in some parts.

Visuals:
The world here is gorgeous, but sometimes can be held back by some nagging technical issues. One of the first things players of the original game will notice is the variety of environments.

It jumps from Asian inspired lands to dangerous hellscapes and stunning cities dripping in neon lights at a nice pace that kept me interested in the world specifically for how beautiful some of the locations were.

… the dialogue and storyline can be very cheesy …
While not frequent, the unfortunate technical issues were extremely noticeable when they popped up. Framerate drops happened to me around some major checkpoints which caused the game to crash on more than one occasion. Thankfully the checkpoints come often enough that when it did crash I didn’t lose much progress.

Another thing I noticed that took away from the presentation was a blurriness when looking at objects in the distance. Up close everything looks fantastic, but in the outdoor daytime environments I noticed a little blurriness looking at trees and mountains in the distance. It’s a small issue, but for a generally beautiful looking game when you see stuff like that it’s hard not to notice.

Audio:
The voice acting is solid though it can rely on the campy tone a little too hard. For the most part the actors sound self aware enough to know that the dialogue and storyline can be very cheesy and they embrace it. I could easily see rejecting the crazy storyline and crass humor, but the performances do an excellent job presenting the game’s absurdity.

As for the music, it’s a nice blend of Asian music with some metal layered on top of it to match the action. The game made boss music feel epic and it settles down enough when it tries to emphasize important story events.

… a better overall a game with a solid foundation to iterate on …
Online/Multiplayer:
Taking full advantage of the new bigger playground, Shadow Warrior 2 features a campaign that can be played fully in co-op up to four players. With a scalable difficulty, players can leave their game open for others to join or they can hop into someone else’s game. The campaign isn’t especially difficult on your own so you can imagine that it is much easier with three other people.

In co-op the game is exactly the same, but there’s nothing stopping players from exploring an area and just grinding out enemies for experience while not interacting with the other players. The host is in charge of what mission is being done, but you are free to roam around as they complete their story missions.

I hopped into a few games and outside of a lengthy load screen to join, the experience was pretty smooth. I was able to freely explore an area or fight alongside other players and it was an enjoyable experience.

Conclusion:
It appears that Flying Wild Hog took a lot of the criticisms of the first Shadow Warrior and set out to make a game with deeper mechanics and better replay value. And while they succeeded in some aspects and fell short in others, they have made a better overall a game with a solid foundation to iterate on if they choose to do another sequel.

The story style remains campy and has found a comfortable mix of immature humor and action fueled set pieces. The gameplay is fantastic and the fleshed out leveling mechanics have enough depth that make playing it worth a go, especially if you have not tried co-op.

The addition of co-op is a great choice and I could see the hack-and-slash style of gameplay working well for those looking for a new game with low stakes to enjoy with friends.

Score:
7.5

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

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