Do you remember the halcyon FPS days in the 90’s? Where everything was a Doom clone – but among all of those clones and wannabes, we got games that could be considered classics in their own right? 3D Realms’ Shadow Warrior was not one of those games. Though it generated its own fans, it never quite managed the classic status of games like Duke Nukem 3D or Doom. When its reimagining was released on PC last year though, it was well received by fans of games from back then. Because it feels just like those games. It’s now out on consoles, and it’s a sterling port.
The series has been given a thorough reboot kick in the balls thanks to the folks at Flying Wild Hog. They seem to rather fancy the shooters of yore, having made Hard Reset, a shooter that tried in earnest to emulate that old-school appeal. They’ve pretty much nailed it in their Shadow Warrior reboot. it’s all about a bad ass Asian bloke with a puerile racially charged named; Lo Wang. Though the game dispenses with much of the adolescent, stereotypically racist humour of the original, it’s still as juvenile as ever, filled with bad words, buckets of blood, bullets, and blades. And that’s probably one of its most redeeming qualities. It knows it’s tacky, immature, B-grade schlock, and runs with it.
More a re-imagining than a remake, Flying Wild Hog’s Shadow Warrior tells the tale of Lo Wang, an assassin who’s sent by his corporate overlord boss Zilla to retrieve a legendary sword; the mystical Nobitsura Kage. Things obviously go rather wrong, and the world is plagued by a demonic invasion. It’s up to Wang, naturally, to rid the world of the myriad demons and save the planet. With the annoyingly-voiced, smart-mouthed companion demon Hoji, Wang has to reunite three parts of the Nobitsura Kage to put an end to the monstrous menace. In addition to slashing sword skills and gratuitously violent gun-play, Wang is able to use demonic magic to kick demon derriere. The narrative is weaved together from bits of the original game’s story, and the typical nonsense generally appropriated from Asian cultures. Told largely through beautifully illustrated scenes, It’s a bit rubbish. It’s also largely unimportant, as the focus is mostly on the run-and-gun, hack-and-slash gameplay. It may play on nostalgia, but the fun sticks around well after the rose-tinted glasses come off.
Armed initially with little more than a very sharp sword, Lo Wang is soon in possession of an entire arsenal of interesting, and fun to use weapons. Some border on silly – like a Demon head that spews forth magic death, or – and this ended up being a favourite – a crossbow that fires off explosive bolts. For at least half the game, I ended up using the sword anyway; it’s just too much fun slicing everything to bits and killing everything with a sense of reckless abandon. Unlike modern shooters, he’s able to switch through all at will, unburdened by nonsense like “realism”. It’s this sort of old-school, retro flavour that permeates the entire game, giving you a smarter-than-it-looks taste of the fun you had in your youth. Unlike modern shooters, which are either invariably great big open worlds or tight corridors, what you have here is large, sprawling, intricately designed, filled with hidden secrets and magically gated doors. They’re half arenas for fights with great big mobs of enemies, half maze – with levers, keycards and bundles of keys.
In addition to guns, Lo Wang can use his demonic magic or Ki, though it’s mostly for defensive or healing purposes. Using Ki, Wang can regenerate his own health, so much of the game becomes about dancing around enemies, trying to heal yourself while dispensing bloody justice at the same time; like some sort of psychotic ballet. Many of Wang’s abilities, weapons and skills can be upgraded as the game goes on, with guns getting extra flair and damage and alternate fire modes. Adding an extra two barrels to your already stupid double-barrelled shotgun makes it a murder machine. Also adding to the fun is a versatile and handy, stamina-draining dash move, that lets you flit about your enemies, slicing and dicing and shooting things like a bolt of yellow lightning.
Utilising magic, or more advanced tricks in Wang’s sword-fighting repertoire requires double tapping in a specific direction and holding a button – made easier on the PS4 by mapping that action, optionally, to a swipe on the pad’s touch surface. It’s entirely pointless, but a nice addition to make use of the PS4’s specific strengths. It all makes the regular frenzied killing a joy to play. That sort of mayhem comes in at a mostly smooth 60fps too. Yes, there are a few hiccups, when the game’s arenas fill up with hordes of soon-to-be-gibbed demons – but they’re infrequent enough to not matter. The game looks great too – though that’s mostly down to art direction more than any sort of real technical wizardry. One thing that makes the console port stand out, is that the developer has included all of the sorts of options PC gamers usually crave in their FPS games; FOV sliders, the ability to customise or even disable the HUD, toggling motion blur, and even dispensing with auto-aim.
It’s a great port of a pretty good game. Yes, it’s one that’s steeped in violence and stereotypes and that shouldn’t really have any place in modern society, but it’s fun – and that’s what games really should be all about. It knows it’s schlocky, b-grade nonsense, and that’s ok.
Last Updated: November 4, 2014