We live in the age of the remake, the reboot and the high definition touchup of games. Some want to preserve every little bit and others venture far beyond to dangerous, uncharted territory. In the case of the 15-year old Shadow Warrior, the latter is true and for good measure. What was once a raunchy first-person shooter at the dawn of its genre is now even saucier. Carnage with a side of humor make up this highly entertaining title, even if it paces itself poorly.
Since the original had to deal with static sprites in a 3D space, the modern take doesn’t need to do much to look better. Still, visuals go out of their way to provide a mystical feel with tons of bloom and lighting effects glaring over the screen. Overly saturated scenes can quickly turn from idyllic to nightmarish, once demons invade and the destructible environment takes its toll on the landscape; tearing through all but the toughest structures. There are times where textures do go overboard with the shine effect, which makes the world look like plastic, but turning up the ambience will hide most of these indiscretions. Even more can be forgiven with the rocking soundtrack that serves as a background, viscous sound effects and most of all, the comical banter between characters. Protagonist Lo Wang has many genitalia-related puns for the audience, but his stage partners match him in bravado as well, which makes for an enjoyable pastime in between massacres. There might even be a blossoming camaraderie or two for the lone murderer.
And spooky things.
This game’s focus, however, does remain shooting ugly demons in the face, as well as the odd human now and then. Levels are comprised of either tight corridor trappings or wide arenas where danger comes from all sides, in areas like traditional Japanese houses to factories, shipyards and mystical plains. Either way, enemies single file their way to Wang at dazzling speeds, enough to swarm the screen every time. There are two ways to deflect the oncoming horde: Either hack through it with a powerful blade or blast it with an arsenal of weapons. Techniques for the blade can be gained through character customization, which also comes with a set of demonic powers to put even more adaptability in combat. Furthermore, money can be collected to build up weaponry with enhancements as well.
As the game progresses, many more utilities will be at Wang’s disposal, which allows for creative shootouts. Stringing together violent slayings, such as exploding demons or using a roundhouse blade swing, adds to a combo meter, which totals to a 5-star rating at the end of the fight. Guns can vary from crossbows to rocket launches, but there are also demon parts that can act as a form of impromptu explosives. What this spells is utter, delicious chaos, certainly when all the bells and whistles combine with the shooter’s already hazy presentation.
And giant boss fights.
Blood gushes copiously across the screen, while body parts detach themselves from their previous owners. Demons set themselves ablaze in rage from all this power, rushing in even harder than before, making them a bigger threat. Towering giants wipe the floors clean with a cudgel three times the size of a human being. There’s animosity aplenty and the challenging array of enemies make for a juicy payoff every time. For instance, an arena will hold a resurrecting demon, a giant and heavy hitters. Finding the right combination to proceed is vital to survival, because messing up the cycle will just lead to undone work. It may not look like it from the forward foes, but there is clever combat in Shadow Warrior.
For an even bigger reward, the game periodically throws in huge boss fights. However, these suffer from being long and tedious in pattern repetition, stretching out the fight several minutes more than it ought to be. This is also seen in the overall game, with level designs that make for great combat, but confusing exploring, making players backtrack constantly. By returning to the same grounds frequently, it also becomes harder to notice new objectives in old areas. More so, it just leaves random stretches of time between battles and this downtime quells the excitement rapidly.
Also, screw these dudes.
As a whole, Shadow Warrior has no idea how to pace itself. Item placement is not as much overflowing as it is clustered. Often times, transitions are bare, only to be followed by a fight leading to multiple med kits at a time and dozens of ammo caches. There isn’t a sense of how to conserve ammo, since it’s never certain whether the next section will be a bounty or a dry spell. Then again, it’s also possible to purchase ammo for a price, but it’s not an immediate solution.
While aforementioned foibles aren’t a breaking factor, they are timewasting more than consuming in this otherwise sizable and rewarding adventure. Bigger issues in the game are the hit boxes for character models, which seem to work at random. It’s obvious that this game wasn’t built on precision, because any attempt of trying to pop off a headshot will result in a miss, even when dead on. It’s much easier to pray for additional points by bolting a rocket over a gas can and watching everything explode. Anything else is an exercise in frustration, especially with tougher monsters, like the ridiculously demanding and convoluted blue demons.
It’s a good thing that Shadow Warrior knows how to make a game that’s constantly rewarding and humorous to alleviate the pain of its design flaws. With less spectacular combat or dryer dialogue, this squishy shooter wouldn’t have been the glorious escape it is now, lasting a dozen hours or more. Knock on wood. Wood is also a penis reference.