Shadow Warrior 2 Review
Reviewed on PCAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and Linux
It feels like the remake of Shadow Warrior came out of nowhere in 2013 to surprise the hell out of us. Everyone was expecting another version of Duke Nukem Forever but fortunately it turned out to be something very special indeed. Gone was the misogyny and utter terribleness that made the original ever so slightly horrible. In its place we still have the dick joke-making Lo Wang but with a sense of how much of a nerd he is. It also has a fine example of how to do melee combat in an FPS game which was flawless and very fun. Hell, even the story was meaningful with Wang saving the world and making friends with demons. Now Shadow Warrior 2 has arrived and it is time to get some Wang once again.
It has been five years since the events of the original game and the earth world and demon world have merged into one messed up place. Fortunately for Lo Wang he is now seen as the saviour of the world and since then has been rolling in the money. With never a dull moment in Wang’s life, he is set out on a mission to save the body of a woman whose soul now lives in Lo Wang’s body. If this all sounds a little familiar to fans of the previous game it’s because it is essentially the same story but with not as much polish. It is genuinely disappointing to see the same story rehashed in Shadow Warrior 2. The original had a story that was told perfectly and actually made Lo Wang endearing. Shadow Warrior 2 undoes all this and while Lo Wang does have his moments, there are just times where his endless dick jokes get very annoying.
On the other hand gameplay is sweet. The melee combat makes a welcome return but with a whole host of eviscerating weapons. Wang’s trusty sword returns along with dual blades, bladed claws and other such weapons. Unfortunately, unlike the first game, melee combat now takes a back seat, as the guns now greatly exceed the melee weapons in effectiveness. This is because of the highly customisable weapon system. Shadow Warrior 2 is all about the loot and loot comes in the form of unique guns and gemstones. Each gun found has a certain perk to it. For example, the Shotgun of Doom is not only an awesome call back to DOOM’s super shotgun but it also has a power-up that allows you to shoot both barrels at the same time. While that is very cool by itself why not customise that gun further by adding exploding bullets or allow it to shoot fire using gemstones? Those are just three of the many options on offer for customising your favourite weapons in the game. The amount of weapon customisation on offer here is actually staggering. Even weapons you get earlier in the game are still relevant later as gemstones can be found to further customise them. Using the Shotgun of Doom as an example again, it became the shotgun of choice while playing as the game kept rewarding great gemstones to keep it on par with the other weapons. That is such a testament to Flying Wild Hog and their ability to keep shooting things in the face fresh.
The ridiculous slicing feature the game has is a great highlight. Having a melee weapon and cutting chunks out of your enemies is just a fun time. It does have a tactical use as you can chop your enemies’ limbs off to stop them using certain attacks but this is often lost to just the sheer amount of carnage. Graphically it is a step up from the last in the series with more detail on just about everything. From the environments to the enemies and the guns, everything just looks amazing. The guns especially make for some very pretty eye candy. The amount of detail put into each and every one is a sight to behold. The later guns with all their fancy decorations are very nice, with the heavy weapons standing out as the best example. Unfortunately while the game looks great, the animations in the cutscenes are very awkward. While the first wasn’t going to win any awards for its animation it was still acceptable. Shadow Warrior 2 is just a mess in this department. The characters wave their arms around like they are overacting in a cheap play and often clip through the environment. It is a shame as it really ruins some great moments. It is really hard to care about a character when they are waving their arms about telling you about their meaningful back story.
The music is a highlight, in that it mixes over the top guitar solos with Japanese singing and instruments. The main menu theme is not just a great video game track but also just a great piece in general. While you would expect the rest of the soundtrack to live up to this level of it just doesn’t. The over-the-top guitar solos in the rest of the soundtrack don’t feel out of place as they matches the on-screen chaos but that menu music is just something else. If the rest of the soundtrack lived up to just that one song it would have been a contender for soundtrack of the year. Oh, and the bunny lord theme is also a masterpiece. While you are going around mercilessly killing rabbits you have a chance of spawning the bunny lord. It is a creature from hell that comes with its own soundtrack. It is hilarious and unexpected and fits in with the rest of the game perfectly.
The problem with Shadow Warrior 2 is that the game is really good but not in the ways that it should be. You see the first Shadow Warrior was an unexpected surprise. It is a game that should have been awful but managed to tell a great story and have some very fun melee and gun combat. Shadow Warrior 2 has some fire gameplay with the randomly generated levels and that customisation system is something to behold. The amount of depth that is on offer with its system is on par with Transistor, that is how good it is. But it is that generic story they tell that puts a complete damper on the whole game. It is a complete rehash of the first game but without that friendship that was formed between Wang and Hoji. It felt like Wang grew up in the first game and in this it just feels like he took a huge step backwards. Again the the gameplay is amazing, it is an absolute blast to play, but it felt like Shadow Warrior 2 could have been so much more.