Many times as fans we have to cringe whenever one of our favorite movies, or games is remade. In many of those cases we find our worst fears come to pass, the story might be so far removed from the original it might as well have been its own franchise entirely. Other times they may get the core concept right, but little else. It’s rare when something fires on all cylinders, and meets or surpasses our lofty expectations.
PROS: An entertaining single player campaign. Flying Wild Hog does it again.
CONS: Some cheap enemies. Some players won’t like the lack of MP.
HOLY REFERENCES BATMAN: Including Monty Python, Star Wars, and Stan Bush.
Movies often have a worse track record than games, but there have still been a large number of misfires over the last thirty years. Last year however there were a couple of pretty good ones. Rise Of The Triad was a pretty great remake that essentially put new tech on an old game, without really changing too much of what made it awesome originally. Shadow Warrior takes a different approach, and oddly enough manages to pull that off without too many missteps along the way.
The original Shadow Warrior was both a good, and bad game. Built off of the Build engine that Duke Nukem 3D used, it had a long campaign, huge maps to explore, and a plethora of secrets. In theory, fans of Duke 3D should have loved it as it carried over much of what was liked. There were two big problems with it. The storyline wasn’t very memorable, and the humor in it started to cross the line of trying to be edgy, and veer into “This isn’t funny it’s just stupid, and mean” territory. While it never got as horrid as the stuff that showed up in the Postal series it certainly got a lot of ire, and faded away pretty quickly once Quake came out.
Many fans were perplexed when this new Shadow Warrior was teased leading up to release. Would it throw in a lot of pointless cultural jokes? Would it retain the open maps of the old 2.5D era, or would it be a linear modern design? With Hard Reset behind them, Flying Wild Hog set out to reboot the franchise as a modern game that doesn’t forget about the 3D Realms game it came from. They succeeded.
Shadow Warrior runs on the same custom engine that Hard Reset was made in. It shares some elements with Hard Reset, but is certainly not the “Hard Reset with a Shadow Warrior paint job” some of the fans of the original feared. In the game you play a reimagined Lo Wang who is now a prominent crime family member sent on a quest to find a mysterious sword. When a rival crime boss refuses to sell it, and you take it by force, all hell breaks loose as a demonic race of monsters begins invading the Earth. While you fought them in the original game, here the story gives it more of a purpose. As Lo Wang tries to figure out why the monsters are here, what the sword has to do with them, and how to survive, he meets a demon named Hoji. Hoji explains about a secret plot involving Whisperers, these robot like beings that hold demon’s memories away. This leads the two on a quest to track down these beings so Hoji can remember what is going on, and how it involves Lo Wang’s master.
Shadow Warrior is a single player campaign that goes on for around 16 stages, most of which clip along at a decent length. It follows a contemporary design used by many of today’s shooters like BioShock Infinite. You will enter an area, explore it getting more back story along with secrets, and hidden items. Then you’ll enter another section, and engage in a shooting gallery area. Sometimes there will be an in-game engine cinematic thrown in between. On paper it may seem like an also-ran but it does a number of things to differentiate it from other games in the genre.
The stages, while having a very linear path, do reward, and encourage exploration. Instead of only having the clichéd “Hallway, and two tiny alcoves” layout, they are instead one massive environment with barriers over the path. Stages feel less like a line, and more like a fun house instead. You will find in a number of stages you’ve backtracked without even realizing it, and then still be able to go back to other spots to look for secrets.
There are A LOT of secrets too. Going off of the beaten path will lead you to secret items, or retro themed rooms based upon the original Shadow Warrior. Some of these even reference the anime girls hidden in the old game. The game also tosses in its own Easter eggs. Not only referencing Hard Reset, but games Devolver Digital published including Serious Sam 3, and Hotline Miami.
Weapons, and gunplay feel really spot on as well. Guns have the heft, and loud explosions you would expect. Many are updates from the old game including favorites like the crossbow, rocket launcher and the Uzi. All of the weapons can be upgraded through Shadow Warrior’s store system. As you play the game you can collect Karma points from blood altars, as well as killing enemies. Get enough of them , and you can unlock special abilities. You can also power up your sword attacks by collecting crystals. These allow you to recover health, use different stances, or swings with your sword. You can also use the money you find ransacking drawers, and cabinets throughout the game to beef up your various guns.
There is a really wide variety of enemies to attack too. Some of your favorites from the original are here, along with a lot of new ones. Many of whom take special patterns, or have a special weakness to take down. Boss fights are especially satisfying. While they are all taken down in a similar fashion their designs are really cool. Each fitting the environments of their respective stages, and the mythos of the storyline being presented.
The game also has a lot of truly funny moments, a lot of which takes a more subtle comic relief approach rather than the low brow gags the old game went for. There are certainly a few cheap laughs too, such as the fortune cookie messages you can find, or in some of the dialogue. But it’s done well without pushing the envelope for the sake of doing so.
Hard Reset was a pretty nice looking first effort for Flying Wild Hog, and Shadow Warrior continues the trend. There are a fairly diverse number of environments throughout the game. The game is colorful, from mountainous Japanese villages, to industrialized factories, to some really dark, volcanic caverns Shadow Warrior looks great. This is an indie developer showing the world that B games can certainly sate fans of AAA visuals even if they aren’t pushing the same number of triangles, and light bloom.
The game ran fairly brisk on my aging hardware on high settings, dropping the frame rate only during the final wave of enemies before the final stage. Shadow Warrior is fairly scalable, allowing you to change texture quality, resolution, V-sync options, AA, and all of the features you’ve come to expect.
Beating the game will unlock a gallery, and the ability to re watch the comic book inspired scenes shown between certain levels. There are already some nice add-ons for this game like the Viscera Clean Up Detail add-on that puts you in the role of a janitor who has to clean up Lo Wang’s messes.
Shadow Warrior is one of the rare times a remake can go in an opposite direction, and still turn out to be a great game that doesn’t disregard the core fans who loved the original. While those who may have wanted a multiplayer mode tackled on might be disappointed, anyone looking for a truly good single player campaign should pick this up. Whether or not you enjoyed the original game, the reboot should entertain you in either case.
Final Score: 8 out of 10