Shadow Warrior may be recognisable to those of you with longer memories as a PC title from the brains behind Duke Nukem 3D. It may also be recognisable to those of you who have shorter memories and remember a reboot of the game that came out on PC last year. Well this year it’s getting the console treatment and the next-generation will not be spared the violently comical franchises it so richly deserves.
Let’s be completely honest, Duke Nukem’s modern reboot (the long laboured and best forgotten Duke Nukem Forever) was a complete bust. Long loading times, some substandard gameplay, fairly poor graphics and humour that was so purile, it was like watching your very well hidden child home videos with your fiancee whilst your parents and her chortle with glee at your hilarious pre-pubescent self, while you sit and cringe waiting for it to be over. Shadow Warrior had the potential to be in the same boat.
I say had as, given that the game has already been out for a year, you probably know quite a bit already. But in regards to the next generation consoles, it does benefit from some excellent vibrant graphics and a control system that very ably substitutes its WASD origins for a controller. In fact I was very impressed with the graphics. Games like this, a first person shooter/slasher, can suffer with ports and reboots by being to attached to their roots. This gives them a very repetitive and bland beige colour palette to work with and in the case of Shadow Warrior, this could have been the case given the original game’s closeness to Duke 3D. Thankfully though, its roots seem to be left purely in the basics of the game.
There is something that I adore about oriental gardens, architecture and the kind of mansions and areas that you see mostly in old Jet Li movies. The vibrant colours of the flowers and trees that mix brilliantly with the wood of the buildings and the Koi ponds that, while cliche, put you in the atmosphere. That is something that Shadow Warriors does very well. It gives you a nice sense of aesthetic grounding before the chaos and comedy begins. Lo Wang is every B-movie’s best character moulded in to one. A cocksure young warrior/assassin with talent but also an ego that would see him diva his way out of a Simon Cowell X-Factor winners contract and in to rehab. The slicing, shooting and general ass kicking comes with occasional one liners and observations that thankfully don’t make you cringe like it’s forbearers roots. It leads itself away from the older siblings blatant lampooning of action tropes and gives itself its own story.
A story that sees you at the centre of a battle for an old sword between your boss and a business man that leads to you allowing a fiery demon to jump on board and help you slay many weird demonic abominations coming your way. The Kill Bill-esque nature of the absurdity of the violence and the situation has always fitted quite well with video games and with what we played already, it certainly fits the console too. One thing we’ve never got right on consoles, and I’m sure most PC games haven’t either, is the ability to wield a sword and slash the living crap out of everything in sight and give a decent game at the same time. Redsteel possibly came closest in recent years but was devoid of anything involving fun. And that’s the key to a game like this, you need to have fun.
And fun we had. We actually did, for a time where you don’t know what to expect, given the nature of recent 3D Realms reboots, we actually have a fun game that doesn’t take itself seriously but has enough work on the mechanics of the game and the control system for it to be good fun. Especially given its graphic violence. In honesty, my enjoyment of this could be a short term thing, but it will be fun while it lasts. And that interest in revitalising old FPS franchises seems to be a big thing at the moment, especially given the success of the newest Wolfenstein game. Those gameplay mechanics -look for a key card, kill all the things, find the way to do it that you enjoy the most – seems to appeal to me as an older gamer who’s a little bit tired of the modern style of levelling everything up and unlocking every single camo pack imaginable. There are cool collectibles to find along the way and a nice part of the control system is easily being able to change weapons and upgrade your abilities with money also found in the game, which manifest themselves in tattoos, which is a nice touch. There’s even weapons in a pre order version from Serious Sam and Hotline Miami, given that this is being released by publisher Devolver Digital. I’m looking forward to the arena mode where wave upon wave of things will come to kill you. That will be bloody, good fun.
The original game, along with this game, is nowhere near a viable representation of Eastern lore or story. In fact the original was heavily criticised. And if you’re looking for a new atmospheric dark Tenchu style game to sink in to, this isn’t it. But it is a good way to spend a weekend. Given the success of the recent revamps, Duke Nukem Forever not withstanding, these games seem to be bringing a simple and less involved sense of fun to the FPS genre. I hope that one day another offshoot of the 3D Realms engine, Redneck Rampage, will come back for more. For now though, work out a weekend you can put aside this October, go and get some Ashai’s ready, order some takeout and be ready for a slashing good time.