Platforms: PS4 | Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Bandai Namco | Devolver Digital
"If you miss the thrill of classic old-school shooters, the simple joy of blasting hordes of foes with oversized weapons and ferreting around for secrets, quicksaving and circle-strafing all the while, you should buy Shadow Warrior immediately."
I wrote this line a year ago in my Shadow Warrior PC review, and it still holds true today. Laughing at the limp linear patronising state of the FPS genre, Flying Wild Hog looked back at classic PC shooters and delivered a Wangtastic slam-bang, honest-to-goodness, three-fisted humdinger of a game with huge explorable levels, massive guns and enormous hordes of deadly demons to point them at.
Now a pixel-perfect port is available on PS4 and Xbox One, meaning that console owners have the opportunity to find out what they've been missing. I could probably end the review here... but in all honesty, this is also an opportunity for me to right a wrong.
See, Shadow Warrior has matured like a fine wine, becoming more delicious with age, and a year of perspective makes me realise that I might have weighted certain aspects of the game too heavily even though my criticisms are still the same. On PC I accused many of its unique features of watering down and diluting the classic FPS formula I've loved since Doom, and they do, but a year on I find myself enjoying Shadow Warrior as the game it is rather than the game I wanted it to be.
First things first: please skim through the PC review! Shadow Warrior is a straight-up port, as deeply pretty and smooth as its original version, and there's not much point treading back over old ground.
A year ago I went into detail about how the game brings back the things we used to love about first-person shooters. We play as corporate troubleshooter Lo Wang, who's been brilliantly rounded out as a tough yet secretly geeky and clutzy hero wannabe who often winds up as the butt of the joke or fumbling his lines, obsessed with comic books and martial arts movies. He's relatable, flawed and interesting as opposed to Duke Nukem's obsolete posturing. Unfortunately, his mission to retrieve a legendary katana for his boss quickly turns into a massive balls-out bloodthirsty brawl against legions of demonic foes.
Gameplay flow is fantastic. We'll explore enormous levels packed with hilarious fourth wall-breaking secrets, desperately ferreting out all the health and ammunition we can muster, before being locked into insane corridor and arena engagements against armies of scythe-bladed horrors, massive demon overlords, hulking bosses, flying b*stards and the occasional killer rabbit. We'll blast them to bits with an arsenal of insane weaponry, relying on slippery-slick movement, dodge dashes and the fact that literally every object explodes in hilariously OTT fashion. This is a game in which Aim Down Sights is clumsy and awkward by design, because you should instead be closing into melee range and hacking foes to death with your razor-sharp sword, powered by a melee system that's as granular as you want. Personally, I stick to the medium settings.
It's brutal, blood-soaked, gory, crass, fast, incredibly tough and absolutely ruddy brilliant as far as it goes. And it goes to hell and back. Shadow Warrior respects your ability as a player and then sees how far it can push you, leading to countless fist-pumping moments of joy as you stride out of yet another pile of giblets and corpses with a sliver of health and a smile on your face.
As such, the console port also does the business. You'll miss the precision of a mouse and keyboard on harder difficulties when you absolutely have to sever a particular enemy body part or hit an explosive barrel, but helpful auto-aim has been added to the ADS mode, while practising on higher sensitivity settings pays off. The port also pleasingly includes FOV options, customisable reticles and all of the bonus melee weapons that were only available if you happened to own other Devolver-published games on Steam. Seeing as I'm a lifelong fan of Serious Sam, naturally I favour the sledgehammer.
The new version also looks great and runs smoothly (I thought I detected the odd frame rate ding on Xbox One in bigger fights, but nothing major or worth writing home about), which is largely due to Shadow Warrior's superb Eastern-tinged art design. This is a textbook example of developers using complimentary colours and contrast to make their game pop and fizz off the screen, mixing hot oranges and deep blues, cool greens and vibrant reds to make every frame worth a screenshot, even if its not the most graphically impressive title on either system.
So far, so good. However, if you read the PC review (last chance!), you'll also know that Shadow Warrior wasn't content with just being an old-school shooter, and instead crams a whole boatload of context-sensitive magical attacks, upgrade systems and a storyline into the mix.
I could have done without the storyline, to be honest, seeing as I'd be content with three paragraphs in a readme.txt file when it comes to old-school shooters. It's disjointed, clumsily mixing a funny main narrative with straight-laced ponderous cutscenes about a demonic war that feels as if it belongs in a totally different game. Ultimately it just about works, but your wisecracking demonic foil Hoji still feels irritating and pointless, like demonic version of Lethal Weapon's Leo Getz whose removal would have actually improved the game.
But those magical abilities and upgrade systems were my real bugbear. Skilful combat and exploration rewards you with currency and magical resources to spend on passive skills and action attacks that can be triggered by double-tapping a cardinal direction and then pulling the trigger. Pulling off these moves in pitched combat can feel a bit messy, especially on a controller versus WASD keys, and I originally felt that they diluted and distracted from the old-school FPS experience. Because they absolutely do.
Now, though, I'm using them all the time. They may be cluttered, but they provide meaningful moment-to-moment combat options, as you'll eviscerate a horde of foes before pulling off a quick stun spell, heal a portion of your health and then turn a line of onrushing reinforcements into meat piñatas to chop up. You can ignore them if you like, but changing up your strategy to incorporate them is undeniably good fun, and lends Shadow Warrior its own unique identity.
The weapon upgrade system is still a horrible wrong-headed idea. It feels like Flying Wild Hog actively nerfed all of their guns, stripping them of alternate fire modes, damage and accuracy just so they could then sell them back to us and justify a pointless extra progression system. Because new-school gamers just love their RPG elements, no?
Having to save up to buy secondary fire modes is incredibly aggravating, especially since we'll have to keep breaking off from the action to open the menu and see whether we've saved up enough money to do so, while the ability to buy ammo in menus is utterly ridiculous. More ammunition should have been placed in the environments and dropped from enemies, not magically teleported into our inventory if we pause the game in the middle of a battle!
This major foible aside, however, I'm now in an interesting position. I still stand by every word, observation and criticism I made a year ago and feel that the text justified the score, but a year on and the way I've weighted them has changed. Perhaps I was comparing Shadow Warrior to the legendary classics I also played on my PC and still do on an annual basis; Quake, Quake II, DN3D, Doom, Marathon and the like. But on consoles I find myself comparing it to CoD and Battlefield. And it feels great.
We don't do review updates here at Dealspwn, but no matter whether you pick up the PC original or the console version, do make sure to give Shadow Warrior a whirl if you're a fan of old-school shooters in their tough brutal glory.
- Brutal old-school exploration and gunplay
- Satisfying and slick mechanics; fearsome versatile melee
- Solid and handsome port job
- Lo Wang is a legitimately great character
- You'll miss mouse/keyboard precision on higher difficulties
- Story is still disjointed; Hoji is still annoying and pointless
- Weapon upgrades and ammo economy breaks flow, feels unnecessary
The Short Version: Shadow Warrior is still as savagely brutal, tough, slick and satisfying as ever, but its riotous gameplay has only matured with age. The console version is a great new opportunity to savour the joys of exploring huge levels, finding secrets and annihilating entire armies of ravening demons with ridiculous firepower.
It's the simple things, though if you've got a decent PC, remember that Shadow Warrior is often available at significant markdowns.