Dear readers, do you remember the original Shadow Warrior from 1997? Chances are you have as it was from 3D Realms, the same people who did the Duke Nukem series; I have yet to play the original Shadow Warrior game (I have it just need to get round to playing it) but from what I have seen it is mostly Duke Nukem with Japanese wallpaper. I do not doubt the game play has aged well, the characters and the entire Japanese setting have most likely......not, again considering that 3D Realms has had a long history of struggling to update their games into the 21st century. Duke Nukum Forever is proof of this, maybe that is why 3D Realms's involvement in the remake is minimal (Polish dev team Flying Wild Hog takes development credit for the remake). I must admit I am somewhat pleased that 3D Realms is barely involved because again look at what happened to Duke Nukem. I think it is for the best. Anyway on with the show!
Lo Wang (Jason Liebrecht) is an assassin hired by millionaire industrialist Orochi Zilla to purchase a Katana from a collector, however the collector refuses and Lo Wang decides to take the Katana by force. The collector reveals an alliance to Japanese demons and has Lo Wang locked up. Said demons then rebel and start an invasion of Japan. Lo Wang then has to team up with a demon named Hoji to find a way to end the invasion. The story is surprisingly rich, more then it has any right to be and is quite engaging with Hoji's backstory, not to mention Lo Wang's interactions with Hoji and the rest of the cast. Lo Wang himself has been transformed from a one dimensional slightly racist stereotype into a really likeable and, dare I say it interesting character, the comedy English accent is still there but it has been toned down into something that is not grating. There is a sense of pride in the way he uses his name that not only gives way for some good humored jokes but also contributes to his likeability. Hoji and Lo Wang make quite the double act and produce a lot of great jokes. While there are one or two duds most of the writing hit bull eyes.
The game play much like the writing is very fast paced, fun and funny. Just like the original games it is entirely first person. It is classic FPS in that you have a wide assortment of weapons to play with as the game goes on. You have to dodge, rush and jump your way around the battle areas surviving on health kits and your wits. You can upgrade your weapons with money, magic with Ki crystals and skills with Karma. Levels are linear by design with minor exploration for secrets and collectables that all contribute to leveling up and getting better gear. While the combat sequences are indeed fun and none of the weapons are useless the difficultly is very uneven with the bosses being easy in comparison to the ordinary minion encounters as, unlike the bosses there are multiple minions at any given time and often have different behavior patterns that I have to look out for. This is very enjoyable and challenging as I have to always be on my toes swapping different weapons and attacks on the fly to win. The boss fights typically are a one on one fight that amount to attacking glowing weak spots until weak spot is exposed and destroy weak spot to win. Repeat until victory. It is kind of a shame that the bosses are so unmemorable because they are very well designed and are inspired, just fighting them is kind of boring compared to the normal enemies. But it is quite amusing to burn away the flesh of a demonic titan and blow its arms and legs off with one shotgun blast.
The levels themselves are alright, very enjoyable to explore and ransack but suffer badly from reusing assists, a lot. If I were to take a sip of alcohol every time I saw the same Arcade Cabinet or an IKEA Cabinet I would be dead from poisoning. It makes levels sometimes hard to follow and on occasion left me unknowingly backtracking, which is not a good thing for a strictly linear game. However this was rare and I was able to find my way without trouble majority of the time. It is mainly distracting and an annoyance than anything else.
As this is a 2013 game, please do not expect something on the same level as Witcher 3 or God of War 4 etc. It has however aged rather well, the lighting and physics look fantastic today, and there were times when I was stunned by how great it looked. That is not to say that up close, textures are blurry or on occasion when there are clear jagged cuts where the scenery have been cut up but it is not a problem. These are more nitpicks then anything else. The art style is very Japanese inspired, everything from the menus, the UI and the creature designs it all breathes Japan. And it makes up for the limited enemy verities by having all of them being distinct and memorable. It offers a nice style that works well, nothing wrong here.
The game runs fine for most part; I did encounter some frame rate drops openings and exiting menus and towards the end of the game on the final set of levels. The menus do not even have exuberant animations which makes the frame rate drops all the more mystifying. The final set was in a snow covered mountain during a snowstorm which makes a little bit of sense. There were also two occasions when I got an error message trying to use the shurikens on two different bosses. The game did not crash thank goodness but it made that attack impossible to use. And after the boss was defeated it started working again as if nothing happened. Validating the files showed no corrupted data which makes it all the more confusing.
Shadow Warrior 2013 is a good game, at its height it is even a great game. The technical problems and strange difficultly spikes prevent me from calling it a consistently great game. However it was still a blast to play and I would defiantly recommend it.