Shadow Warrior is one of those old PC games that people have either forgotten or never heard about in the first place. My memories of it are mostly that the game used the same engine as Duke Nukem 3D and that there were some borderline racist Asian stereotypes. You played Lo Wang ("Wang"...get it?) a bodyguard with some sick sword skills and a penchant for violence. He also had a habit for terrible one liners which was the thing to do back in the late 1990’s.
Flying Wild Hog is dusting off the franchise and putting their own spin on it. The stereotypes are gone and in their place is some decent writing and fun melee combat. The team also created an opening to their game that includes Stan Bush’s “The Touch,” which may make it one of the best openings in video game history.
You still play Lo Wang (and there were a few Wang jokes sprinkled here and there) but the plot has been updated a bit. The main parts of the game remain the same as you’re trying to stop Master Zilla from taking over the universe with demons, but the plot has been tweaked in a few places. Most notable is the addition of Hoji, a demon who partners with Lo Wang and grants him some new abilities. Hoji provides some of the narrative of the game as well as serving as a comedic foil for Lo Wang.
The game also gets some new light role-playing elements. As you progress through the game you’ll earn money, karma, and ki, which can be used to upgrade weapons, skills, and powers. Skills are passive things like doing more damage and sprinting farther, while powers allow you to unleash magical attacks or heal yourself. I was a bit impressed with how the powers screen works as each power upgrade shows up as a tattoo on Lo Wang's body. Of course, since Shadow Warrior is a first-person shooter, you only see this during the upgrade screen, but it was a nice touch.
The combat is where Shadow Warrior really shines. The game provides you with some of the standard FPS weapons, like a pistol and submachine gun, but they are never as fun to use as the katana you get at the start. Slicing and dicing people is just so satisfying in Shadow Warrior, especially once you start to gain new powers. My two favorites were the ability to charge the sword with a ranged attack that cuts into everything in a line in front of you, as well as the ability for Lo Want to swing his sword in a circle, killing off every creature surrounding him.
What’s interesting is how you pull off these moves. Instead of mapping the abilities to buttons on the keyboard, you access them by double tapping a movement key and pressing a mouse button. If you want to attack a group surrounding you, press A twice and then hit left mouse button. To heal yourself, press D twice and then hold the right mouse button. It does take some time to get used to the commands, but once you have them down the system works well.
There are other nice little touches. Pressing the reload key when you have the sword equipped will have Lo Wang clean the blood off the blade of the sword. There are also bunny rabbits scattered across the levels which you can kill. However, when you kill certain bunnies, they turn into demonic bunnies which are deadly (think Monty Python and the Holy Grail). The first time this happened, I was in a bit of shock before bursting out laughing.
The gameplay is very 1990’s FPS, though. You spend the game running from place to place, killing everything that moves, collecting keys, unlocking doors, and searching for secrets areas. It’s a bit on the mindless side, so don’t expect a lot of pathos or soul searching. Instead, expect some funny humor that occasionally veers on the juvenile side of things.
While the game isn’t graphically stunning and the level design did get a little repetitive, I did have a bit of fun with the Shadow Warrior press build. The writing was clever enough to elicit some decent laughs and the combat is a lot of fun. It’s not a Call of Duty or BioShock, but the game scratches that retro itch while providing a few hearty laughs along the way.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.