Oh boy, I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this game ever since I had a chance to check it out during PAX East 2016. As a fan of the original Shadow Warrior, I was smitten when Flying Wild Hog took it and brought it into the modern gaming world, and I was looking forward to what they would do in part two. After playing it twice, I can safely say that they took everything from their remake, amped it up a few notches, and then set it on fire for good measure. Oh, and they made Lo Wang even more hilarious this time around. I didn’t even think that was possible.
Game Name: Shadow Warrior 2
Publisher(s): Devolver Digital
Developer(s): Flying Wild Hog
Release Date: October 13, 2016
Price: $31.99 at launch, $39.99 MSRP
*Shadow Warrior 2 was provided to us by Devolver Digital for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
I have to get this out of the way first – Our buddy Lo Wang hasn’t changed.. for the better that is. He’s still the same lovable asshole that we remember from the previous title. A foul mouth, kick-ass, “don’t say crap to me or I’ll knock you out” character. Yet, it is all of those characteristics that make him so lovable – He’s like Marvel’s Deadpool. If he and Deadpool were in the same universe, they would be total buddies. He’s my kind of hero or anti-hero if you like that sort of thing.
The premise of Shadow Warrior 2 is pretty simple to take in. You’re sent to recover a missing person of interest, and along the way, that person is inflicted with some sort of demonic presence that threatens to kill them. Thankfully, you’re able to recover her, transport her to someone who saves the only way to save her is to temporarily put her soul into yours? What? Yep, Wang’s not going solo this time as he’ll have a partner in his head for the duration of the game who’s just as much of a pain as he is. Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it? So what’s a Wang to do? Well, if you’re him, you do whatever you’re told to get this person out of your head.
This is the part of the game that becomes drawn out as your sent on plenty of quests to go retrieve something or another. This becomes repetitive; fetch-quests make up a large portion of the game. Thankfully the combat breaks this up by throwing more than enough mobs to keep you entertained. The combat in Shadow Warrior 2 is fast, furious, and brutal, but most importantly, it’s fun. Wang is a one-man wrecking crew, and along with his vast arsenal of bladed weapons and guns, you’re in for a treat. Perhaps the best feature about all of this is you’re free to attack by any means necessary. By this I mean you don’t have to rely on just your bladed weapons or guns, you can do both. Run into battle guns blazing, switch up for some slice-n-dice action, super ninja jump out and then pick off enemies from a distance. The game makes you feel like you’re this take charge ninja, all the while leaving a huge smile on my face. Another nice touch is the damage system that lets you score added damage if you target limbs or the heads of enemies. There is a missed mark here, one that I have to point out. In other games, you’re able to attack via ranged weapons and yet pull off a melee attack using another button. Not so much in Shadow Warrior 2, and instead you’ll have to switch to a melee weapon before you’re able to melee. If it was possible to do this, I feel it would have deepened the variety of attack. It’s not a huge strike against the game, it’s just annoying, especially in the heat of battle and when you’re sitting there waiting for your stylish yet much needed to reload to finish. A quick kick or punch to push the enemy away just enough to get the weapon reloaded would have been nice.
Speaking of combat, no amount of super ninja skills is going to be of any use if the controls are found wanting. That doesn’t appear to be an issue, thankfully. Movements are swift, so swift that Lo Wang has two speeds—fast and faster—thanks to a short sprint. While most people will likely play Shadow Warrior 2 with a keyboard and mouse, the gamepad support is decent in cause you wanted to sit back in a nice comfortable chair. Gamepad support also includes the ability to toggle both the triggers and sticks for left-handed players. While there isn’t an option to rebind the buttons on gamepads, it does exist for keyboard and mouse buttons. I imagine that a fix for this would come in the form of an update or at least should.
Shadow Warrior 2‘s biggest draw is the addition of the 4-play co-op mode. You have two options that let you either start your session or join someone’s session. This lets you tackle the game’s missions along with friends or strangers. I wasn’t able to test this as much as I’d like as the feature was hit or miss during the review. At times it worked, other times I wasn’t able to see any available sessions. I don’t believe it was an issue with the game, as I was able to connect and join sessions when people were around. It was just bad timing since the only people I’d be able to see and play with were other people reviewing the game as well. I plan on playing this mode as much as possible once the game is officially released. Sadly, there is no local co-op to be found, a feature that I’ve enjoyed in another recent title released for PC and one that has spoiled me.
The game features a vast upgrade/character development system, as it allows you to enhance not only your skills but also weapons and armors. To be honest, it’s a bit daunting as you’re focusing on more than just one aspect – It’s one giant system that features several sub-systems. For example, your skills use a card-based upgrade system. You’re given several cards to start with, and you can pick up others during gameplay or purchase them. Each card falls into a specific section – Warrior, Life, Power, and Resource. With these cards do things like increase your hit points, increase the chances of medkits dropping, change how fast your chi regenerates, up the amount of ammo found in levels, and more. The weapons are handled using a gem-based system, similar to how it works in Diablo III. Every weapon has three gem slots of you customize with gems found or purchased throughout the game. These gems add bonuses such as increasing damage per second (DPS), chi drop increase, elemental damage conversion, and more. Then there’s the player section that lets you add bonus stats to your armor, amulet, power, and even multiplayer slots. The only knock with
this system is that you can completely bypass this all together. I was nearly 50% into the game before I even started playing around with it. It feels more of a “nice to have” instead of a “you must utilize this to progress”, yet I understand why this is. Some people enjoy the ability to min/max, while others just want to jump into a game and go. It’s there if you need it but don’t feel obligated to use it, as you aren’t.
I know a lot of gamers aren’t fans of games that use randomly generated level design systems. However, I didn’t. Everything is randomly generated every time you load up a mission, only the objectives are consistent. One moment the map is straightforward, then the next time around you may need to scale a few walls or fight your way into a building for the item you’re looking for. It works, yet I’m sure this is going to put off more than a few people. Just putting it out there, it works well here.
Graphically, Shadow Warrior 2 looks damned pretty when you’re in combat or are in an area that is part of a mission or quest. The environments are lush, full grass, trees, and objects of nature, while the enemies that litter among the areas are well detailed and fluid in motion. Level design is also interesting as there are tons of vertical portions of areas that allow you to either plan your next move or get the heck out of harm’s way when needed. The weather system is also a nice touch – Rain falls from the sky during a storm, dripping down the camera, while gusts of wind force the trees to swap in their wake while the skybox moves giving way to dark and angry clouds. Yet during other stages, the environment is calm and sunny with leaves falling off of trees as you move past them. There’s also some nice lighting effects happening as well, such as when you fire a gun and the muzzle flash reflects off the gun or when you whip out your blades.
Still, for every part of the game that looks great, other sections look out of place. Mainly the sections that aren’t made for fighting. The central hub where you get missions from and do your shopping doesn’t look as good. NPC’s that you don’t interact with look out of place, reminding me of game characters that were pulled from an early 1990’s game. Seeing how this is a PC exclusive title for now, which is coming to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime in 2017, I wanted to take a moment and talk about the PC specific options. Ultra widescreen owners will rejoice to know that 21:9 ratio support (3440×1440 / 2560×1080) is in, I’ve tested this exclusive. It works and it is glorious. The game also supports resolutions up to 4K, a photo mode that lets you edit images in-game, HDR support, and the ability to enable/disable chromatic aberration. Beyond that, the game supports all the normal graphical options you come to expect in any decent PC game. Sadly since I don’t have access to a 4K monitor (yet!) I wasn’t able to test out HDR, but I did hear that it is indeed working and impressive.
If you’re someone who finds themselves running through games at a faster pace than others, then you’re going to love Shadow Warrior 2. The game includes four different difficulties to choose from – Tiny Grasshopper (Easy), I Have No Fear (Normal), Who Wants Wang (Hard), and No Pain No Gain (Insane). The last two are targeted at the hardest of the hardcore as they not only ramp the difficulty but also introduce penalties such as adding more enemies, removing the number of items you find, and even completely restoring enemies’ health upon your death. While this may seem discouraging, the payoff is vastly improved in the form of better loot for you to find. Everyone loves loot and there’s no shortage of it here.
Flying Wild Hog takes everything that made the remake of Shadow Warrior so much fun, and amps it up. Combat is fun, there’s plenty of action to be found and Wang is a riot. Sure the quests get repetitive, but with so much action going in throughout the stages, it’s hard to get mad. If I could change one thing, however, it would be the constant use of Lo Wang’s witty one-liners. They’re funny, but they repeat so often I found myself getting tired of them.
Still, I can overlook that because the combat is so damned good. Easily on of my favorite games of 2016, and top 10 in favorite first person shooters
Combat is fast, brutal and enjoyable
Co-op is where this game shines
Oh my god, the gore is everywhere
Randomly generated levels may be a turn off for some
Guns overshadow melee combat
Lo Wang needs to shut up at times
The path of Wang is long, hard and ribbed for her pleasure