When I first started Shadow Warrior 2, I’ll be honest, I was expecting a lot, especially after having played id’s excellent DOOM this year. Unfortunately those expectations were not getting met initially, and that was because I felt that DOOM’s mechanics, which were not only fast, but were also highly responsive. When I shot something with my shotgun, it truly felt like I was decimating my opposition as the blood and body bits spurted out. To be fair, the same happens in Shadow Warrior 2 as well whose gore is on level with that of DOOM’s. What felt lacking however, was the responsiveness, it felt as if the splatter particle effects needed to be meatier.
That said, an hour in and I realised that I had been looking at Shadow Warrior 2 the wrong way. This wasn’t supposed to be a metal shooter like DOOM was, this was a parody, a story-based shooter with loot mechanics. If I was to truly compare it to something, it would be the Borderlands franchise. Like it, the game has enemies which drop tons of loot each time you kill them, which includes exotic weapons with environmental modifiers, such as ice, fire or acidic damage.
The loot you find in game consists of either as I’ve mentioned, weapons or modifiers. The modifiers are particularly interesting as each weapon can have three swappable modifiers which will alter its stats according to what is picked. Some will help with reload times, while other with damage and other attributes. These modifiers can be environmental as well which allow you to add ice, fire or acidic properties to your weapon. The only minor quip I have with the mechanic is that you have to sometimes actively walk over items to pick them up, the game would have been better served with an attract mechanic of some kind where the items fly to you when you are in range. It would have made the loot system less frustrating as I had to keep slowing down to pick up stuff, destroying my momentum.
There are tons and tons of modifiers to choose from, and after just a few hours, you will have a whole stack of them as the enemies drop them consistently. So you can expect to spend quite a bit of time in the modification menu. It could have been an absolute chore very easily, one slip up and the system would have been tacky but due to a seamless User Interface which is very easy to navigate and an in-depth explanation of each modifier, choosing and equipping a modifier is a breeze.
The game boasts an impressive amount of weapons. At the moment, there are 9 classes of weapons in this game, swords, short blades (two handed swords), light weapons such as handguns, medium such as assault rifles, heavy machine guns, shotguns, launchers, bows and chainsaws. You can equip one in each class which can be brought up quickly from your weapon wheel in-game. I absolutely love that there is no weight restriction in this game where you can only hold a certain amount of weapons. Every weapon you pick up will be added to your inventory and can be equipped to your weapon wheel whenever you want. This works greatly in favour of the variety of guns included in this game, as it prompts you to try out as many as you can without worrying about what to keep and what not to.
On top of that you have Wang’s legendary chi powers that can do everything from heal you to mutilate your enemies on a spike. The controls are quite straightforward for the powers and can be easily utilised with your regular attacks, allowing you the affordability to use them more. Not to mention, the game does get difficult at various points, and the only way to get out of some situations is to use your powers.
If you are anything like me and have played the previous game, you will be spending a lot of time with your swords. The great thing is that the swords in this game are great and each is different than the other in the way it works. Add the game’s innovative dismemberment mechanic to the fold, and wielding a blade has never felt so powerful. The game’s engine allows you to dismember and literally cut enemies in half with your blades. What serves as the icing on the cake however, are the game’s delicious screaming audio.
Yes, you heard me right. The game has by far some of the best screams I have heard in any videogame. Mind you that human enemies are the only ones that will scream in this game, but the voice actors have done such a great job that it really feels like they are in agony as you cut or shred them to pieces. The enemy design is fantastic for the most part except for the floater drones, which from a design standpoint do not belong here, especially if you play with swords for the majority. They are small and too fast to be satisfying and end up confusing you more than they challenge you.
All these little mechanics form together to offer a gameplay mechanic that is both engaging and brutal. Mix that with Wang’s quirky one liners and you have a solid Shadow Warrior game. There are also tons of collectibles to acquire in this game, and most come in the form of hilariously worded fortune cookies and amusing diary entries and fables. One of the nonsensically humorous fable talks about this rabbit who originally just wants to get to the other side where the grass looks sweeter, but for some reason by the end manages to be shape-shifter who gets the local princess married to a poor worker. It is abrupt and in your face, which makes it really entertaining. The game is filled with stuff like this.
What truly stood out to me however, is the game’s main soundtrack and its surprisingly good storyline. The game’s soundtrack has been composed by Michał Cielecki, Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz, and Adam Skorupa, two of which have worked on the excellent Witcher franchise before. The soundtrack utilises the game’s original melody and puts a clever twist on it with Japanese vocals and rock instrumentation that starts pumping your blood as soon as you enter the game’s menu, where this theme is played. The main melody is utilised in a few other places in game where you can hear it playing, but for the most part has been ignored. The soundtrack has a solid arrangement, with various parts that could have been reused in some of the action themes, to make the game more memorable but the composers chose not to do that. That is perhaps my biggest problem with the game. Still, the game’s soundtrack includes an excellent song, “I Am Power – Monster Music ft. Mr. Illch” that can be heard in the video posted above.
The story on the other hand was surprisingly fantastic. I wasn’t hoping much in terms of a storyline as Shadow Warrior games have mostly been about their gameplay over the setting. However, the developers have managed to craft a satisfying storyline in this game which I quite enjoyed. The story deals with Lo Wang whose soul gets joined with that of the mob boss’s daughter, who theoretically starts living in his head, talking to him and guiding him along the way. Although they are reluctant to work with each other in the beginning, the obstacles they face paves the way for character development driving them closer. All the time Lo Wang has to find and rescue her body which has been possessed by a powerful demonic being.
Furthermore, the game has a really great final song choice during the last fight. I have seen games like Far Cry Primal and Max Payne 3 use songs for their climactic showdowns rather than scores, which I would love to see more of in videogames. Lastly, if you are someone who prefers to play with friends, then you are in luck as the game has drop-in and drop-out co-op feature which is available for the entirety of the campaign. It is a nice extra that really heightens the game’s experience. Now you can cut down monsters and mobsters while shouting vulgar insults together.
Overall, I absolutely loved the loot based direction Flying Wildhogs took with Shadow Warrior 2. I believe it was a risk, but a necessary one as there are tons of first-person shooters available in the market. Most importantly though, this risk paid-off and the end product benefits greatly because of it. The developers took everything great about the first game and improved it in every way imaginable, so much so that it feels like a different, much better game altogether. The game is adequately priced, and contains more than 10 hours of gameplay with its campaign, which combined with the entertaining nature of the game should be more than a solid reason to purchase as Shadow Warrior 2 does not disappoint.
+ Loot Based Mechanics
+ Variety of Weapons and Modifications
+ Interesting Story With Character Development
+ Beautiful and Adrenaline Pumping Main Theme
+ Exciting Ending
- Underutilised Main Melody
- Wonky Loot Pick-Up
- Can Be More Responsive
- Float Drones Do Not Fit With The Game's Design