It’s taken some time, but Shadow Warrior 2 has finally arrived on consoles, and Lo Wang proves himself to be worth the wait.
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PlayStation 4 (Version reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: May 19, 2017
After Drawn to Death and Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, I thought I had consumed my year’s fill on politically incorrect, self-referential and overtly phallic humor. That was before Shadow Warrior 2 grabbed me by the collar, screamed a barrage of innuendos in my face and sat me down on the couch for another first-person dismemberment parade that I couldn’t help but find myself grinning along with.
Those innuendos, by the way, aren’t exactly the most refined or subversive of double entendre. If the fact that the main character is called Lo Wang doesn’t give it away, dick jokes are the common staple of Shadow Warrior 2’s humor, around which is built a parodic, tongue-in-cheek approach to martial arts action movies. I found several reasons to laugh in more than enough moments of the game, and instances of sharp dialogue or comic timing are bang on the mark, but it’s very apparent that the decidedly lowbrow jocularity is not designed to accommodate all appetites, so best to be aware of that before you jump in.
Whether you love or hate its brazen style, however, it’s with the core combat where Shadow Warrior 2 shines. Bringing to mind the smooth celerity of Doom and the indulgent insanity of Left 4 Dead, developer Flying Wild Hog masterfully imbues a palpable sense of energy into the shadow warriors’ battle style, who are as nifty with swords and spells as they are with the game’s more traditional firearms. The impact of each shot and slash is heightened by Shadow Warrior 2’s impressive physics engine, which permits glorious fireworks of blood, limbs and particles to cascade across the screen as you hack your way through the diverse assortment of demons in the ten-hour campaign.
Behind the mayhem lies a surprisingly robust layer of systems, too, letting players upgrade and tinker with their abilities and weapons as Lo Wang continues to level up. Flying Wild Hog has also incorporated a meaty loot system into the campaign, and there are almost 100 different melee and ranged weapons to discover and test out. It lends the game that same sense of addictive RPG-lite quality that permeates the likes of Borderlands and Destiny and works especially well, considering just how different each weapon can be. The best news is that you can play the entirety of Shadow Warrior 2 with up to three other fellow ninjas, which is where the madness really ratchets up a notch.
Naturally, Shadow Warrior 2 doesn’t look quite as good on consoles it does on PC, but Flying Wild Hog’s strong eye for environments and enemy design still impresses here – all held up by an engine which runs fine even as the combat veers into chaos. Unfortunately, the console port doesn’t fix the PC version’s wooden looking NPCs who Lo Wang comes into contact with throughout the story, so it’s probably a good thing that ho-hum narrative avoids cut-scenes and dramatic interactions as much as it can.
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The transition to console also entails the transition to the Dualshock 4 and Xbox One controller, and Shadow Warrior 2 suffers from the limitations of its new hardware home in this regard. Swapping between so many weapons on the fly and keeping abreast of every combat situation ultimately felt much easier when using a mouse and keyboard, though Flying Wild Hog does a generally satisfactory job of ensuring the game-pad works as a viable – if less ideal – option for dealing with Shadow Warrior 2’s fast-paced action.
That action is the game’s crowning achievement. It’s as if Flying Wild Hog discovered the Pandora’s Box of “Adjectives You’re Not Allowed to Use as a Video Game Critic” and smashed it open to build a sequel to Shadow Warrior. In short, Shadow Warrior 2 is nothing less than fluid, frenetic and visceral – bringing new life to the hollowed-out meaning of those overused words. What that means for the player is a thrilling campaign of insatiably addictive FPS combat, complemented by beautiful environments and a comedic attitude that’s much funnier than it deserves to be.
Shadow Warrior 2Flying Wild Hog
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.