Shadow Warrior Preview
For better or for worse, there has been a big wave of late-80′s to mid-90′s nostalgia sweeping gaming lately. From a swath of indie titles intentionally aping seemingly ‘outdated’ graphic styles and gameplay types, to full-on remakes/new instalments of long-dormant titles from that time period (the recent Ducktales Remastered and Rise of the Triad spring to mind… and as I loved both of them, I could be seen as part of the problem), what’s old is new again. Not that that’s a bad thing; many times, as a genre evolves, older fans will lament long since disused tropes and standards.
One type of game that garners that sort of protest the loudest is the first person shooter. As newer games insist on some modicum of realism and typically feature a modern-day military setting, old-timey shooter enthusiasts (like yours truly) miss the days when the action was fast, the settings were unrealistic and humorous, and you constantly found yourself scrambling for the next healthkit. Shadow Warrior, a remake of the classic Build-engine FPS of the same name, is here to help scratch that itch. Shadow Warrior, from Hard Reset developers Flying Wild Hog, is a remake of the 1997 3D Realms title built on the same technology that powered Duke Nukem 3D and Blood. The original was primarily remembered for a handful of things: fast-paced action, unique setting and environments, and being totally racist you guys oh my god. Luckily, the developers have only brought back those first two things!
The first thing you’ll notice (well, second after you hear them playing “The Touch” from the original animated Transformers: The Movie) is that Lo Wang has kept his hilariously unfortunate name, but seems to be played by an actual Asian voice actor, as opposed to a grumbly white guy making “chong ching chang fortune cookie” jokes.
Moving on from there, you’ll quickly notice how fun and frantic everything is. Sent on a mission to buy (and by that, everyone involved clearly means “steal”) a mystical sword from a rival gangster, things quickly take a Big Trouble in Little China turn. After being ambushed by Hoji, an oddly cheerful prankster spirit who imbues you with special powers after you pledge your fealty to him (which totally won’t come back to haunt you later), you set off to find out what the deal with this sword is and totally swordfight the hell out of anyone in your way.
Which is probably the most fun part about this game: the swordfights! While there are firearms available to you, the majority of your time in combat will (or should be, as it seems to be far more effective) be spent with your trusty blade. The combat flows well, giving you far more control over the direction of your swings than the aimless whacking of Skyrim, and Lo Wang moves fast enough to provide plenty of defensive capability, including a quick-sidestep move (which any game involving a focus on melee needs from now on). If the standard hacking and slashing isn’t enough, Hoji offers you plenty of special moves that can be triggered with a quick combination of keys, which range from splash damage explosions to sucking an enemy’s soul out (you know, more or less) to restore your health. Your weapons are also customizable, allowing you to unlock more special moves or adjust a given weapon’s statistics. Nothing too deep or crazy, but it’s still more flexibility than a lot of shooters give you.
As evidenced by the aforementioned opening cutscene, Shadow Warrior retains a strong sense of humor, albeit one less…insensitive. Your character, Lo Wang (that name will never not be funny, I don’t care if I’m not nine anymore), is now an amoral corporate sword-for-hire, participating in a semi-futuristic war between mega-companies that seems a little more Kung Fu Hustle, and a little less Syndicate or Shadowrun. The dialogue is all pretty fun and over the top, with the bad guys constantly making grand pronouncements about your imminent demise and Lo Wang not really giving a crap in a fashion that reminded me a bit of Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic.
While the game won’t win any awards for being the graphically prettiest dog in the show, the art style is solid and cohesive, evoking the red-and-gold look of many a classic Shaw Brothers production, and the monsters that you eventually find yourself up against are appropriately hideous looking – imagine Baraka from Mortal Kombat stuffed into some Dynasty Warriors armor.
All in all, if you’re a gamer with fond memories of the days when everything worth playing came from the Build and/or Quake engines, if you’re in the mood for bringing a sword to a gunfight, and you don’t mind the slightly more refined sense of humor (and, let’s be honest – why should you?), then keep an eye out for Shadow Warrior this fall. By the way, if you’re the kind of person to be interested in Shadow Warrior and you didn’t play Hard Reset yet, do yourself a favor and snap it up.