Shadow Warrior 3 isn’t a breath of fresh air for first-person shooters. It’s just passing wind. It’s a passing wind.
The latest game from Flying Wild Hog feels like a title from the Xbox 360 era — and not for the better. But if you’re interested in Shadow Warrior 3It might be worth it.
Sale After some patches — maybe.
This is the story sofar
Shadow Warrior 3This takes place many months after the events of game 2. The dragon unleashed on the world has decimated most of its population. Lo Wang is the only one who can stop it. The problem is, he’s lost his mojo.
Knowing that he’s their only chance for survival, Wang’s former employer and rival, Zilla, has come to beg Wang to help him stop the dragon. And that’s all you get. If you were hoping for answers to the massive cliffhangers from the previous game, you’re out of luck.
The story in Shadow Warrior 3 — to put it kindly — is sparse. There’s very little in the way of motivation for what you’re doing and that leads to forgettable moments throughout its campaign.
Instead of providing new content, writers chose to rehash bits from previous entries. Hoji is back, and while it’s great to hear that iconic voice again, it doesn’t feel like his return was earned. You’ll see every twist coming from a kilometre away. That’s a saying, right? No? We’re a Canadian site, let me have this one.
Fans of the games will notice a change in the voices of Zilla and Lo Wang. Flying Wild Hog, Devolver Digital, and Flying Wild Hog decided that the characters would be recast by Asian actors. But the execution is off the mark.
Mike Moh, the actor behind Lo Wang takes some time to get used to the role. His performance in the beginning feels forced. Even the most clever jokes are lost due to his performance. The performance improves throughout the game to the point where I forgot about it. And Moh’s acting shines in more dramatic moments, selling Wang’s frustration and fear in a way that felt far more genuine than in past games. SungWon Cho does a great job as Zilla, but he isn’t given enough material to make Zilla feel like an essential part of the story.
There’s nothing special here, but the story is serviceable enough to get you from point A to B. If you found the humour from the previous games to be up your alley, you’ll still find lines to love here. They make so many jokes that they will stick to it. Just don’t expect to be laughing consistently. Depending on how much you tolerate fart jokes or pop culture references, maybe not at all.
It would all be more tolerable if the game didn’t rely on calling out its own poor mechanics so often. Only being self-aware can excuse so many problems.
A dull blade
Shadow WarriorIts outstanding combat and over-the top writing made it a household name. This entry manages to have some of the series’ best gunplay to date thanks to its incredible speed. However, this entry is short on depth and swordplay.
While Shadow Warrior 2Might have gone too far in terms of weapon levels and customization. 3It boils down combat to its core. If you loved the swordplay in past games as much as I did, you’ll be sorely disappointed here. No more sword combos or abilities. Instead, you will find a single button that performs the same three animations. You can no longer use your sword to kill enemies. Your sword is used almost exclusively for replenishing your ammo.
Flying Wild Hog clearly has been influenced by DoomWhen it comes to Shadow Warrior‘s combat loop. You’ll need to use your arsenal of guns to take down enemies, but to refill your ammo, you’ll need to either pick up blue ammo packs or slash enemies with your sword. This keeps you involved in the action, which I appreciate, but it does not allow for depth.
With each enemy killed, you’ll gather finisher orbs, allowing you to build up to a Gore Kill. Each Gore Kill increases your health and gives you the Gore Weapon of each enemy you have killed. Weapons include bombs that freeze enemies and deadly swords.
Each encounter will have a unique rhythm thanks to this loop. You’ll dance between enemies, leaving explosions in your wake. But it’s a very different approach from the developer’s past efforts, something that may not sit well with fans. It is also inferior to its contemporaries.
Gore Kills — a play on Glory Kills from Doom — may serve a purpose to the loop, but the animations pause combat for far too long, interrupting the flow entirely. They don’t feel satisfying, nor do the abilities they offer.
Some abilities feel broken while others are very useful in combat. The Hattori Sword can easily take out the most powerful enemies in the game. The next enemy is automatically targeted. It makes even the most difficult encounters easy. The Oni Hanma hammer, on the other hand, does very little damage and feels light in your hands despite its immense size.
This inconsistency also applies to your weapons. Some weapons are satisfying to use, but others lack the proper level of kick. I believe the technical term is “oomph.”
For example, the riot guns finally make their return to the series. However, it feels weaker compared to previous iterations. It can do devastating damage from close range if you upgrade it to its full potential. Even so, the sound design and animation doesn’t give the weapon the heft it deserves. The pistol by comparison feels great from beginning to end, though it won’t be levelling enemies in the same way.
When constantly swapping between the weapons, the arsenal offers just enough variety to keep things entertaining, but there aren’t any weapons that stand out from the crowd. You have the standard pistol, shotguns, grenade launchesers, and rifle. For a game that’s so creative when it comes to describing human anatomy, I’d have hoped that the arsenal would reflect that same level of creativity.
The movement is fluid and fluid, and the controls are responsive. This helps to stave off the shooting fatigue, even if it can’t overcome it.
Repetition, repetition and repetition
The bigger problem is the repetition of enemy and level design.
Every few levels, new enemies appear. Each enemy presents a unique challenge. Even though new enemies are introduced at regular intervals they quickly become tiresome.
Every encounter includes all of the enemies you’ve met up until that point. By the end of the game, you’ll have faced the same enemies — and combination of enemies — time and time again. There’s no variety.
And the enemy types aren’t unique enough to save these encounters. Despite having different attack strategies and barriers, you can often brute-force your way through any encounter.
Sometimes, the arenas offer unique ways to approach them. These include hiding health packs on platforms where wall running is not possible, or using traps to kill enemies.
Most encounters feature arenas only distinguishable by their level’s colour palette. Many encounters have pits I found myself in frequently. This is sold as a bonus, not a problem. The developers intended these to be used to knock enemies into with your chi blast, but it’s far too weak. It can only move the smallest enemies and even then, it feels as if they are being shoved rather than blasted.
I enjoyed dancing at all levels and finishing each foe. I only wish there was more variety, more challenge and more polish.
A platform for bad humor
Platforming is back Shadow Warrior 3In a big way.
Grappling hook is one of the few new features in this game. This is, by its own accords, following the trend of other first person shooters. But just because they call out that it’s following the trend doesn’t mean that it excuses the poor implementation.
And unlike other games like Titanfall 2The grappling hook can be used to great effect. Shadow Warrior 3It is only allowed to be used by players with convenient glowing green rings located around the world. Why are they there? We may never find out.
The grappling feels slow and locks the player into an animation until they let go. It moves too slowly and the physics misses as often as it hits.
Between combat arenas, players must overcome platforming sections. These sections have been a mainstay of the series in the past and are the most prominent feature in this latest version. Despite that, these sections feel like mere distractions — an excuse to drop dialogue and exposition.
There’s never any challenge to them, other than grappling with the game’s many performance issues and bugs. If you see green on a wall you should run towards it. You press the grapple button if you see a green circle. Rinse, and then repeat.
There’s even several areas with sliding sections straight out of the Xbox 360 era, complete with instant death and lack of save points. This isn’t a welcome throwback. Much like the combat, the challenge doesn’t come from intention, but rather the lack of polish.
While I can count how many times in combat I died, I cannot count how many times during the platforming sections.
One level saw the grapple pull me towards the ring, instead of swinging below it. This caused me to repeatedly fall to my deaths. And while this is just a bug, I also had instances where platforms failed to start falling until after I’d already jumped in their direction. I was trapped in the environment multiple times and couldn’t escape.
These issues might be fixed by the day one patch. I wouldn’t count on it, though.
Not the top performer
Shadow Warrior 3It has chosen a different style of art than its predecessors. The brighter colour palette was appreciated, especially at the higher levels. Overall, however, I found the visuals difficult to distinguish due to the blurring of all the colours. The last thing you want when you’re fighting for your life is to be confused as to what’s happening on screen.
This is also due in part to the game’s graphics and performance. Playing on PC, I noticed consistent stuttering and texture pop-in. Also, low frame rates. This is disappointing considering the game was made for last-gen consoles.
Even with NVIDIA DLSS enabled, the game ran badly at times.
And it isn’t down to demanding graphics. Shadow Warrior 3 is a very minor upgrade to the previous titles in terms of fidelity, and those weren’t particularly impressive for their time.
I experienced some improvement in performance over the course of the review, but still felt stuttering especially when trying to start new levels.
Annoyances or bonuses
Before I wrap things up though, I wanted to touch upon some minor annoyances and positives that didn’t warrant their own sections in this review.
I thought we had moved on from the days when games could not have cutscenes paused. I was wrong. Be careful when pressing buttons lest you accidentally miss one.
The dialogue during gameplay also won’t repeat if you die, so if you fall off of a platform, you’ll miss that section of the story entirely.
The music is strong throughout the game. A highlight is the boss fight against the Ancient Cock. You read that right.
It does a great job of wrapping up the trilogy. I wouldn’t call it satisfying, but it doesn’t have any major cliffhangers like the last game.
Shadow Warrior 3It feels like a game that should’ve launched a decade ago. It feels like a step up from the previous game in some ways but also two steps back. It’s been six years since the last title, and that doesn’t show. This doesn’t feel like a game born out of passion for the series. It feels more like a game born from expectation.
If we’re going by the rule of three, this should have been the funniest game in the series. Perhaps that was too high a bar for Lo Wang.
Image credit: Devolver Digital