Packed with flashy violence, Flying Wild Hog’s sequel could have done with more unique missions.
As the sequel to a remake of a cult classic FPS, Flying Wild Hog’s Shadow Warrior 2 is an irreverent hack and slash/shoot-a-thon laced with pop-culture references along with heaps of violence. In other strides, it borrows elements from loot-based games, doling out different colour-graded upgrades, Elite and Superior enemies and the ability to customize one’s character set-up. There’s a fair amount of open world doled in too with side-missions and the ability to free roam through recently visited levels.
It’s all very exciting and helped along by an intentionally cheesy intro where protagonist Lo Wang is driving his classy car through a forest, Stan Bush’s The Touch blaring on the radio as demons and monsters rise up. Shadow Warrior 2, much like its predecessor, lets you manage a katana as deftly as an SMG or revolver. You’ll be dodging and weaving from side to side while peppering enemies. There’s a ton of bravado and pizzazz on display. It helps to mask Shadow Warrior 2‘s weaknesses and present its old-school design in a fun light. However, even with its numerous systems and wild violence, there’s a fair bit of uninspired gameplay that holds the game back.
"Shadow Warrior 2‘s plot doesn’t take itself too seriously but it does play things a little too straight."
Lo Wang returns and he’s the same smack-talking, foul-mouthed bad-ass that we remember. Wang is tasked with recovering a valuable relic of sorts from a baddie-infested forest. This serves as the game’s tutorial level and familiarizes you with the movement and combat mechanics. From there, you’ll become embroiled in a mission to rescue Kamiko, who’s working undercover with unsavoury scientist Orochi Zilla, all while combating increasing waves of demons. Oh and there are Yakuza warriors, Shade addicts and cyborg gun-fu soldiers also out to get you.
Shadow Warrior 2‘s plot doesn’t take itself too seriously but it does play things a little too straight. While story events tend to be outlandish – including but not limited to Kamiko’s body becoming corrupted and her soul transplanted into Wang for “safe keeping”, thus resulting in a weird but charming romantic angle – this isn’t quite as compelling as the 80s and its grindhouse/action movie style story-telling. You just learn to roll with the punches, pick up the necessary information and progress ahead after a point.
The cut scenes are littered with banter between characters and while some of it is endearing, there are times you’d want to skip through the dialogue. Unfortunately, you’ll have to skip the cut scene as a whole. Thankfully, while the dialogue can become a little long-winded at times, the voice acting is mostly on point. Lo Wang is obviously the star with his clever quips and one-liners. You’d think he’d be all dirty jokes but Wang almost comes off as an African-Asian Deadpool of sorts, which has its own niche appeal. Bit players like Kamiko, Master Smith and Xing (who has one of the funnier exchanges with Wang later on) also perform very well.
Shadow Warrior 2 is comprised of story missions at first but after returning with Kamiko to Smith’s hideout, it’s possible to undertake a variety of different side missions. Once a mission is completed, you can enter a free roam version to cut down enemies and scour for more loot. Weapons are plentiful and range from the Chainsaw to a pair of dual katana with ranged slashes. A pair of demon claws can be equipped for melee combat while shotguns (automatic and pump action), assault rifles, dual SMGs and bow-and-arrow are featured for long range fighting. These weapons can drop as mission completion rewards or from defeating unique enemies.
"You’ll be slicing, dicing, shooting and demolishing your way through waves upon waves of foes."
It’s not odd to discover a better katana than the one you already own but Shadow Warrior 2 paces its weapon drops to be more in line with an FPS than a loot shooter. The same applies for its Chi abilities, which are essentially the magic spells used to assist Wang in combat. These are fairly typical and range from a force blast with your palm to vanishing into thin air or recovering health. As these level up with skill points, you can gain other bonuses like a force wave ground smash or increased damage for your spinning slash.
The loot aspects are much more prevalent when it comes to Gems. Killing Elite or Superior enemies, looting chests or even summoning a Bunny Demonlord once enough rabbits have been massacred (don’t ask) all have a chance to drop Gems for bestowing different effects on your weapons. These range from various elemental damage types to armour upgrades (such as increased karma gain and HP or Chi regeneration), increased crit chance, health on kill, damage resistance for double kills and much more. The choice can be pretty overwhelming at times so it helps that the more potent Gems are colour-coded – with orange being higher grade and white being the lowest tier – to ease the decision making.
Shadow Warrior 2 makes no bones about what these upgrades, weapons and skill upgrades are for though. You’ll be slicing, dicing, shooting and demolishing your way through waves upon waves of foes. Some of them like Superior foes possess different resistances and weaknesses, prompting you to switch weapons during the fight. There’s a decent amount of variety in attacks – the Elite mech which emphasized long-range shock rounds was equally dangerous up close but easier to deal with thanks to parrying – but many Superior foes tend to fall into the same mid-battle tactic. This is essentially summoning a few henchmen which must be cut down to bring the boss back into the fight. Suffice to say, it gets old fairly quick.
"The melee combat can take some getting used to but soon you’ll be pulling off stabs and cyclone slashes with ease."
The level design offers some verticality and some openness for a bit of non-linear exploration but it’s nothing major. When sent to “deliver a message” to a drug dealer, for example, you’ll still be confined to a fairly linear path even if you have to ascend rooftops to reach the mission marker. Double jumping and ledge climbing are essential to these tasks though they’re not major game changes to the overall exploration and flow of a level. Most times, it’s just a matter of jumping to a higher vantage point, easily accomplished by grabbing a ledge somewhere. Not all ledges can be grabbed and not all rooftops can be ascended so you’ll know when you’re not going the right way in a hurry.
You may be sick and tired of hearing about the same repetitive missions in a game, especially one with elements like Shadow Warrior 2. But it’s just kind of disappointing that for all the outlandish things that are incorporated into this universe that the missions themselves would be so unoriginal. I’m not understating the appeal of fighting cyborg ninjas and demons, their limbs forming a storm of blood and glory, but surely there could have been some more variety to the mission design? Going on fetch quests or “head here, kill this thing/person” tends to become a grind after a point. It also doesn’t help that the side missions are as one-note in their objectives as the story missions. They’re fairly meaty and dole out cool rewards at the very least, plus there’s more opportunity to slice things.
Shadow Warrior 2‘s combat does a lot to mitigate that grind though. The melee combat can take some getting used to but soon you’ll be pulling off stabs and cyclone slashes with ease. Wang’s attacks can be charged, prompting more powerful versions of the above attacks, and things become even more interesting when you mix in dashing and Chi techniques. Battles become brutal clusters with explosive barrels going off, demonic spikes rising from the ground, spinning slices, rockets and much more. Parrying felt better left to the larger foes and that too during one-on-one encounters. Thank the lord that dashing around and slicing/shooting/spellbinding anything that moves is fun and varied enough.
"Single-player fans interested in some old-school FPS action won’t be disappointed with Shadow Warrior 2‘s flashy gore."
The visuals in Shadow Warrior 2 are a very mixed bag. Admittedly, the environmental design looks good, putting an interesting if limited spin on the age-old forests with traditional huts and buildings. Even the sci-fi dystopian city looks pretty good as it mixes surveillance with over-bearing neon advertising and obnoxious lighting. Character models are decidedly less impressive though – the facial animation is limited and features like hair and clothing seem like they’re behind the times.
The gore and decapitation, not to mention the explosions and weapon animation, are very good as are some of the enemy designs and their correlating animations. You won’t have a hard time distinguishing the D.O.L.L.s from other robotic foes, be it in their movements or attack patterns. This helps to offset some similarities between enemy types (especially of the insectoid variety). Performance-wise, Shadow Warrior 2 runs very well but could have used more polish. In one instance, Lo Wang was stuck on a corner in the environment and I had to reload from a previous save. During a cut scene, the lighting from a nearby lamp was glitching out. These glitches aren’t extremely common but they’re not exactly rare either.
Shadow Warrior 2 is another interesting potpourri of concepts and ideas from Flying Wild Hog. Its success is very uneven – the combat, skills, range of upgrades and characterization is handled well enough but the experience falters due to repetitive and uninspired mission design, typical story-telling, a few glitches and the same typical boss fights. As a whole, the experience has a ton of potential for co-op as you and your friends hop around, dismantling an entire range of enemies with chainsaw katana. Single-player fans interested in some old-school FPS action won’t be disappointed with Shadow Warrior 2‘s flashy gore. Now if only there was enough meat to go along with it and provide lasting appeal.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Combat provides a strong amount of weapon variety and upgrades. Alternating between melee combat and Chi spells can be great fun. Wang is a fun character to play as. Decent variety between enemies. In terms of simple hack and slash FPS action, the missions are serviceable.
Glitches from time to time. Repetitive missions with the same objectives and back-tracking can feel boring. Not enough variety outside of the combat mechanics. Linear navigation through levels despite increased vertical space. Some visual aspects, like character models, can't compare to the environmental design.
Decidedly old-school but feeling a bit uninspired, Shadow Warrior 2 is fun for some straightforward co-op action. It could have been more but what's there is good enough.