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Shadow Warrior 3 Review: "A Bombastic Experience"`

Shadow Warrior 3 Review: "A Bombastic Experience"`
Images via Devolver Digital

Written by 

Tarran Stockton

Posted 

1st Mar 2022 11:48

The past decade has seen a rebirth of the type of retro shooters that dominated the 1990s, with both reboots of once popular franchises, and new titles making their mark on the genre. Shadow Warrior falls in the former category, and while they bizarrely deviated from the formula with the last title to make a co-op looter shooter, this third game is a return to form. It feels more focused than before, and the gameplay is massively improved due to this, but as a full package, how does it all pan out?

Loser Wang

Shadow Warrior 3 review: Loser Wang
Click to enlarge

Shadow Warrior 3 jumps right into the thick of it, with the first level taking place on the back of a giant dragon that has brought about the apocalypse on Earth. The mission goes disastrously for protagonist Lo Wang, who loses his mojo as he fails to defeat the dragon. Fast-forward three months, and he's fell into a depression, sat in his hideout lamenting his failure to save the world while telling the tale to his makeshift dolls and the mask of his dead frenemy - Hoji. Before long, one of Wang's old enemies from the previous games, Zilla, walks in, and they agree to team up and take on the dragon together. 

It's a very simple and effective hook, and while it helps to be familiar with the characters, the game does a good job of establishing their antagonistic and heavily contrasting relationship. Lo Wang is more of a Duke Nukem than a Doomguy, and the game is full of moments where he cracks jokes, throws out one-liners, and sings passionately. The problem is, it's rarely funny and he comes across very unlikeable.

Much of it is low-brow humour about dragon's farting, and Wang's own remixes of popular songs, such as "it's raining demons."  While the verbal humour can be eye-rolling, there are a lot of great visual gags and slapstick moments that match the game's tone perfectly. The introduction of the Oni Hanma enemy is a solid example, as it attempts to gracefully descend a tower only to slip and fall as the music cuts, and it plants on the floor. 

It's also worth noting the new voice actor for Wang struggles to really embody the character to begin with, coming off quite flat, though both his performance and the jokes do improve in quality as the game continues.

Guns And Gore 

Shadow Warrior 3 review: Guns and gore
Click to enlarge

The core of Shadow Warrior's gameplay revolves around combat and platforming, and there's a heavy influence from DOOM 2016 and Eternal that can be felt across many of the mechanics. The platforming in particular is incredibly smooth, with frequent sections that see you wall run, grapple, and slide across vast chasms and up mountains. Some of these set pieces really challenge your mobility skills, and they break up the constant stream of combat to provide breathers that still remain intense and don't hamper the flow.

Combat is the real draw though, with excellent pacing that ramps up the intensity and challenges of each encounter as you move through the experience, making each hour of gameplay better than the last. At the beginning there are only a few basic enemies to deal with, but you are quickly introduced to new enemy types, weapons, and mechanics.

One particular mechanic of note is the gore weapon system. It acts similar to DOOM's glory kills, letting you get up close and personal to instantly murder an enemy. The difference is, instead of regaining health, you gain a special weapon from the body of the downed Yokai, ranging from ice grenades, firework miniguns, and samurai swords. It adds a new dimension to the combat, giving you new options for the destruction of your demons foes.

It's also worth noting that the enemy design is top-class across the board here, relating to both the standard enemies you'll fight throughout, and the couple of boss fights that occur in key story moments. 

 

On The Shorter Side

Shadow Warrior 3 review: On the shorter side
Click to enlarge

Despite the sheer quality of the combat experience on offer, the game felt roughly a mission too short. It takes around five and a half hours from beginning to end, and while this prevents the game overstaying its welcome and is beneficial to the pacing, at the end you're left wanting more.

However, it's made difficult for players who want to revisit the game, as there is no new game plus mode or an option to select chapters, meaning you have to restart entirely to play more. The lack of a horde mode is also disappointing, as it's become a standard feature for many retro-inspired shooters, and do a lot for replayability.

Lo Wang's Comeback

Shadow Warrior 3 review: Lo Wang's Comeback
Click to enlarge

Shadow Warrior 3 is a great return to form for Flying Wild Hog, and a much-needed comeback for the series after the middling reception of the second game. While the gameplay can falter early on due to the lack of challenge and intensity, it soon ramps up to create a bombastic experience that beautifully borrows from retro and modern shooter design. While your mileage may vary on the game's sense of humour, and the full package feels a little underdeveloped due to a lack of replayability - it's undeniably a whole heap of fun.

 

7/10

Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.

 

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