Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: July 18, 2017
Shadow Warrior 2 is a first-person shooter available as a limited edition retail release from Special Reserve Games including a numbered Shadow Warrior 1 and 2 disc, bonus Steam keys for both games on PC and numbered Kanji of Empowerment hand-painted artwork, although it is limited to a pressing of only 2,500, while a larger scale premium retail release was issued in Flying Wild Hog’s home country of Poland and it is also available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Shadow Warrior 2 is a sequel to the re-make of a game that was originally released on May 13th 1997 and developed by the legendary 3D Realms which was clearly inspired in its direction by their previous smash hit Duke Nukem 3D having released on January 29th 1996. Shadow Warrior 2 is developed by Flying Wild Hog who is building an excellent reputation of crafting fun, old-school first-person shooters having also created the Shadow Warrior re-make and Hard Reset Redux. Can Shadow Warrior 2 retain the quality set by Flying Wild Hog’s high benchmark from its precursor and Hard Reset Redux?
The story picks up five years after the end of the prequel in which Lo Wang’s best intentions resulted in producing an outlandish world in which humans and demonic monsters co-exist within habitats. Lo Wang lives amongst the wildlands out of range from his enemies as he works as a hired sword for the Yakuza clans in the surrounding areas, although when a mission goes terribly wrong; Lo Wang has to recommence his battle against evil.
Shadow Warrior 2 is structured quite differently in comparison to its predecessor as there is a HUB in which you can meet characters that require you to complete jobs for them and a bounty board listing additional jobs. When Lo Wang accepts a job; it is added to a map that also lists objectives, therefore story missions are joined by side missions and bounties in which a side mission or bounty can be chosen ahead of a story mission, alongside the ability to free roam throughout environments where missions had already been completed which provides further variety and increases the freshness of gameplay.
The challenges feature provides 64 challenges to overcome throughout the campaign mode including killing 2,500 enemies, shattering 100 frozen enemies, collecting 100 legendary upgrades, collecting 10,000 orbs of Masamune, collecting 10,000,000 zillyen and finding 50 secrets, while on the road to completing the game with the challenges feature including a rather helpful breakdown of how close or far away you are on from achieving each challenge.
There is a vast quantity of weaponry including swords, short blades, light firearms, shotguns, launchers, projectiles and specials. Every weapon has its own unique attributes including damage per second, damage, rate, clip size, clip reload time, miss rate and damage radius. Certain weapons have additional attack or defensive capabilities such as the Z45 Katana providing Lo Wang with 75% damage resistance for 10 seconds when killing two enemies simultaneously, while Deck-ARD offers a 30% damage increase for 5 seconds after killing an enemy through a weakspot hit; Hammershot increases the fire rate by 50% for 10 seconds after killing two enemies simultaneously; the Yumi bow produces a 5% probability of turning the enemy into a rabbit upon hitting the enemy; alongside the Chainsaw supplying a 25% increase in damage to small enemies; and much more besides. A standout weapon for sci-fi fans has to be the Deck-ARD chi-plasma revolver designed for hunting rogue androids in a clear homage to the character Rick Deckard from Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sleep which inspired Harrison Ford’s portrayal of the character in the 1982 and 2017 film adaptations Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049.
Upgrades involve collecting gems which are usually dropped by defeated enemies that can be utilised to improve weaponry, abilities and armour statistics, although weaponry as well as upgrades and perks can be purchased in exchange for in-game currency at Larry’s Shoot Shack and Kobadera Ninja Shop respectively with both shops located on Dragon Mountain. Upgrades are categorised such as Robust Aspect of Eagle being a weapons upgrade providing 5.7% increased damage resistance and a 10% damage increase to small enemies; Mighty Essence is a fire modes upgrade which empowers a charge shot albeit the charging time depends on the fire rate with an 84% increase in maximum damage and a 32% increase in maximum damage radius, although not every statistic will improve after applying an upgrade as there are some tradeoffs between the positives and negatives such as the chances of missing increasing by 174% and loading time also increasing by 144%, while further upgrade categories include ammo, elemental, armour, amulets, powers and multiplayer.
Abilities make a welcome return as they are capable of significantly changing up the gameplay beyond being just another first-person shooter when players master them, although chi is required before powers can be cast. Abilities include Call for Medic increasing the chances of defeated enemies dropping medikits; Sting provides a powerful melee attack; Vanish is an ancient ninja technique allowing for stealth whilst hiding your presence; Chi-Blast transforms chi into a powerful energy blast; Grip of Darkness summons demonic spikes from the depths of the shadow realm; Chi Mastery increases the maximum quantity of chi; Karma Harvester increases the amount of gained karma; and much more besides.
Killing enemies earns karma which is the equivalent to XP as karma is required to level up which is important as levelling up will grant a skill point. Skill points can be assigned to improve Lo Wang’s knowledge and performance of each specific skill based ability within life, warrior, powers, elemental and resource categories. Players will be told when selecting a mission if it could potentially be too hard at that moment due to not having levelled up enough which is certainly a positive user friendly gameplay design choice.
Lo Wang returns as tongue in cheek yet heroic as before, while the enemy design is as varied as the prequel. There are dozens of enemies including the Yakuza; mutated species such as venomous spiders, giant scorpions and rats the size of dogs; demonic monsters such as the Serpentaur that always attack in herds, agile demonic ninjas known as Spectre, a heavily armoured yet fast paced samurai named Toro and an evil Bunny Lord that is the complete opposite of normal bunnies; and even Zilla’s cyber division who mostly look reminiscent of Robocop prototypes.
Environment design is as incredible as its prequel with superb attention to detail throughout the temples, forests, city and village streets, Zilla’s futuristic facilities and even Lo Wang’s new home, amongst many more environments, while secret passages sometimes lead to secret areas containing developer, game and film references. Destructible environments are extremely well constructed to a point of strategically placing destructible objects within a certain radius of each other in order to set off a chain reaction of explosions that you can lure enemies into by getting their attention, making them follow you and perfectly timing when you shoot at the destructible object. The destructible objects include lights, tables, chairs, cushions, glass, wood, signs, bicycles, cars, scooters, trucks, electricity boxes, potted fire lanterns, explosive barrels, boxes and carts full of fireworks and much more besides with each destructible object having its own reaction such as the electricity boxes sending out a huge blast of electricity and proceeding to electrocute anyone or anything standing nearby, while when the boxes or carts full of fireworks are shot at they all set off in a huge display of light and colour that will really hurt enemies, alongside cars, trucks, scooters, potted fire lanterns and explosive barrels which all have a huge impact and will most likely result in immediately killing multiple enemies.
There are a variety of collectibles including archive news, diaries, lab notes, legends and much more besides spread throughout multiple parts that each provides back-story and opinions from the perspective of different characters.
Shadow Warrior’s Duke Nukem and Serious Sam inspired humour returns in a variety of areas including Easter Eggs such as a secret passage just off stage through a door in Wang Cave that Lo Wang spawns near to in the HUB leads to a secret room dedicated to everyone at Flying Wild Hog, a small flyer for the original Shadow Warrior from 1997 and even a homage to Horcrux Cave from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Arcades include references to a number of games published by Devolver Digital such as Hotline Miami and Serious Sam as well as Flying Wild Hog’s Hard Reset as gameplay and audio clips are playing on a number of the arcade machines which certainly provide a few laughs. There are over 100 fortune cookies hidden throughout the environments which contains some funny quotes such as “You will find a fortune cookie”, “Don’t gobblefunk around with words” by Roald Dahl and “If you think this universe is bad, you should see some of the others” by Philip K. Dick. There are many amusing moments within the dialogue including Lo Wang revealing to his employer that he knows Smith as he is his mechanic and has repaired his car a few dozen times which is a fun reference as monsters usually attack Lo Wang’s car, while another scene sees Smith asking Lo Wang if a possessed woman can stay with him to which his response is that he has a futon and asks why she cannot stay with Smith instead.
Photo mode allows players to be very creative by taking stylistic images of in-game scenery and action via a wide range of customisable features including camera, depth of field, bloom, vignette, SSAO, shadow tint, image settings and image effects that comprise of dozens of settings; accompanied by the ability to pan the camera freely or lock to the first-person camera from Lo Wang’s perspective and slow or fast play forward which collectively perfectly compliments the share feature.
The extras menu consists of an artbook, movies and credits with the artbook containing numerous images available for viewing, while the movies provide intros and teaser trailers, alongside stylistically presented credits to showcase the talents of those who worked on the development and release of the game.
In a positive move; Shadow Warrior 2 developer Flying Wild Hog released all downloadable content for free on PC, while all of the post-launch PC content is immediately integrated within the home console ports including The Way of the Wang and Bounty Hunt: Part 1 combining to offer over a dozen new missions and further improvements such as new crafting modes. Bounty Hunt’s title clearly showcases the developer’s intention to support Shadow Warrior 2 with fresh new missions and gameplay elements at least a fair amount of time beyond the release of the home console ports which will hopefully include the return of the much requested survival mode.
Shadow Warrior 2’s remote play performance between graphics, audio and general performance is mostly good, although it does seem susceptible to frame-rate drops during intensive action when there are many enemies on-screen combined with stormy weather conditions. Remote play performance is not as well refined as its prequel as the controls are inappropriately optimised with shooting and aiming re-mapped to the bottom right and left of the touch screen respectively resulting in players having to stretch their thumbs between moving and aiming on the left side, alongside firing and looking around on the right side which makes no sense when comparing an unnecessary uncomfortable remote play control scheme to simply pressing R and L to fire and aim respectively in the prequel. Elsewhere, sprinting is mapped to the left of the rear touch pad, performing chi-blast has moved to the right of the rear touch pad and the touch pad being naturally represented by the centre of the touch screen.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to perform a primary attack with a sword or gun; pressing L2 to perform a secondary attack or aim a primary attack; pressing R1 to dash forward; holding L1 to display the weapon selection wheel or pressing L1 to select your most recent melee weapon; pressing X to jump or pressing X twice in quick succession to double jump; pressing triangle to select your previous ranged weapon; pressing square to reload, unlock a door or chest, pickup or use an item; pressing O to crouch; pressing up on the d-pad to perform a Grip of Darkness ability; pressing left on the d-pad to perform a Healing Flame ability; pressing right on the d-pad to perform a Vanish ability; pressing down on the d-pad to perform a Shadow Fury ability; pressing L3 to sprint; pressing R3 to perform a chi-blast; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to look around the surrounding environments; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad to toggle between a smaller map and a larger map or holding the touch pad to teleport, while the light bar produces varying tones of green, orange, yellow and red in representation of Lo Wang’s health, alongside vibration which occurs when firing a rapid fire weapon such as the uzi or when being attacked by an enemy.
The L2 and R2 button layout re-maps primary attack from R2 to L2, while secondary attack and zooming heads from L2 to R2, alongside an additional buttons layout which re-configures the weapons wheel or selecting last melee weapon from L1 to R1 and dashing from R1 to L1. The left-handed sticks layout control configuration swaps around the left and right analogue sticks; therefore moving Lo Wang with the left analogue stick and sprinting with L3 switches to the right analogue stick and R3, while looking around with the right analogue stick becomes the left analogue stick and performing a chi-blast with R3 changes to L3. Alternative control schemes are an extremely positive design choice as it certainly allows players from different games within the first-person shooter genre to find the most comfortable control scheme that suits their play style.
Graphically, Shadow Warrior 2 is better than its spectacular looking prequel such as foliage falling from trees, improved water effects during dynamic weather, liquids and waterfalls, while mostly looking and performing to an excellent standard on PS4 in its own right. Upon its release in 2014, Shadow Warrior on PS4 run at an impressive 60 frames-per-second with only occasional screen-tearing, but rather oddly Shadow Warrior 2 performs at half of that with 30 frames-per-second, albeit with consistent performance and no frame-rate drops. However, since Shadow Warrior released on home consoles; there have been technical innovations that are not present in the home console ports of Shadow Warrior 2. For instance, there is no HDR support on PS4 or PS4 Pro, while there are no graphical or performance enhancements on PS4 Pro which is disappointing; especially when considering that the PC version includes 60 frames-per-second performance, up to 4K resolution, HDR support and better textures in some areas.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the title menu, main menu, single player menus, online multiplayer menus, challenges menu, options menus, extras menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The title menu is as epic as they come with blood running down a sword as a golden dragon emerges, while the background of every menu thereafter depicts a character taking a selfie during the decapitation of a monster or Lo Wang driving his favourite car.
Jason Liebrecht returns to provide another excellent performance as lead character Lo Wang by injecting a significant amount of comedy to Lo Wang’s dialogue; having previously voiced Abel and Shadaloo in Street Fighter V, Abel and Chef in every Street Fighter IV, Bane, Eclipso and Hawkman in DC Universe Online, Mordecai in Borderlands 2 and Tales from the Borderlands; amongst other videogames as well as numerous English voice-overs for Japanese anime including Dragon Ball Z, Full Metal Alchemist, One Piece, Tsubasa amongst many more. Elizabeth Maxwell is introduced as Kamiko and Ameonna having previously voiced Jane Foster and Jane Foster in a Thor guise in LEGO Marvel’s Avengers, Sae Nijima in Persona 5, Juli in Street Fighter V, Phoebe in Battleborn, female time patroller in Dragon Ball: Xenoverse 1 and 2 and Riju and Urbose in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Further returning voice-over artists include Lowell Bartholomee voicing Xing, Eugene Lee as Zilla, Jennymarie Jemison voices Kyoko and Kelli Bland as Kagami, alongside more voice-over artists voicing new characters.
Sound effects includes Lo Wang firing his weapons, henchmen firing their weaponry at Lo Wang, demonic enemies using their various powers and attacks aimed in your direction, explosions, monsters screaming as they prepare to attack and Lo Wang’s pulsating heart rate when low on health as well as ambient sound effects such as foliage rustling in the wind and dynamic weather conditions that breathe more life into the surrounding environments, alongside a fusion of ancient oriental and rock music. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which is surprising as it could have realistically produced Lo Wang’s dialogue and Kamiko’s dialogue or possibly ambient sound effects or screaming from nearby demonic enemies to layer the atmosphere of the audio.
The trophy list includes 39 trophies with 25 bronze trophies, 9 silver trophies, 4 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Junior Hitman bronze trophy, Executioner bronze trophy and Call Me Wang, Lo Wang silver trophy for killing 100, 500 and 2,500 enemies, alongside all of the trophies focused on killing a particular quantity of enemies with specific moves as there are more than enough enemies to kill throughout each playthrough on any difficulty level. Harder trophies include the Insane Wang gold trophy for completing the game on No Pain No Gain difficulty; the Ancient Chinese Secrets silver trophy for finding all 50 secrets; and the Way of Masumune gold trophy for collecting 10,000 orbs of Masumune. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 30 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are upwards of four difficulty levels including Tiny Grasshopper which is the easiest difficulty, normal difficulty referred to as I Have No Fear, hard difficulty known as Who Wants Wang and insane difficulty named No Pain No Gain. The easiest difficulty reduces damage received by 50%, increases the amount of consumables such as health and ammo and only issues a small penalty after Lo Wang dies in comparison to the normal difficulty which reinstates a normal 100% damage ratio, a standard amount of consumables, a regular penalty after dying and normal enemies receiving up to 50% restoration of their health. The major differences between normal and hard difficulty levels include a 40% increase in damage received, enemies having 40% more health as well as stronger auras and higher elemental resistance, an increased quantity of special enemies, less health and ammo to consume, a heavier penalty after Lo Wang dies as normal enemies have complete health restoration and special enemies receive up to 50% of their health restored, better loot and he benefits from gaining 50% more experience. Insane difficulty 1 increases damage received by 90%, 70% more health for enemies in addition to them having strongest auras and highest elemental resistance, a larger quantity of special enemies, even less health and ammo consumables and a hefty penalty after Lo Wang dies as every enemy will have their health entirely restored, although the risk and reward factor is brought to the forefront by offering the best loot and gaining 150% more experience. However, the big twist of the insane difficulty level is that it gradually becomes harder with more aggressive enemies as each playthrough on insane difficulty is completed, therefore delivering an ever-changing dynamic difficulty level which from a technical point of view actually takes Shadow Warrior 2 beyond four difficulty levels.
Players can browse active online multiplayer lobbies set within each of the four difficulty levels before joining a game with up to three other players in online co-operative multiplayer which performs identically to the single player and in a fashion that is truly reminiscent of Borderlands; contains the entirety of the single player gameplay throughout every story, side and bounty mission. There are four character models to choose from the multiplayer options menu which can be customised by selecting a colour for their clothing with exception to Dallas as he wears the same mask as he does in Payday 2.
Surprisingly, there is no competitive multiplayer which could have had 12 players or more within Lo Wang’s humorous takes on Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill and more besides. Furthermore, there is no offline split-screen multiplayer which could have seen two player co-operative multiplayer for all missions and two players with customisable bots for all of the competitive modes that online multiplayer could have included.
Replayability is stronger in comparison to the previous Shadow Warrior due to the introduction of online co-operative multiplayer for up to four players and an expanded upgrades system for weapons, abilities and armour with XP and levelling up leading to skill points for abilities, complimented by an entertaining story with fresh additions of side and bounty missions, alongside collectibles mostly focused on back-story, challenges, numerous secrets and references to find scattered throughout environments, more than four difficulty levels including an ever increasing challenge from each playthrough on insane difficulty and the inclusion of free downloadable content which collectively provides dozens of hours of replay value.
• Title: Shadow Warrior 2
• Developer: Flying Wild Hog
• Publisher: Devolver Digital
• System: PS4
• Format: Limited Edition Retail/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1/2-4 (Online Co-operative Multiplayer)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 7.05GB (Version 1.03)