There was a time, a time before you were asked to gaze into the Nietzchean abyss in Bioshock, cradle a dying child in the Last of Us, or grimly realize the self destructive nature of man in Metro: Last Light.
That was all you really needed from your video game was a rock hard action, a healthy dose of emotion and an endless amount of blood. Now, here we have Shadow Warrior a quiet shelf sitter of a title.
Taking the mantle of Lou Wang, the most innuendo laden anti-hero of our time, was a pleasure. The game wastes no time in injecting you into the action, after a brief, albeit beautifully rendered cut scene, you take control our hero and do your best to reassemble a mythical god slaying katana, accompanied by a wise cracking spirit side kick.
Embracing old school shooter mechanics, you may hold all of your weapons at the same time, reload times are quick, the weapons are so accurate and easy to handle that it doesn’t take much adjusting between them and the concept of hiding and taking cover is laughable. This is a game that wants you to kill, kill easily, kill often and have a lot of fun doing it.
Convincing, responsive first person swordplay in a game has always been a challenge, but Shadow Warrior does an admirable job of it, with the Katanas slicing motion keyed to your analogue stick, and enemies which can be disemboweled, de-limbed and beheaded at your leisure.
While the Katana strikes aren’t as detailed and precise as say, Metal Gear Revengence, it’s still a joy carving your way through the demonic hordes.
To be honest, once you have upgraded your katana sufficiently it becomes almost pointless to use any of the guns as the game is quite clearly weighted toward swordplay, this is however, not really a negative as the swordplay is so much fun.
PS4’s touch pad, a feature I often feel is underutilised, comes into its own by providing an alternative to the standard controls for activating your powers, which are clumsy and awkward, by making it simple to swipe in a direction and pull the trigger to activate different abilities.
The RPG elements are surprisingly deep also, with various wonderfully animated skill trees for you to fill in, and “Chi” powers to channel as well as upgrades to purchase for your various firearms.
These upgrades are purchased with cash, XP and Ki crystals.
All of these things may be gained by exploring the level and gathering collectables and the sheer size of each stage is often impressive. Levels are filled with secrets to explore and collect, giving you good reason to take your time poking through every nook and cranny.
However the games embracing of history is not always to its merit. The lack of any form of map or quest arrow may appeal to die hard fans but in practice its mostly just frustrating to have to back track over large sections of the map in order to find the correct path, particularly when you’re being encouraged to explore everywhere you can.
The graphics in the game are impressive, not because of a hyper realistic engine, but in spite of it.
While peering too close to any particular object or human model will inevitably exposes you to less than appealing textures, however what the game does wonderfully is create beautiful environments with the graphical power they have.
Lighting is particularly well done, moonlight through Sakura blossoms or the vista of an ancient temple as you approach it are rendered spectacularly and give rise to many great set pieces throughout the meaty campaign.
It is however, a game of disconnects. It’s like there were two radically different writers sitting in separate rooms, trying to create a story, and they both brought what they had made at the end of the day and forced the two narratives together.
The cut scenes are wonderful, water colour affairs that tell an over arching, surprisingly well constructed fantasy tale. It is therefore jarring to be thrust from these scenes into shameless genital related humour from Lou Wang.
While there is nothing wrong with the game unashamedly being crass in parts, as its predecessor was, it becomes a little grating when juxtaposed against the main story arc which is so different tonally.
Shadow Warrior is an imperfect but exceptionally enjoyable throwback to a time where games took themselves a little less seriously, despite a few hiccups mechanically, the game manages to deliver the kind of fun that the last Duke Nukem wishes it had and is worth every cent of its price tag.
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