Shadow Warrior 3 – A Second Opinion

Sometimes the team just wants to talk about games, even games we have already reviewed. Such is the case with Shadow Warrior 3. Hope Corrigan put forward a fantastic review of Flying Wild Hog’s latest and who are we to stop her? Enjoy it and go back and read Matt’s review if you still need some more Wang. 

Shadow Warrior 3 - A Second Opinion

Videogames are an ever-evolving media. Gone are the days of the once simple line and pixel drawings and basic Pong and platformers. Instead, video games are an ever-expanding number of experiences. The interactivity uniquely positions them to put us literally in the shoes of protagonists, overcome their trials and experience, if only in a small way their adversity. It’s a truly growing art form that will surely give us greater ways to connect with each other and the world at large.

But sometimes, I’m still looking for a good stupid fun pew pew time and gosh does Shadow Warrior 3 deliver. Not so much on the other touchy-feely stuff, that’s not really this game’s schtick. Instead, you have a fast-paced first-person action platforming shooter with a beautiful palette and a dirty mouth. If I met this game in a bar, I think I’d fall in love.

The third in the series, you play as protagonist Lo Wang, a fast-talking hitman who’s always tangled up in magical events he can’t even begin to comprehend. Wang is a big dummy who says a lot of stupid stuff that may or may not make you laugh depending. He uses the word Wang a lot. Honestly, Lo Wang is probably half of my male friends back in High School so the desire to high five and punch him both come in equal measure. 

Wang’s skills as a platforming assassin are legit, unlike all of my high school friends. The first person free-running is satisfying and forgiving, making for a lot of fun manic jumping around. Vibrant green plants and other markings do a good job of obviously pointing out surfaces you can cling to. Your jump, double jump, dash, and wall run skills are all at your disposal relatively quickly, and it’s really quite exhilarating to parkour around the breathtaking Japanese inspired environments.

There’s a really nice pacing between free-running through set challenge paths and then entering heavy combat in arenas. These arenas will also have your parkour facilitators dotted around, allowing you to jump and swing mid-fight while shooting at the wacky array of demons. The fights are crazy fast-paced and full of action. Your main melee sword cuts through enemies with a satisfying slash and helps provide ammo for the slue of guns you’re set to unlock. Shooting enemies will earn you back health, so there’s also a balance to be found between the weapons and when you have it working right, all going to the seriously cool soundtrack you almost feel as cool as Wang thinks he is.

The downside to these arena fights is my old 1080 PC just can’t handle them. I’ve tried so many different settings, even turning everything right down to low and I’m yet to have a fight that doesn’t stutter with a few enemies on screen. On higher resolutions Shadow Warrior 3 straight up wouldn’t recognise my clicks all the time, leading to many frustrating deaths. It has gotten better since dropping it right down, but it’s still not great and I shouldn’t have to be playing on 1080p or below and low and still have a jittery experience. 

It was so bad it had me stuck in one part of the game because false clicks had me convinced a barrier couldn’t be destroyed by gunshot. I had tried multiple times and it wasn’t until I borrowed a PC with a 2090 in it and played with a controller that I managed to destroy what was in my way and move forward. Though it still seemed to struggle with large groups of enemies on the new machine, generally speaking, was much better. Still, I don’t dare up the difficulty, because I’ve died a lot in this game and I can count the times on one hand I thought it was my own fault.

That being said, when the game can handle them, the demons are great. They’re based on Yokai so they come in a myriad of crazy and creepy forms, like the beloved accordion… thing that bounces around. Each has its own gore kill, giving you a wonderfully detailed visage of the graphic death you grace upon them. But as an added bonus many of these kills will also provide you with a powerful temporary weapon to use. 

One of my favourites is from killing big spinny sword bad guys because for a short while you get to have his big spinny sword. He isn’t using it anymore, so don’t feel too bad. This then acts as an auto-target zipping you to slice up any enemy in quite a wide range when you attack in their direction until the timer runs out. I found myself actively trying to build up my ability to complete gore kills, but also saving them for an enemy I thought would be useful to my situation. Some of the enemies I hate facing the most I also love to see so I can put their weaponised insides to my own use.

Later you’ll even get some enemies spattered through your free running paths to help shake things up and add a bit of difficulty. Though I really liked that I had the choice between taking them out and planning a safe route, trying for random fancy kills as I go, or just ignoring them altogether and prioritising my trip from a to b. This constant shift of focus from free running, to combat, and then mixing up both in different ways helps to keep this game feeling fresh.

Shadow Warrior 3 is an outstandingly fun romp through a beautiful world. It’s footloose and carefree in both action and attitude, and while not all the jokes land it had me smiling more often than not. I’ve been avoiding comparisons for this review but the simplest way to boil it down is its faster paced Doom, on a few new age drugs, set in apocalyptic Neo-Feudal Japan, seemingly made by people who were way more concerned with making it fun than making it smooth on every single PC.

It’s hard to rate a game when you’ve had a somewhat marred experience, but Shadow Warrior 3 really feels like it’s achieving everything it’s set out to do. It’s fast and fun, when you aren’t screwing up needlessly, has a good dash of humour, and is beautiful and sometimes a bit horrifying to exist in. I had an excellent time, so I can only imagine it’s even better with the right hardware.

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