Shadow Warrior 3 – A Slice of Bloody Fun
The Shadow Warrior franchise has been around for quite some time now. From the enjoyable, but ultimately offensive original build-era title to the recent rebooted entries by Flying Wild Hog, this is now a series that has been around for over 20 years. But one thing hasn’t really changed in that time. Shadow Warrior has always been about bombastic action, a non-stop orgy of violence spiced up with ‘80s action movie one-liners from Lo Wang, the lead protagonist. That formula has held the franchise in good stead, but is it enough to succeed once again, especially in a world where Doom Eternal changed the genre forever?
Shadow Warrior 3, for better and worse, loses many of the changes made in Shadow Warrior 2 and returns the game to something that is much closer to the original, rebooted title. This has come about because of some backlash faced by Flying Wild Hog after the second game’s release. The game tried to take Lo Wang in an almost Borderlands-like direction and as a result, lost some of the joy in the process. So because of this, Shadow Warrior 3 feels like a safe sequel in many ways. There are a few new ideas, but these ideas are more in line with keeping up with modern shooters than real innovations, leaving Shadow Warrior 3 as a title that is predictable and a little forgettable.
That being said, the bread and butter here is sweet, so sweet in fact that I finished the game in two sittings. It is seat-of-your-pants, super-fast action that clicks into gear from the opening credits and never lets go for the entire length of the game. Gameplay is set around a simple melee/bullet/health system that encourages players to rush into the action as opposed to sitting back from afar. Kill an enemy with a gun and they drop health, kill an enemy with your katana (which is conveniently mapped to the right button) and they drop ammo. This creates a dynamic that forces players to get up close and personal in order to stay stocked up on ammo, while at the same time forcing the use of guns to stay alive. When you take into account the fact that the amount of ammo you can keep at any one time is quite low, you can see how this becomes the music that starts Lo Wang’s dance of death, the central fact in an orgy of sliced limbs, exploded heads and shattered spines.
Speaking of all that gory stuff, SW3 is easily the bloodiest entry of the franchise, with an almost joyous amount of the red stuff being spilled during every level. To top things off, there are gory kills that are activated after a special meter is filled. These moves don’t only offer a quick way to kill an enemy and refill the player’s health bar, they gift the player with some part of the enemy’s anatomy which conveniently becomes an overpowered weapon that mows through the opposition for a brief period. The judicious use of a gory kill can mean the difference between life or death, so it pays to learn when best to deploy the move and save your skin from decimation.
The rest of the weaponry is both exotic, yet at the same time, pretty standard for an FPS of this nature. You have pistols, grenade launchers, shotguns and a railgun, all pretty much the norm to start with. As you play, however, you will get the ability to upgrade these weapons, making them much more interesting. How about a shotgun that doesn’t need to reload so you can really go to town or a pistol that rewards headshots with an explosion that deals splash damage? These upgrades really help to mix things up in the later levels. The aforementioned katana can also be upgraded to allow special moves that inflict elemental damage, but in the heat of combat, performing these moves can be a bit fiddly (especially on a controller) so this often becomes a forgotten and somewhat useless feature.
Graphically SW3 is a nice looking game without ever really impressing in any one area. The enemy design is probably the most notable aspect of the game’s looks, with some crazy designs that incorporate everything from accordions to flying saucers. The levels themselves are pretty much what you would expect from a Shadow Warrior game, Bamboo Forests, crumbling traditional Japanese buildings, snow-covered mountains, you know the drill. It is neither disappointing nor amazing, simply safe. The game initially had a fairly frequent case of the slow-downs, with the framerate dropping often, but after a patch that added DLSS, everything is running well for me now. Just keep in mind that I am running a 3070 so that is on the high-end of video cards, so things might still be stuttery for people on lower-end systems.
My biggest problem with Shadow Warrior 3 is its length. Usually, I am ok with short, sharp games but in this case, it felt a little too short. Just a shade under 6 hours is all it took me to finish the game on normal difficulty with all but three achievements in my virtual trophy cabinet. It probably speaks to the game that I really didn’t want it to end so fast, for it all be over and my time with Lo Wang at an end. This will be a personal preference thing I am sure, but in this instance, it felt like I was just getting warmed up for a big couple of final hours and things came screeching to a halt.
When all is said and done, Shadow Warrior 3 is an absolute blast but is let down by the developer’s fear of trying something new and the length of the experience. If you like fast-paced, wall-running, grapple-hooking bloodfests then Shadow Warrior 3 will undoubtedly satisfy. It may be the video game equivalent of a cheesy 80s action movie, but sometimes that’s exactly what the doctor ordered.
Shadow Warrior 3 was reviewed on PC with a code kindly provided by the publisher.