Lewis
May 16, 2017
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Review platform: Shadow Warrior 2 was reviewed on a standard Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and a PlayStation 4 Pro with codes provided by the publisher
Release date: May 19, 2017
Update: We were finally able to test out the Xbox One version and assigned the same score.

There are two constants in the world of Shadow Warrior 2: over-the-top gory violence and a constant stream of penis jokes. It’s almost admirable how often developer Flying Wild Hog includes a joke about genitals and, surprisingly, they only get funnier the more the game goes on. With situations such as Lo Wang teaching trainee ninjas about his “Way of the Wang” you can expect lines such as, “The Way of the Wang is long, hard and ribbed for her pleasure”. It’s crude, it’s stupid, but it’s always funny.

Taking place five years after the events of the 2013 reboot, Shadow Warrior 2’s world is actually more interesting than it at first seems. Lo Wang’s attempts to save the world in the last game didn’t really turn out all that well. By breaking the seals on Mezu’s gates and freeing Ameonna, Lo Wang inadvertently caused an event called The Collision which forced the shadow realm and our world to merge. This has created not only communities where demons and humans co-exist, but has also changed aspects of the current world. For example, tea is now a luxury item which the Yakuza sells for extortionate prices.



While the world may be interesting, the actual narrative of Shadow Warrior 2 is below average and nowhere near as intriguing at the original game’s tale of Hoji and his relatives. A lot of characters return such as series antagonist Orochi Zilla (who has some amazing back and forth with Wang in the latter parts of the game), but many of the new characters are not as funny or likeable as those in the original, even if there are more of them.

This time, the story revolves around Wang saving a girl named Kamiko who was a scientist at Zilla’s labs. A few mistakes later and Kamiko’s body has turned into a giant monster and her soul is put in your body so she can insult you throughout the rest of the game. The two have some back-and-forth banter, but Kamiko is neither as likeable or as funny as Hoji from the original game.



Story isn’t the focus of Shadow Warrior and the reason you should be picking up the game is for its marvelous combat. The mixture of melee and gunplay has not only returned but has been massively expanded with over seventy weapons available to use with different stats relating to every weapon. Every weapon can be upgraded with some of the many upgrade parts that will be dropped by enemies or in chests.

This time around, combat is more movement based with double jumps and dashes being integral to survival. Many of the game’s environments will be much larger than those found in the original game and allow for some impressive parkour. Running along the rooftops, double jumping off, firing a rocket at a group of demons and then finishing off a lone straggler with a sword strike from above is an immensely satisfying experience and one which will only be surpassed as you get better and better at the game.



For even more frantic fun, Flying Wild Hog have allowed you to bring along a total of three friends to fight alongside. During my time playing, I was only able to find a single game with another person but fighting alongside someone—or just watching them while I cowered away—was an endlessly enjoyable experience despite the game’s shortcomings. Depending on what areas you put your skill points and weapon upgrades into, you can even develop your own classes to fight with. For example, you could focus more on dealing damage, another could focus on taking damage, and two others could put their upgrades towards providing status effects such as fire of poison.

Where Shadow Warrior 2 is let down is in its level design. Instead of the lovingly handcrafted levels of the original, Flying Wild Hog have opted for procedural generation. This adds in variety by offering a different experience every time, albeit with significant elements such as Xing’s hideout or a boss area remaining the same. Personally, while I don’t dislike the idea, I feel that the execution isn’t as good as it would be if the levels were designed by hand. Secrets are dotted around the maps, but these secrets are just golden statues placed in random areas.



Much like the original, Shadow Warrior 2 is gorgeous so much so that it is amazing that it’s running on a console of this caliber. Textures are often crisp, enemy models are highly detailed and the games high number of post-processing effects fill the screen with gorgeous lighting bursting through tree leaves. The game supposedly runs at 1080p 30 FPS on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One according to the developers, but we found it to be slightly blurry at times. While every location looks absolutely stunning, even on console, the Zilla City area is full of reflections and effects making it a bit hard on the eyes when the game gets really action-heavy.

For this review we only had access to the PlayStation 4 version of the game, so performance will be judged for that platform. For the most part, Shadow Warrior 2 performs adequately and manages to keep to a steady 30 FPS in most situations. On a standard PlayStation 4, issues do arise with really heavy scenes featuring high amounts of effects and enemy gibs, but those with a PlayStation 4 Pro shouldn’t have any problems with the game hitting its target frame rate. We will update this review with information on the Xbox One performance when that version becomes available.

Summary

Shadow Warrior 2 is a fun and frantic experience. While the narrative and its characters are worse than the 2013 reboot, the emphasis on providing a frantic combat experience either in single player or a great four-player co-op mode pays off well in the combat department. The procedural generation on the other hand leaves a lot to be desired and loses a lot of the original game’s polish.
Our score: 8/10

Great - A solid game that may have minor flaws, but strongly complements its genre.
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