There are many moments in the video game industry when irony hits with the force of a megaton bomb. For example, long ago, a company by the name of 3-D Realms owned “Duke Nukem” and its cousin “Shadow Warrior.” “Duke Nukem” gained massive acclaim and controversy from the media and Shadow Warrior had success itself but never surpassed its cousin. Skip nearly 20 years into the future, and we see Gearbox Software releasing an anniversary compilation of “Duke Nukem,” and Devolver Digital publishing “Shadow Warrior 2.” Adding to Gearbox’s ever growing pile of failures, “Duke Nukem’s Anniversary World Tour” sold extremely poorly, while “Shadow Warrior 2” is seeing much higher success in comparison.
“Shadow Warrior 2” is a sequel to the 2013 reboot and it brings back the melee combat that was praised by many a gamer. Thankfully for those same gamers, the negligibly damaging firearms did not follow suit. Firearms and melee weapons now do respectable damage in their own rights now, and aid in lightly alleviating a problem the 2013 reboot had with bullet-sponge enemies. Perhaps the most major change is the genre and structure of the sequel. While 2013’s “Shadow Warrior” was a linear first-person shooter (FPS) with three simple upgrade trees, “Shadow Warrior 2” is more of an action-RPG FPS.
This change brings with it fundamental differences. The experience system of the first game has been refined and now serves a more traditional role of gaining skill points, which are allotted to skill cards that you gain across your journey. Some of these skills are passive, like health and chi regeneration, and some are active skills, like the ability to impale your enemies on spikes made of chi.
Another major change is the addition of loot. Over 70 different weapons and an innumerable amount of gems that you can apply to said weapons can be gained from looting chests and slain enemies. These gems modify the weapons to give them new firing modes, stat increases, or elemental damage types. Perhaps the most divisive element of this game is the genre change, and I can see why some might lose interest upon reading this.
If you played the 2013 “Shadow Warrior” reboot, you probably understood one major thing: movement was critical to your survival. This is still the case in “Shadow Warrior 2,” but you are now more versatile as your set of movement abilities has been expanded. You can dash, jump, and now dash in the air and perform double jumps without having to worry about stamina. This effectively cuts out the lulls in combat the first game had from waiting for your stamina to recharge, which I am very thankful for.
The refined skills, movement abilities, and new weapon modifiers aids in making the combat extremely satisfying. Every fight is the pace you want it to be, provided you build your character to facilitate it. You can build a speedy ninja who uses melee weapons, jumps, dashes, and speed modifiers to quickly move across the battlefield like a ballet dancer of demonic homicide, or you can build a tanky ninja who uses health leech modifiers, miniguns, and explosive launchers to get the attention and take punishment from demons and enemies who suddenly realize their torso is flying away at 30 mph. It all depends on your play style and whether or not you want to be different than your co-op pals.
As the wisecracking ninja Lo Wang, you are tasked with restoring the soul of the Yakuza’s granddaughter Kamiko to her original body. Most definitely the weakest point of the sequel is that the story and dialog, save for Wang’s lines, are easily ignorable. This is even more so if you haven’t played the first game. If you have played the first game, you will definitely be disappointed in this regard, considering the first’s more than decent story and dialog. I miss Hoji.
Like Lo Wang, this game has style and aesthetic in spades. The scenery of the Wildlands, the architecture of the Yakuza-controlled cities, and the futuristic metropolises of Zilla City are beautiful when you have the time to look at them. Additionally, while it may be morbid, something must be said as to how detailed the gore and dismemberment looks as it happens upon your demonic, sci-fi, and terrestrial enemies. Considering the high likelihood they’d be chopped or blown into giblets, I’d say this was necessary, and I am glad the game didn’t shy away from it. No, I’m not a psychopath. Why do you ask?
All in all, this is a game that is purely enjoyable for its combat, and especially for its movement system. The fluidity of combat and versatility of the modifications kept me smiling as me and my pal violently parted our enemies like we were Moses. It is easy for me to recommend this game. I do, however, recommend that you ignore the story and try to ignore the sometimes terrible voice acting of the supporting cast. Just remember that the inane quests you are given are really only to facilitate in finding enemies for you to fight; not that I mind sending demons to their home realm in a doggie bag.