Shadow Warrior 2 is many things. But one thing it is not, is boring. It’s crude, and it’s funny; it plays heavily on 80s action films, and does not take itself at all seriously. And it’s also a fast-paced shooter that plays like a mix between Doom (of the old-school variety) and Borderlands.
It is, to cut a long story short, hella fun. But we have a page to fill…
The game is technically a sequel to the original Shadow Warrior – the ‘2’ kinda gives that away – but because it’s barely mentioned, it’s hardly necessary to have played the first game. You’re still playing the wise-cracking ninja Lo Wang (I really, sincerely hope you like dick jokes, because the game is full of them), the world is still a weird mash-up of Asian fantasy tropes – demons are invading from another dimension, you and every second bad-guy tries to chop up their enemies with magic swords – and neon-and-chrome cyberpunk. Basically, if you forced John Carmack and William Gibson to develop a game together, this would be it.
The story revolves around the aforementioned demon invasion, but there’s a couple more personal motivations. Wang is basically a greedy bastard working for the Yakuza (the whole game has this weird but compelling Japanese/Chinese fusion thing going on), but he’s also the repository for the game’s leading lady’s soul – it’s boy meets girl, girl hates boy, and she’s stuck in his head while a mystic tries to figure out how to stop a demonic infestation consuming her body and… Well. Like some truly great Asian cinema, the plot is merely a convoluted conveyance for great action.
Movement is key to victory in Shadow Warrior 2. There’s a wide range of weapons on offer – 70, to be exact, and you can carry nine of them on you – but whether you prefer to duke it out with a katana or chainsaw, or hang back with a pistol or shotgun, you’ll need to pay attention to mobility and your environment. Double-jumping and dash-dodging can get you out of the way of some brutal area attacks, and when enemies swarm – or bosses summon chained up demon buddies – you need to be constantly on the move. Even the most basic weapons are all satisfying to use, and upgrading them with looted crystals that add in Borderlands-style special damage effects means you can really play the way you want. It's fast, colourful, chock-full of gibs, and an absolute blast, while great level design – both the set-piece story missions and procedurally generated side-missions – keeps things interesting.
Flying Wild Hog’s ‘Wild Hog Engine’ may be five years old, but it delivers smooth frames and is certainly versatile. It helps too that the game’s vibrant, cartoony aesthetic helps mask the shortcomings of its underlying tech.
The crudity of the humour may put some off, but the humour is never cruel, and the variety of enemies, weaponry, and levels keeps the game fresh and worth coming back to.