Shadow Warrior Preview
Shadow Warrior is a cult classic. Re-imagining a cult classic can score big points with old-school gamers, or anyone who appreciates the history of the industry. It also helps because such games never took themselves seriously for a moment, which can be refreshing now that so many games are deadly serious in tone. And besides, where else can you run around, wreaking havoc with guns and a sword? Awesome firearms + awesomer katana = automatic fun.
The original title first launched back in 1997, and it was like a pseudo-successor to the legendary Duke Nukem 3D. Featuring over-the-top violence and crazy humor, Shadow Warrior was all about old-fashioned FPS entertainment. Now, developer Flying Wild Hog plans to release a greatly updated and improved version while still retaining the original arcade-y feel. The game will feature great level design, a ton of Easter Eggs and other cool secrets, along with special powers, skills, and weapon customization. If you're looking for a complex, emotionally driven narrative, though, well...
Oh, there is a story. Zilla Enterprise's corporate shogun, Lo Wang, has been tasked with tracking down and acquiring the legendary blade known as the Nobitsura Kage. As the story progresses, our hero learns of the blade's connection to ancient gods from other worlds. Lo Wang might be in over his head if it isn't for his trusty spirit assistant, Hoji, and his wide assortment of bad-ass weapons. Wielding all manner of guns, blades, magic, and diverse skills, Lo Wang will lay waste to the demons that threaten earth. It's one of those standard save-the-world plots with little substance but a lot of memorable one-liners.
The game will span a total of 17 chapters, and players will explore many exotic locales. From the gardens of Kyoto to an industrial port during a storm, you'll traverse these areas, mowing down anything that's stupid enough to cross you. You'll even venture into the exceedingly dangerous Shadow Realm, where you'll face off against gigantic bosses that have a vested interest in the war of the gods. You have to make good use of your unique abilities and arsenal if you wish to emerge victorious, and some weapons and skills will be better suited to particular situations. It's fast and furious but it's not entirely devoid of strategy.
Perhaps the most appealing element of the game is not the gunplay, but the swordplay. If you get the PlayStation 4 version, you'll use the touchpad on the DualShock 4 to slice ‘n dice; the developers claim this offers more "intuitive control." Using the touchpad lets you launch a series of blade-based combos and special movies, and you can even string them together with other attacks and spells. Normally, I hate it when the touchpad comes into play during a hectic action game, but here's hoping it really is intuitive and relatively accessible.
Lastly, don't forget that Shadow Warrior will run in 1080p and 60 frames per second on the PS4, while the Xbox One version has to settle for 900p (although both will operate at 60FPS). The frames-per-second number is vastly more important for a first-person shooter, though, as the developer has said on several occasions. Still, it seems clear that the PS4 version is the one to get, and it should offer a nostalgic reprieve during the month of October, which is loaded with more modern, serious stuff. Nothing wrong with taking a step back, if only for the sake of a little variety!
9/22/2014 Ben Dutka