A popular shooter that followed the formula set by Duke Nukem 3D in the late 1990s was Shadow Warrior. Featuring a witty main character spewing off one liners, the Asian inspired shooter may not have had the same popularity as Duke, but it certainly was appreciated by PC gamers in its day. As with all good gaming franchises, Shadow Warrior has gotten a reboot, created by Hard Reset developers Flying Wild Hog. But unlike the reboot Duke Nukem, Shadow Warrior is able to modernize itself while still feeling like a classic shooter.
It’s hard to put it on exactly what it is that Shadow Warrior does that makes it feel "old school." But simply sitting down to play it reminds me of a time when PC gaming was a fever pitch for the next great shooter. Shooters artificially inflated their length in the past by adding "puzzle" elements which often involved hitting switches in a certain sequence, or finding a keycard and backtracking through the level to the door it fits with. While Shadow Warrior has both of these elements, it keeps it light and even makes fun of itself for doing it. At one point you come across a door where three seals must be destroyed in order for it to open, Lo Wang simply says, "I don’t have time for a puzzle."
The pacing in Shadow Warrior is constant, and each battle is capped off with a star rating of how you did, only to allow for a few seconds to admire the game’s beautiful graphics before the next battle kicks off. You’ll be facing off against various sizes of demons trying to get a certain sword Lo Wang was supposed to purchase. Wang himself is joined by a demi-god that is also looking for the sword, and imues Wang with mystical powers like the ability to heal himself or cast bursts of energy. The story is a bit hokey but the dialog between the two characters is consistently entertaining.
While the core of Shadow Warrior is all about being a shooter, the reality of the game is the fun you’ll have using your sword to slice enemies. In fact, for all but the hardest of battles (and flying enemies) you’ll find yourself switching to the sword to conserve ammo and simply because it’s more fun. The game is ripe with pickups including items which allow you to unlock special abilities and Ki which unlocks upgrades for your character across numerous disciplines like restoration, swordplay, and others. The money can be used to purchase upgrades to your weapons. My only gripe with this system is in a game where you want to pick up everything - why have me press a button to open a chest and then press a button to pick up the items?
Shadow Warrior continued to entertain me with every chapter. Whether it was the impressive scenery, a new joke, or simply enjoying the combat - the team nailed the right mixture of fun and ridiculous without making any one thing go stale. While the arcade style of the game helped make it feel like a classic shooter, small touches like environmental interactions and an RPG progression system help make Shadow Warrior one of the best reboots in quite some time.