As a result, going full-blown melee or guns build may make the game tougher as it means you have to be way more conscious about using the right upgrades and abilities than you would if you took a more balanced approach. Thus for the last few hours of the campaign, I felt like I was being forced into making certain customization options over others in order to compensate for the fact that every pack of enemies was focused solely on attacking me. This is where co-op comes to the rescue.
Up to four players can team up online to go through the entirety of Shadow Warrior 2’s campaign. Each player hears/see themselves as Lo Wang and sees other players as generic ninjas. While the host player is the only one that can interact with the NPCs that give out missions, all players will earn the rewards for completing it (assuming they haven’t completed it before) and the loot that drops during missions is instanced for every player, so you don’t have to worry about fighting over it. Players are also free to join one another’s game regardless of their own personal progress in the campaign, though it doesn’t appear that the campaign progress carries over into the non-host players’ games.
The only aspect that really changes when playing the game cooperatively versus playing solo is the toughness of the monsters; more players means tougher monsters and more of them. It is perhaps the easiest way to handle the increased damage that a group of players can dish out, but it’s handled fairly well. For instance, after I finished the game and had a number of pretty powerful weapons/upgrades at my disposal, I hopped into Nick’s game who was still close to the beginning. Both of us were doing comparable damage to the enemies he was facing so it felt like we were contributing equally instead of me just mowing my way through everything.
Players can also strategize how best to approach each mission and this is where that freedom in your customization really shines. If you prefer melee over gunplay, then you can absolutely choose all the weapons, abilities, and upgrades to min/max that particular playstyle. While that approach may be more difficult in single-player, it becomes perfectly viable with a group of friends to back you up and pull enemies’ attention away from you when you need to heal. A lot of the upgrades that provide boosts but also carry a negative (such as increased reload time or dealing less damage to certain enemies) start to make sense when placed into a cooperative setting where you have buddies that can help cover whatever weaknesses those particular upgrades introduce.
When you’ve successfully conquered all 13 Story missions and 15 Side missions, you and your friends can play through a handful of them in “free-roam” mode (i.e., just wander through that area in search of loot), or you can up the difficulty and start over (keeping all your weapons, upgrades, and abilities) in New Game Plus. My final playthrough time clocked in around 15 hours, which includes going back and replaying some missions in “Free Roam” to see what loot I could get.
Raising the difficulty makes the enemies even tougher, but it also increases the quality of the loot you’ll find. You won’t be able to earn all of the unique mission rewards, such as new abilities and weapons, for completing missions you’ve already done, but you will get money and skill points, so there’s at least some reason to go back through it all again. I would have liked to have seen just a little bit more done with the co-op, such as co-op survival mode or even something like the Rifts in Diablo III. There are story moments when you enter the Shadow Realm so I kept hoping that once the game was done, there would be some new challenge mode that opened up to try and get loot that way.
Nearly 20 years ago when I first snuck downstairs at night to play a demo disc of Shadow Warrior on my parents’ PC, I never would have thought that I’d be playing a sequel to a reboot of that same risque game. I especially wouldn’t have thought that it would incorporate mechanics from one of my favorite RPG titles (Diablo) back then. Flying Wild Hogs has taken the series in an unexpected direction with Shadow Warrior 2, but it’s a direction that really works and helps to set it apart from the reboots/remakes of other titles from that same period (i.e., Duke Nukem and Doom). While the customization and upgrade system may be a bit overwhelming and limting in single-player, it reaches its full potential (as so many things do) when playing with friends.
The Co-Optimus Co-Op review of Shadow Warrior 2 is based on the PC version of the game. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
The Co-Op Experience: Up to four players can play any mission cooperatively.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.