‘Shadow Warrior’ Hands-On Preview: Updating a Cult Classic

By | 3 years ago 

At E3 2013, Game Rant took a trip off the beaten path to Devolver Digital‘s off-site booth for some good old-fashioned gaming nostalgia. But not any kind of nostalgia — nostalgia for games that are hard to find these days.

Some might remember Shadow Warrior as 3D Realms‘ follow-up to Duke Nukem as a functional yet entirely racist combination of sword and gunplay, but few would say the title was in need of an update. Yet that’s what Flying Wild Hog has created, a modern interpretation of Shadow Warrior that preserves many of its predecessor’s key elements while keeping things fresh.

It didn’t take long for my live gameplay demo to convince me that Shadow Warrior is just as silly as it ever was, and a perfect send-up for fans. Once the game’s intro cutscene kicked in, and Stan Bush’s “The Touch” began blasting on the radio, I was in.

Shadow Warrior E3 Preview - Crossbow Weapon

If forced to make a snap judgement Based on the game’s intro alone, it’s fair to say that Flying Wild Hog “gets” Shadow Warrior. They understand what will draw fans to this update, and they want, first and foremost, to deliver that irreverent humor.

From a gameplay perspective, Shadow Warrior is rather unique. Players have access to a decent selection of weapons (pistol, shotgun, SMG, crossbow) — each with a secondary fire mode — but their most useful tool is the katana.

While most games use the katana as a starter weapon – something to be thrown away after acquiring a pistol or shotgun – Shadow Warrior puts the blade front and center. With the katana, players can make quick work of enemies, slicing and dicing their way through heaps of demon and human blood.

Shadow Warrior E3 Preview - Enemies

Lo Wang’s katana is also imbued with a few mystical powers, which are extremely useful when fighting a demonic horde. For example, a player can double tap to the left and then hold the right mouse button to heal, or they can double tap to the right for a devastating 360-degree spin. These special moves, along with some strategic dismemberment, make the katana a very valuable tool for Lo Wang.

However, using the katana’s special abilities factors into a sort of risk/reward system with the demonic enemies. By using his powers, Wang further enrages the demons, causing them to attack with greater strength and ferocity. So, while players can heal themselves at will, they should do so sparingly.

Speaking of demons, Shadow Warrior has plenty of them, and in all shapes and sizes. Developer Flying Wild Hog promises that over the course of the game players will encounter all types of demons, including some bosses that they say will rival the enemies in Shadow of the Colossus. In our demo we saw some basic grunt types, a few more advanced skeleton enemies, and large lumbering horned demons. The game may have a very tongue-in-cheek sensibility, but the enemy design and gameplay is no-nonsense.

Shadow Warrior E3 Preview

Based on our brief preview, as well as some hands-on playtime, it’s safe to say the Shadow Warrior franchise is in the right hands. Flying Wild Hog have taken what was great about the original game, eliminated everything that was not so great, and created a game that works for just about anybody.

The sense of humor is well preserved, the combat is evolved for modern gamers, and it’s a lot of fun to play. Duke Nukem Forever could learn a thing or two from Shadow Warrior, because this is how you update a cult classic.

Are you excited to hear Shadow Warrior is back? What elements from that PC game would you like to see appear in this reboot?

Shadow Warrior is targeting a late 2013 release for the PC. Flying Wild Hog wouldn’t rule out a next-gen release either, but they are focused on the PC version right now.

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