Title: Shadow Warrior 2
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: Turn your brain off and kill things
Price: $60/£50
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

This game’s story is pretty simple and straight forward. The events of Shadow Warrior 2 take place five years after 2013’s predecessor, and players are once again back in the shoes of foul-mouthed ninja warrior, Lo Wang. Unfortunately for Wang, he’s the world’s only hope to take on endless armies of demons that have arrived to Earth from another dimension. To make matters worse, Wang gets an unwanted companion in his mind who, for better or for worse, will be of great aid to our violent and potty mouth hero.

Shadow Warrior 2 is a FPS shooter/hack n’ slash where players are thrown into waves of oncoming enemies; whether it be Yakuza, robots, or horrifying beasts from hell, Wang is fully equipped to take out the baddies. As you go through the game, our protagonist will pick up a vast array of weapons, from a simple handgun to a sweet little chainsaw. This allows players to vary the gameplay by juggling various weapons. As you’d expect, some weapons will work better against certain enemies. What’s interesting is that Flying Wild Hog implemented resistances and weaknesses in order to force players to upgrade and play around with the arsenal of weapons.

In order to abuse the enemies’ weakness, players can pick up jewellery which can be attached to weapons in order to provide certain perks. For example, if you see a group of ice-based enemies, having a Fire perk attached to your melee weapon or firearm will give you an advantage over the enemy. Along with elemental perks, weapons can also provide more firepower or attack power.

Additionally, being a badass ninja brings in some perks: Chi powers. The blue meter underneath the green Health bar is the Chi meter, which allows players to use magic to their advantage. Thanks to Chi, players can heal themselves or use a bit of crowd control when surrounded by too many enemies.

Unlike its predecessor, Shadow Warrior 2 features a more open world, and players are free to roam in the world to accept side-quests and find hidden treasures. In between story missions, players can travel back to the city hub, where they can accept new missions, side-missions, and visit shops. Double-jumping and dashing will allow Wang to move around quicker in order to avoid the tediousness of aimlessly roaming around.

One of the best game’s feature is Wang’s teleportation ability. Once a new mission is assigned, simply go onto the Mission map and click Start. Wang will teleport automatically to the mission area, saving players precious minutes of walking around, trying to find their path. You want to know what’s better? As soon as a story mission is completed, you can teleport directly back to the city hub, avoiding useless navigation back home.

The game also features an RPG element; as players progresses through the game, killing enemies, Wang will level up and get stronger. While this makes for a fun twist on a generic hack n’ slash formula, at times during the game, it will “suggest,” that you are not strong enough to attempt certain missions. Forcing players to play through side-quests feels like a cheap way for developers to extend gameplay. Obviously, it won’t stop you from progressing forward, however expect a few deaths and frustrations. 

One of the most interesting addition to the game is the ability to play the campaign with up to three friends. While each player sees the story as Wang, during gameplay sequences, each player sees the others as generic ninja. It brings an interesting Borderlands-like feature to the game and also can make certain difficult boss battles a bit easier.

Unfortunately, teleport can’t be used during missions, which could’ve been beneficial at times. Although players do have a mini-map and a regular map at their disposal, even following the dotted line can prove confusing when trying to reach an objective. Sometimes, it’s not really clear if you need to go up or down; sometimes, following the dotted line brings you to a door which you can’t open, most likely because it glitched. It happened to me twice and having to abandon a mission is actually quite frustrating.

Another little nuisance is the lazy level design, especially early on during the first few missions. The objective leads you to a lock door. After about 10 minutes of walking around, following the map, you reach (an obviously) locked door which then prompts the player to backtrack to previously seen area, which has now been mysteriously filled with enemies, where one of them has the key you require.

Sadly, not all is fixable with Wang’s violent attitude in Shadow Warrior 2. The game is marred by a few technical glitches. Besides the aforementioned issues where progress is hindered by unopenable doors, the game will offer stutter and won’t stop until you reset the game. During sequences with a few bigger than normal size enemies, the game would also slow down, causing avoidable death.

Overall, the game looks and feels great. Nothing very special and doesn’t raise the bar for anything, but you won’t come across dated visuals. Audio wise, things are pretty forgettable. The score is often lost throughout the killing and murdering spree, where players will only hear enemies’ screams or Wang’s weapons. The dialogue is so bad its actually funny, but it does get old after a while. The banter between Wang and Kimiko is funny at first, but it becomes predictable and tedious to the point where you’ll just skip as much as you can.

Despite some technical issues and tedious gameplay designs, Shadow Warrior 2 remains an entertaining and fun ride. Considering the throwaway story, this is the type of game where you can easily turn your brain off and kill everything in your path. The entertaining arsenal of weapons and non stop action will keep players hooked on for hours on end. While being forced to do side-quests in order to be at level with stronger enemies feels like a cheap gameplay design, it will at least ensure players to have plenty of gameplay content to keep them entertained. But as I’ve stated, if you pick up this game: turn off your brain (also put it on mute so you can avoid the cringey voice acting) and fuck shit up.

The Good

  • Great weapon variety
  • RPG mechanics adds to the fun
  • Big dumb fun

The Bad

  • Lazy level design
  • Confusion level navigation
  • Some annoying technical issues

Family Focus

Shadow Warrior 2 is rated M for Mature and PEGI 18, as it features buckets of blood and flying heads. I mean I’ve never seen a family friendly game when the protagonist has access to an unlimited-ammo chainsaw.

This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by Xbox UK for the purpose of this review.