When the Shadow Warrior reboot came out in 2013 it was a shining example of how to resurrect a classic. Years prior Duke Nuken Forever stunk up the place and the new Rise of the Triad didn’t exactly set the world alight.
Shadow Warrior showed us that a fast paced FPS worked and people were willing to have a bit of the old days back. It was and still is a great game in its own right, but it was quickly pushed into the shadows by the almost universally loved Wolfenstein: The New Order.
Then DOOM came out this year and put them all to shame. It was old school, breakneck fast and epic all at the same time – and it deserves all the GOTY awards when the year wraps up. Well, that’s my opinion anyway.
But now we have Shadow Warrior 2, which has taken a completely different path to everything else listed here, even its prequel. Its changes can be summed up in one word: Borderlands. Or, more specifically, two words: Borderlands lite.
While the prequel did have a progression system, this iteration takes it up many unnecessary notches with a full leveling system, collectable loot, a campaign that can be played in four player co-op and (something Borderlands doesn’t have) procedurally generated levels.
All of this sits on top of the admittedly brilliant template from the 2013 game; essentially players zip quickly through levels using a dash mechanic while slicing, dicing and shooting enemies with variety of firearms and melee weapons. Reducing enemies to gibs is endlessly satisfying.
Unfortunately some problems from the first game still exist. Your melee weapons is still, always and obviously, your most powerful weapon. That becomes a real problem in this game as every gun feels like an under-powered pea shooter in comparison to the sixth variant of katana you just picked up.
The problem only gets worse with all the shiny new loot here. Everything feels mismanaged and unbalanced. A gun we obtained for completing the first level remained powerful enough to carry us through most of the game and we only abandoned it when we wanted something that looked flashier. It’s a real kick in the Wang when a gun covered with skulls imbued with flaming demon fire is less powerful than a regular military weapon.
All of this is compounded with an upgrade system. Each weapon can take three collectible upgrades and they’re integral to keeping you on the same level as the enemies. Every single one of them feels the same, collecting them is a chore, applying them even more so and they add so much busy work to the game that you’re likely to end up wishing they were never included in the first place.
While Borderlands handed out guns like candy on Halloween, Shadow Warrior 2 is more restrained, only giving you a new weapon or two for each completed level. The upgrades, on the other hand, drop out of every second enemy for you to tediously collect and micromanage.
If you can manage to look past those very noticeable problems, the in-game loop is fantastic. When we sat down to play the game for the first time we didn’t get up for four hours.
If the term “procedurally generated” has been tainted for you by No Man’s Sky, there’s no worries here. Levels feel varied there’s no chance of becoming bored of the locales even if you end up returning to them multiple times.
The story is one of the game’s weakest features; it has been a long time since we have had to suffer through something so boring and inane in a videogame. The plot’s connected by short cutscenes that are so poorly written and voiced we were tempted to skip the lot of them. This is an option, mercifully, but we sat though most of them for the purpose of this review.
Every single character performance sound phoned in and the voice actors sound as though they’re reading a script written by an adolescent who recently discovered several naughty words. We think the developer was aiming for a campy, B-movie tone here, but it’s so shockingly bad it makes Sharknado look like Oscar material.
Shadow Warrior 2 Review: Verdict
We were very surprised by this game. The changes made to its core first seemed out of place but we quickly realised that it went a long way in keeping us glued to our seats in the long run. If the developers stay on this game and keep pumping out new content we can see ourselves firing it up some months from now.
We have to note that the we weren’t able to try out the multiplayer co-op; it could be thanks to our time zone or the fact that our copy states that the multiplayer is in beta, but no other players joined us when we had our lobby set to open. This was a problem as the game scales the difficulty to a minimum of two players.
When the game is released and more people are on the servers we’ll dive in again and maybe do a follow-up. That being said, we preferred playing through all three Borderlands titles alone, and Shadow Warrior 2 can be carried by a singe player, so keep that in mind.
But, should you buy this game? If you played and loved the original then you should jump in right now. If you haven’t we suggest picking up that game, and maybe DOOM too before you spend money on this.
At the moment, though, Shadow Warrior 2 is an addictive FPS that we got a hell of a lot of enjoyment out of, despite its rough edges and infuriating story.
Shadow Warrior 2 was reviewed on PC with code supplied by the developer