Shadow Warrior 3 Review: Big Trouble in Demon Infested Japan

Shadow Warrior 3 is a game that knows exactly what it is and wants to do. It's not high art, nor does it pretend to be, but it is still worth your time.

There was a time when video games were almost exclusively linear experiences. This was before "open-world" and "Games as a Service" titles tried to hook you for months or years on end. You would rent or buy the latest release, pop it into your platform of choice, and spend days working your way from start to finish before moving on to the next game.

Shadow Warrior 3, the first-person sword-slashing shooter from Flying Wild Hog and Devolver Digital is a throwback to this era. It’s a solid action-adventure comedy, the gaming equivalent of a B Movie, and it embraces this to good effect. While the Assassin's Creed's of the world push more and more into the open world, Shadow Warrior 3 eschews that to embrace a memorable, linear experience. There are some rough edges, but there is a fun time to be had here regardless.

Shadow Warrior 3 Review: Big Trouble in Demon Infested Japan

Fast and violent are the best words to describe the combat in Shadow Warrior 3. Protagonist Wang fights with reckless abandon against scores of ghosts, demons, and all sorts of bizarre otherworldly adversaries. Battles mix swordplay and gunplay. Repeating the Doom-inspired mechanics of the first two Shadow Warriors entries, your health is limited but replenished quickly when you slay enemies.  

There is a natural push-pull between melee and ranged combat. Your sword hits fast and hard, and it generates ammo for your guns, but you tend to rapidly take damage. Ranged attacks, using a mix of pistols, shotguns, grenade launchers, and other arms, refill your health, but ammo is scarce. Fighting effectively means mixing your attacks, and making good decisions about what attacks to use on which enemies and when. For all the bombastic action here, it’s a thinking players game, and the way these intersect is one of Shadow Warrior 3’s greatest strengths.  

The aiming and shooting is incredibly generous; you only need to point roughly at your target for a forgiving auto-aim to home in on your adversaries. This is important, as the speed of combat, with all the dashing and weapon switching, lets you make sense of the chaotic battlefields, rather than lining up a pixel-perfect reticle. As you proceed further in your adventure and the challenge ramps up, this freedom to move and still shoot is critical to keeping things enjoyable, rather than becoming a tiring slog.  

Time between action pieces is spent in cutscenes and performing first-person parkour across levels. The story itself is largely nonsense, and not in a bad way. Wang is cool but endearingly goofy. The humor is ever-present, and largely works using referential and sophomoric humor that would be right at home in a Deadpool movie.

See (and Shoot) the World

The levels in Shadow Warrior 3 are fairly linear. In general, you follow travel from one fighting arena to another, with cutscenes and platforming sections acting as palette cleansers. One early mission has you fighting atop a rampaging dragon.  

Your goal of saving the world largely just sets up more bizarre adventures across the varied landscapes with a cast of fun and absurd characters. In later levels, you are fighting two halves of a chicken monster or racing to keep pace with a raft careening down a river. The strange locals do a great job keeping the experience fresh. 

The first-person free-running is smooth and fast. You use a combination of leaps, swings, wall runs, and slides to get from one point to the next. Occasionally, you will shoot obstacles out of your path while running or string doubles jumps and dashes to reach hidden upgrades. It’s not nearly as deep as the movement in something like Dying Light 2, but the pace is exciting nonetheless.

Sketchy Presentation

While the gameplay in Shadow Warrior 3 is solid, the technical merits leave something to be desired. It’s not a bad-looking game per se, but it won’t wow anyone with visual fidelity, even on the high-powered PC used for this review.

Textures are simple, and the unimpressive lighting visual effects demonstrate the clear difference between it and a game with the budget of Doom, or other, more recent first-person games.  

Bugs also rear their ugly head. Footholds not registering sent Wang to a few early graves in our playthrough. Worse was having to restart a level completely after a checkpoint was created while clipping into the terrain. The linear nature of Shadow Warrior 3 means repeating sections is tedious and uninteresting. 

Shadow Warrior 3 Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Fun, bombastic action.
  • Well executed sophomoric humor.
  • Impressive and impressively bizarre set pieces.

Cons

  • Not much joy in replaying levels.
  • Underwhelming on a technical level.

Shadow Warrior 3 is a game that knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s not the best-looking game, nor the most polished. The ambitions are limited, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This is the action movie you watch on a weekend afternoon, not Citizen Kane.

That confidence results in a game that is extremely enjoyable with a great mix of action and absurdism, but also something that will be easy to forget. The linear design works for a single playthrough, which is more than enough to get what Shadow Warrior 3 has to offer.

[Note: Flying Wild Hog provided the copy of Shadow Warrior 3 used for this review.]

Our Rating
7
Shadow Warrior 3 is a game that knows exactly what it is and wants to do. It's not high art, nor does it pretend to be, but it is still worth your time.
Reviewed On: PC

Contributor

Justin is a married father of two, has too many pets, and is a life-long gamer. When he's not in the virtual world he specializes in live event production, designing events for corporate clients such as Microsoft and Nintendo.

Published Mar. 2nd 2022

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