If last year's DOOM reboot taught us anything, it's that sometimes games just need one simple thing: wanton violence. It's a necessity that should be on the top of the list of every developer wanting to make a good first-person shooter. We see a bad guy, and we wanna turn them into a pulled pork sandwich with our arsenal. How fortunate that Flying Wild Hog has taken this to heart with their sequel to the cult classic Shadow Warrior, which has more hardcore action and laughs than your average episode of Drifters.
Taking place five years after the first game, Shadow Warrior 2 has our vulgarly funny hero Lo Wang taking jobs here and there for some of that sexy money. When a mission to save a young scientist named Kamiko goes wrong, he finds himself (unwillingly) placing her soul into his body for safe keeping while they fix the curse that ravages her body. With her constant bitching and his wisecracks, Lo Wang and his new not-quite-friend Kamiko embark on a quest to save her life while he kills 'em all with his style of comedy and weaponry.
Shadow Warrior 2 is both a shooter and a melee game at heart, switching between both seamlessly during even the most tremulous of battles. You can switch between being a badass with a blade and a bad motherf**ker with a shotgun, with a great assortment of weapons to choose from. (Personally I went with the chainsaw for just about everything so I could go full-blown Evil Dead on every baddie I came across.) And like DOOM, you never have to worry about losing any of your weaponry when you grab something new for your kill collection.
It's when you face off against demonic boars, robots with flexible skills, and even the whitest swordsmen imaginable where the real fun of the game thrives. Hacking or shooting holes through your foes is more satisfying than you can imagine, with it pushing Flying Wild Hog's in-house engine to amazing limits. Watching as enemies are sliced, diced, and crafted into Julienne fries never gets old, with every new discovery of how to maim foes being just as eye-popping as the last. (Also, try killing every rabbit you see. You'll be surprised with something once in awhile.)
As you complete missions you'll be given the chance to upgrade your skills in any way that fits your needs. Health boosts, ammo maxing, agility, and even your element properties will be at your choosing. Also available will be weaponry upgrades, which will make even the rustiest of swords as immaculate as Excalibur itself. You'll be able to switch it up no problem depending on which weapons you feel more comfortable with, so no worries about using a skill for one weapon and not be able to use it for another.
Lo Wang's newest adventure never hides the fact that it's all for the laughs, with our antihero spouting one funny line after another that'll have your sides aching. I don't wanna spoil any of the jokes, but hearing Lo Wang singing a variation of a Rodgers & Hammerstein classic will be the greatest thing you'll hear in a video game this year. Its story can be a little bare bones, but it's entertaining enough that you'll barely notice. Even some of the side quests you'll go on will make you snicker, including a video tape rental quest with a nod to Devolver Digital's Broforce. (And yes, there are more penis jokes than a Judd Apatow film, so if that's not your thing well...too bad, play this game anyway!)
Even with its many commands, playing with the Xbox One controller is actually quite comfortable. Switching between weapons is a lot easier than you can imagine, with the option of doing so from the game hub in-between shots being a nice advantage. I will warn you that you may suffer from cramped fingers if you play for more than two hours at a time due to its hack-and-slashing mechanics, so prepare yourself to take a breather or two in-between the mayhem.
For the most part the world of Shadow Warrior 2 is gorgeous to look at, from the serene backdrops of an Edo Period-like country side to the dystopian cyberpunk cities drenched in Tron-like neon. The more creature-like baddies are nicely creepy, posing a threat like nobody's business. Human characters can be a hit or miss, with maybe two recurring enemies looking more like stroke victims than killers. Fortunately the gore is the spotlight of the Road Hog engine, with the ability to cut and shoot enemies in any way possible resulting into some delightfully bloody visuals.
I can't speak for the PC edition, but there are a few bugs I came across while playing the Xbox One version. Often the framerate would drop significantly when there were too many enemies on the screen. A couple times the game crashed on me mid-battle, forcing me to start again from its last save point. (It wasn't even far off from my previous position, though, if you want me to be completely honest.) Lastly there were a couple places where I got stuck in-between the roof and the building, which were resolved after I teleported back to the home base, quit the game, and just loaded it back up again. Still, it was a bit of a nuisance to have to do that.
Beating Shadow Warrior 2 will take you roughly 12 hours in single-player mode, which I recommend playing in first. That way you can fully convince three friends to go into its co-op mode for some added bro bonding and silly gory fun. You'll also be given the chance to replay the game a la New Game+ with all the skills you've earned previously if you're in the need to go full throttle.
- Beautifully gory action
- Funny as hell
- Co-op mode is a blast
- Can get a little buggy
- Framerate drops
Shadow Warrior 2 is the best low-brow humored first-person shooter since Redneck Rampage, bringing forth a grand dose of fun and insanity in many wonderful ways. While it has some graphical flaws (that I'm sure will be fixed with a few patches), the imagery of your enemies being turned into shish-kabob will no doubt please every player imaginable. Needless to say, this is one Wang you'll want pleasing you from start to climactic finish.
Promotional consideration provided by Teresa Tyndorf of Tinsley PR. Reviewed on the Xbox One.
Background Noise: Hardwired...To Self-Destruct by Metallica - When it comes to Shadow Warrior 2, you need a metal soundtrack to back all the violence you witness. The legends Metallica deliver this necessity on their latest album, with "Atlas, Rise!", "Here Comes Revenge," and the Motörhead tribute "Murder One" firing on every hardcore cylinder imaginable. It's the perfect soundtrack to keep you slashing away bad guys while quipping one dick joke after another.