The retro-FPS revival of the past decade has been glorious. Dubbed by some as the “Boomer Shooter“, after Duke Nukem Forever fell flat, DOOM (2016) revolutionized the genre thanks to true pulse-pounding fights in a centralized, focused arena. Shadow Warrior‘s reboot planted the seeds for this, offering up some smooth, linear gunplay/katana-play and a wide array of weapons at Wang’s disposal. Shadow Warrior 2 followed, opting for an open-world approach, much to the praise of fans for this genre departure. Now in 2022 after a few delays, Shadow Warrior 3 comes full-circle with an approach to the aforementioned DOOM arena-based combat. So, how does it play out?
Wang is back, but with a new voice actor.
Right off the bat, Shadow Warrior 3 wears its influences on its sleeves. Anyone familiar with the tightly-packed bang-bangs of recent years, whether it be the DOOM series or perhaps a Painkiller, when you come across a baddie, you’re bound to come across tons more – and you’re stuck fighting in that area until either your enemies die or you do. These battles are insanely intense – you’ll have to manage prioritizing tougher enemies, conserving your ammunition, finding opportunities to regain health, and much more. Thankfully, Wang is well-equipped with a weapon wheel of great guns. A deafening shotgun, fast-as-can-be SMG, and a revolver are somehow the least exciting of the arsenal, which all has a perfect time and place for the combat. Executions let you steal a piece of your foes’ body and use it against the rest, a neat mechanic that never loses its luster.
When you’re not gunning down demons, traversal is a blast thanks to the new grappling hook, which Wang even jokes about every game having now. Adding these to the battle arenas was a nice touch, giving the player ample room to escape from sticky situations. While there aren’t any secret collectibles, scouring the environment for hidden paths will reward the player with upgrade points that you’ll positively need for late-game fights. As far as difficulty goes, I found myself adequately challenged on Normal, relying on plenty of kiting and smart weapon choices to decimate demons for minutes at a time.
Shadow Warrior 3 is a looker, and it performs quite well on modest hardware.
With only a vague understanding of what took place in the first two games, I felt that not having played these that I didn’t miss out on much. Wang brings the player up to speed in the opening cutscene, with a refresher segueing in-between gameplay tutorials on the back of a freakin’ dragon. Establishing the narrative whilst giving a glimpse into the high-octane gameplay makes for a memorable opening. You’ll soon be reunited with characters from earlier in the trilogy making their return. Flying Wild Hog took initiative and hired culturally-accurate voice actors for 3, and I didn’t even notice until I saw some uproar in the review-bombing on Steam. Nevertheless, the story is rarely the focus in a shooter, and there’s enough window-dressing to keep the gamer invested in the game’s short runtime.
Where DOOM had a bangin’ soundtrack from legend Mick Gordon, Shadow Warrior 3 has solid-enough music to match the mood at any given point. Where the game really shines, though, is the sound design for its weapons. When I say this game has the best sound a shotgun has ever made, I don’t mean that lightly – from your first few left-clicks, my mouth was agape at how truly explosive it felt. Ripping apart an enemy during an execution sounds as grimy and nasty as one could hope. I can’t fault the voice acting as Wang did get some audible laughs from me with his one-liners – particularly his singing puns.
On an RTX2070 and a 10th-gen i7, Shadow Warrior 3 ran like a dream maxed out. System requirements aren’t too intimidating, so most PCs shouldn’t take issue with the title. In an FPS, where framerate matters, I nary saw a drop below 60 in even the most intense bouts. Profound environments make SW3 a sight to see at all points, a welcome departure from how frankly bland Shadow Warrior looks after almost a decade. As mentioned, the intro level taking place on the back of a gargantuan dragon in a lightning storm is plastered in my mind whenever I think about this game.
So, why should you play it?
- Damn good firefights that never let up.
- Wide variety of approaches to combat – no two battles the same.
- Full of gut-busting one-liners from start to finish.
But why shouldn’t you play it?
- Shadow Warrior 3 has a $50 price tag for ~6 hours of game with little/no replay value.
- I encountered a game-breaking bug that wasn’t fixed in Day One’s patch – review continued after new savestate loaded; YMMV.
A press copy of Shadow Warrior 3 was provided courtesy of the publisher.