Over five years have passed since our last outing with the equally skilled and juvenile Lo Wang. Developer Flying Wild Hog has brought the crude and crass protagonist back into the spotlight, this time teaming up with former employer and nemesis Orochi Zilla to contend with an impossibly large ancient dragon. Of course, the journey wouldn’t be possible without Wang’s two best friends, lead and steel. Those best buds are ever-present throughout the adrenaline-filled, albeit brief ride of mixed quality.
We first meet back up with Lo Wang in a state of despair (and undress). As he looks upon the tatters of his life, and the scaly doom flying around outside, we are presented with a hero knocked from his pedestal. The unfortunate events surrounding the sulking assassin quickly pull him into the fold as he once again becomes an unlikely savior. It’s a straightforward setup, one that ushers in a plethora of juvenile one-liners and demonic gibby bits.
Over the course of the 4-5 hour adventure, Lo Wang will utter ridiculous phrases, ranging from calling himself Edward Katanahands to the more predictable penis jokes commonly associated with the character. If it isn’t obvious at this point, the dialogue is a bit cringey, feeling ripped from a high school student’s first stab at some semblance of a script. The spirit Hoji returns from the first game seemingly with the sole purpose of being incessantly annoying. The shortcomings of their personalities (if you can call them such) are more apparent this time around given the narrow direction.
Shadow Warrior 3 strips back the open environments of its predecessor and returns to a linear, single player-only experience. The shift might lead you to believe that Shadow Warrior 3 excels in its narrative focus and level design given the limited player count, but you would be mistaken. The newest title feels like several steps backwards in regards to focus and scope. In fact, Shadow Warrior 3 could have been better passed off as a standalone expansion rather than full-fledged follow-up.
When the action comes together, it can be satisfying. Cutting up baddies with a katana, perforating demons with relentless gunfire, initiating finishers, and performing a trademark-friendly Force push to send enemies into spikes can make for entertaining gameplay segments. The vast arsenal of firearms and melee weapons in Shadow Warrior 2 has been reduced to a handful of options. Here, once again, Flying Wild Hog’s latest work strips back the ambitions of their prior offering in a way that feels overly restrictive and lacking. Due to this fact, the game rarely fails to rise to the same level of competency found in other more compelling fast-paced first-person shooters. In fact, Shadow Warrior 3 is best described as the generic Great Value™ brand alternative to Doom. Some of the same flavors are present, but the quality of the more renowned brand name is all but lost.
Arguably the most compelling aspect of combat are the Gore Tools. Over the course of the game, Lo Wang can perform finishers on specific enemies to gain a Gore Tool. These range from flying razor eyeballs that seek out foes to disco lasers. They can be a real game-changer when surrounded by a host of formidable demonic entities. Seeing what Gore Tool would reveal itself in a following level remained one of the biggest motivational factors to proceed.
When Wang isn’t repurposing the organs of demons as offensive tools, he’s often parkouring around the linear mythical landscape. There are mediocre platforming portions to be found between enemy encounters, consisting of swinging from grappling hook points and wallrunning on green growths. What you see in the earliest moments is about all that will be seen in the next few hours. Both exist in encounters, too, for those looking to keep on-the-move with more flair. But the general flow consists of slaughtering the opposition until their spawns stop, opening up a route covered in glowing dragon scales, and partaking in light platforming until you reach the next enemy arena. Rinse and repeat.
Horrifically short game length aside, the flow wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the disruptions to the pacing at every turn. Cutscenes kick off in a jarring manner; most finishers take far too long to complete; and technical issues further break up the momentum. In regards to the technical issues, notable framerate drops and hitching were common throughout the campaign. Halving and locking the framerate did not alleviate these issues. At nearly every turn, Shadow Warrior 3 found a way to create its own obstacle, which lessened the overall fun that could be had in the handful of hours preceding the credits.
Shadow Warrior 3 Review Verdict
Shadow Warrior 3: Shadow Warrior 3 is touted as the next step for the franchise, but the end result feels like several in the wrong direction. Lo Wang's terribly brief outing fails to fully find its rhythm, although it does occasionally glimpse a better version of itself. The lackluster dialogue, platforming, and campaign all hold back the newest installment, providing us a watered-down gun-toting, sword-slinging adventure that tosses aside the loftier ambitions of its predecessor. If fast-paced FPS action is what you crave, your appetite is better satisfied elsewhere. – Joshua