Flying Wild Hog’s reboot of the Shadow Warrior series gained a substantial cult following with its first entry. With Shadow Warrior 2, the team expanded beyond a simple single-player action game to a RPG-like experience with co-op and procedural generation. Frankly, this made the action-shooter a little too complicated. Shadow Warrior 3 takes things back to basics, streamlining the series back into single-player with simple levels and lots of gory action. Taking notes from its predecessors and further improving on its existing strengths, action is where Shadow Warrior 3 thrives.
Lo Wang and the ancient dragon
Shadow Warrior 3 picks up from the events of the previous game, with Lo Wang, the ninja mercenary, talking to the mask of his dearly departed demon friend Hoji. In the previous game, an ancient dragon escaped the Outer Gates, which triggered an apocalyptic event. Orochi Zilla, Wang’s former employer-turned-enemy, offers to help him amend the apocalypse by killing the ancient dragon with Hoji’s mask. From there, the adventure starts.
The narrative of Shadow Warrior 3, while simple, suits the overall tone of the game. Lo Wang’s character, with his sarcastic comments and one-liners directly contrasts the end of the world and the despair of its inhabitants. Unlike previous entries, I found myself laughing more often than not at Shadow Warrior 3’s jokes.
All of Shadow Warrior 3’s cast does a fair enough job of their roles. Lo Wang may be the star of the game, but Hoji’s return is simply delightful. Their companionship over the course of the runtime is genuinely engaging and funny, with Hoji and Lo Wang’s sarcasm and jokes bouncing off each other. Furthermore, there was never a dull moment between any of the small cast of characters. Each character’s distinctive stories and personalities, such as a grumpy old man who lost billions of dollars, drives the story home.
Killing some ugly demons
However, the overall plot is simply a sideline compared to Shadow Warrior 3’s incredible gunplay. Lo Wang’s arsenal of weaponry, most notably his Katana, create a gory confetti of enemies. This all translates into a good time. It’s a fast-paced shooter akin to Doom Eternal, with powerful weapons which offer unique ways to shoot down those pesky demons.
The addition of wall-running, amongst other traversal techniques, keeps the combat rolling. As soon as I started a level, it was all guns blazing as I made my way from one demon horde to the next, with only cutscenes stopping my wave of destruction. Playing on normal difficulty, I never struggled to keep up with the range of demons sent my way, despite having a few deaths by the end. If you’re used to shooters, I’d recommend the hard difficulty.
Enemies and combat arenas are distinctive. Everything from the basic demons to the mini-bosses which parade their disgusting bodies throughout each level are noticeable from an instant, meaning I knew which enemies to prioritize in my bloodshed. The traversal, both in combat and outside, follows inspiration from Titanfall and similar parkour systems which works wonders alongside Lo Wang’s array of talents.
Grappling hooks may seem like an overdone gimmick at this point, and Shadow Warrior 3 does fall into this trap a few times. Other than clearly marked situations, the grappling hook sees very little use. Attaching to grunt-level enemies and gliding towards them stops the fluid movement of combat. It’s a useless skill rather than an essential technique.
Fortunately, Shadow Warrior 3 never suffers overall. The game’s length is around nine hours in total, keeping things concise and fun. It hits the sweet spot, never cutting it too short or dragging out its story for the sake of it. Unfortunately, at least currently, there’s no way of replaying levels or starting a new game plus, meaning that you’d have to replay the game from the start again.
Visually, Shadow Warrior 3’s levels are a mix of gorgeous vistas overlooking dams, dark and creepy caves, and everything in between. The game is so fast, you can never take a moment to look over the horizon, but the visuals still serve a purpose. Levels are varied enough that they always feel fresh, but never too distracting that they become more important than the explosions of guts and glory.
I also had very little performance hitches or glitches during my time with Shadow Warrior 3. Sure, I had occasional issues with frame drops and maybe a couple of instances where the wall-running didn’t connect properly and I subsequently fell to my death. Overall, I had very few issues, and certainly nothing to complain about. In comparison, this was one of the better pre-release versions of a game I’ve played recently, where most require numerous updates to function as intended.
Shadow Warrior 3 is a return to basics. It’s gory, gut-filled combat, and fluid movement may draw inspiration from other games, but it’s Flying Wild Hog’s passion and development which bring all of these inspirations into a fresh take. Its story is interesting enough to keep you playing, but it’s never the focal point of the experience, with the gratifying shooting and slashing rightfully taking the spotlight..
Lo Wang’s adventure throughout Shadow Warrior 3 was one of the most riveting experiences that I’ve had in a game in years. Despite some minor flaws, I was smiling throughout my entire time. Humorous, violent, and chaotic, Shadow Warrior 3 is a must-buy for both fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to hunt some more demons.
9.5 / 10
|Gratifyingly gory combat with fluid and fun traversal
|Simple, concise, and driven story
|Lo Wang’s one-liners never get old
|Grappling Hook isn’t used to its potential
|Some minor performance issues
Gamepur team received a PlayStation code for the purpose of this review.