Shadow Warrior 2 is the follow up to the hugely successful 2014 predecessor, a game that you can get for free as added incentive to purchase, if you pick this up within two weeks of console release. Flying Wild Hog have opted for ‘bigger is better’ this time around, offering up a bulky campaign filled with innuendos, humour, fountains of blood, and piles of dismembered body parts. This game has already been on the market for some time having released on PC several months ago, so if this a genre that you love, chances are you probably already know about what to expect. If not, we’ve got you covered.
Shadow Warrior 2 throws you into the role of one Lo Wang, yes that’s really his name, I told you there’s innuendos. The game combines first-person sword based combat with guns to yield some massively entertaining results. Unlike the first game, this one is much more open and gives you plenty of freedom to go wherever you like. The adventure begins with you in the middle of an assignment, you’ve been sent to track down the daughter of a Yakuza boss and bring her back to safety. Shit hits the fan when the girl’s soul is separated from her body, sending Lo Wang on a journey to reconnect her soul to her meat-suit and save the world in the process. It’s about as bonkers as you could imagine, but that’s totally forgivable (even expected) for a game of this standing. Much like the Serious Sam series, Shadow Warrior 2 wont grip you with a deep meaningful plot, but instead with brutal gameplay that’s as satisfying and rewarding as they come.
The humour and vulgar tones of the game are present from the get-go, and they’re hardly light. Unlike the since retired Duke Nukem, Flying Wild Hog knows exactly how to get you laughing alongside Lo Wang. The comedy value in Shadow Warrior 2 is top notch and everything from an index finger to the heaviest of sexual references will send you into giggle-fits. It’s probably worth pointing out that as aforementioned, the humour and vulgarity is full on, as such you might want to keep that in mind if you’re easily disgusted or offended.
Gameplay typically consists of slashing or shooting anything that gets close enough to kiss you. The enemies vary from small spider like creatures, to giant mammoth sized demons that will slam you sooner than look at you. Each enemy type comes with specific movements and attacks, making for some hugely entertaining and challenging gameplay when you find yourself in the same room as several enemy types. Map sizes do tend to range depending on the theme of your environment, but there’s always more than enough space to lay waste to whatever gives you a funny look. One moment you could be traversing through some temple hallways, and the next, you’re in an underground cave system surrounded and outnumbered.
I was more than satisfied with the level design. There are countless secrets to uncover across each and every stage that you enter, most of which house loot that you can use to better your character. The areas are well detailed, unique, and don’t outstay their welcome, ensuring that you are always treated to a diverse collection of scenery. When you take into account that this game is designed to keep you constantly moving and on your toes, that’s something to be appreciated. Both the missions and the areas have a very sandbox feel to them, often leaving you the ability to pursue whatever path you wish to take. Shadow Warrior 2 comes with main missions and side objectives, so there’s barely ever a shortage of things to accomplish, especially when you throw looting and free roam on top of that pile too.
Character customisation plays a large role in this game. Not only can you seek out a vast selection of weapons, but ability upgrades too. Lo Wang is also much more fluid in the sequel thanks to being able to double jump and quick dash at the drop of a hat. This makes exploration and combat fast paced and responsive. Weaponry that you pick up or earn can be further strengthened with gems that boost stats and offer elemental powers. This helps for when you’re taking down the biggest and mightiest of foes, who in turn, will also drop rare loot for you to utilise however you like.
Weaponry includes projectiles, blades, and guns, all of which are fantastic to control and come with their own pros and cons, forcing you to identify what weapon suits what situation. Crafting and looting is gleefully straightforward and works not to dissimilar to Borderlands. The game can also be enjoyed with up to three other ninjas, and although the campaign can take well over 15 hours to complete when you’re taking the time to soak up everything on offer, multiplayer is easily the best way to play. That’s not to say that solo-play isn’t fun, because it really is, but I found the level design and general presentation to be slightly more accommodating to group-play.
Combat itself feels absolutely brilliant and the control feedback is spot on. Certain enemies are weak against particular attacks, some may be weak against melee whereas others may be weak against one of the elemental powers. The game really does well at keeping you alert at the same time as retaining that previously mentioned fast pace. Very rarely do you have a moment to breathe or compose yourself, Shadow Warrior 2 is unapologetic with its chaos from beginning to end, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are several difficulty settings to choose from when you start up the game, and unlike many other shooters, you can not only benefit from better loot on higher difficulties, but it feels far more rewarding rather than frustrating. Regardless of your chosen difficulty it pays off to maintain your health and magic bars, far too many times did I take a half-full health bar for granted, only to have my ass handed to me moments later.
A few issues that I did have with the game sit mainly with the hub world. Lo Wang gets to visit this hub to take on assignments, upgrade weapons, and so on. I found this to be more of a pace-breaker than anything else, and oddly enough most of the NPCs look exactly the same. This was a little disheartening considering just how much care and attention has gone into the overall experience. With that to the side, there’s very little else that I had any real problems with. The game runs smoothly with no notable drops in frame-rate despite how much action can be displayed on-screen at any given time, furthermore, I haven’t witnessed a single bug or glitch during any of my play sessions. It truly is a well optimised adventure that any fan of FPS will enjoy.
Shadow Warrior 2 is a step up from the acclaimed predecessor, dishing out mindless blood-filled fun for up to four players across a 15+ hour campaign. There’s a huge collection of different weapons that you can obtain and upgrade to use against the countless enemy variants within. The soundtrack and sound effects are well set, pushing forward another layer of energy and immersion for every gory squelch you observe when beating the holy hell out of the opposition. Sadly, the hub world serves as more of a pace-breaker than anything else and the copy and paste NPC’s do slightly take you out of the experience to some small degree. This is a game that shines at its brightest when you’re neck deep in the action, and with the hub to the side, there’s certainly no shortage of that. It’s well designed, it’s gorgeous to look at, and there’s heaps of loot and unlocks to work towards. This is one shooter you don’t want to overlook.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.