The remake of Shadow Warrior was pretty unexpectedly good. At least for me, since the first game of Warsaw-based Flying Wild Hog Hard Reset wasn’t very good, in my opinion. And yes, Shadow Warrior 2013 did feel more like Serious Sam or Painkiller than a classic FPS, but it still also felt good. So I had high hopes for the sequel, even after it was announced that there will be randomized level elements in the game and coop and other things that pointed, that the game might go the loot shooter way, something I’m not particularly a fan of. Yet, now the game is out, I’ve spent more hours with it when I ever needed and parting with it is a bit sad. Even if it’s not a fantastic game, really, this Wang entered deep into my very being.
So yes, Shadow Warrior 2 is actually a loot shooter. That is – there’s random loot falling from the enemies, there are sidequests and main quests, there’re even randomized levels – something that Borderlands didn’t even try yet. There’s experience and skills, although, to be fair, different upgrades were present in the previous game as well. And I usually dislike this. I mean, I like Borderlands, especially in coop, but there always comes that moment, when I realize how futile finding new loot is, how absolutely inescapable doing the “side”-quests is, because all enemies are bulletsponges anyway, and nothing ever matters, and you have to level up and grind or the game becomes even slower and more boring.
And Shadow Warrior 2 lacks all that. It’s insanely fast in everything – your movement speed is quick, full of infinite dashes you can spam almost immediately one after the other and doublejumps, your weapons are quick and quite effective, enemies die quick enough and every level can be speedrun in just a few minutes. You don’t really have to grind, you don’t really have to care much about loot and skills and weapons, you don’t waste time running around. You pop in, fly across the level, fight when you want to fight (and sometimes when you have to), teleport back home, do other cool stuff. It’s funny how simple it was – fixing the dreaded loot shooter formula. Just making it not slow and boring was enough. Hell, even randomized levels in sidemissions are pretty cool, and I usually hate them. It feels like playing Torchlight of Borderlands.
But, it’s not without issues too. For example, there are only about 4 level tilesets and now matter how hard the game tries, it does become slightly boring to run around slightly differently configured and with different lighting and weather condition levels by the end of the game. And yet – the game is smart enough to end quite quickly. And then yet again – it’s dumb enough to make that ending a non-ending, where there’s clearly more to happen, but it won’t until the inevitable DLC or a sequel.
Or the music, that’s kickass and fun, but often lacks the same memorability that DOOM 2016 had, apart from several tracks. Or the fact that the game is extremely fun in coop, but at the same time, there are no coop communication options in the game itself. And the photo mode that has incredible amount of options, but at the same time doesn’t include visible Lo Wang model. And how the game is very funny and campy, but at the same time sometimes reeks of low budget.
It’s full of those tiny questionable things that make you want to like the game less. But I couldn’t. It was simply too fun to play. Quite a bit too easy, though, but that seems to have been seriously rebalanced just a few days ago. Which is yet another cool thing about the game – it’s beautiful, but really well optimized and with patches fixing everything really fast. Hell, this is even the first PC game to have HDR support, although, sadly, my monitor is 8bpp colour depth only so I couldn’t try it out.
Shadow Warrior 2 is incredibly fun. It’s fast, it’s exciting, it’s something I fully expect speedrunners play on a next big event. It’s also a step in the right direction for loot shooters. But at the same time, it’s rough. It’s just a step, not a fully fledged example of a fantastic mix of a proper slasher/FPS with some loot elements. It’s a step worth experiencing, though, and one of the most fun FPS games I’ve played in a while.
P.S. Video review: