PAX East ’16: Shadow Warrior 2 Hands-On Preview – Intelligent Design (PS4)

I think the thing I like most about Shadow Warrior 2, or at least the bit of it that I was able to play at PAX East 2016, is that it keeps both the crude sarcasm and the gory, gruesome combat that has made the series so iconic, while adding new elements to put the title in line with more modern games.

More Than Just Gore

I’m sure you’ve played at least one Shadow Warrior title sometime in your life, or at least have heard some things about it. If not, you should check out our positive review of the 2013 reboot of the series, of which the upcoming Shadow Warrior 2 is basically a sequel to.

You’ll get all you need to know from that review, but, in case it’s too much for you to read it, then you should know the 2013 game thrives on letting players kill massive amounts of enemies by either slicing them to bits with swords, blowing their brains out with guns, or using small spells to help utterly obliterate them, all while the main characters laughs and jokes and makes rude comments about girls he’s been with or inappropriate things he’s seen. Yeah, it’s not the most intelligent game, but it fast-paced and incredibly fun.

Shadow Warrior 2, which is due out later this year for PlayStation 4, PC, and perhaps Xbox One, somehow manages to keep those jokes and gore while coming off as a deep, intricate game.

It’s Gone Non-Linear

Maybe it’s the large number of both ranged and melee players can find in the game, or maybe it’s the way each weapon can be upgraded and honed, or maybe it’s the addition of elemental damage, which can be added to weapons and can impact different enemies in different way, based on their resistances or weakness to different elements. Maybe it’s all of those things, but I think it mostly has to do with the new level system.

“The levels are randomly generated,” Paweł Kowalewski, one of the game designers of Shadow Warrior 2, told me at PAX.

“If you look around,” he said, turning to face the several people playing the game on different screens behind us, “everyone is playing the same mission, but each of them is playing on a slightly different level layout, or in different weather conditions or a different time of day. So, we want to keep the experience fresh, whenever you’re replaying the same mission, or restarting your game.”


It adds a level of replay value, he explained, before also noting that the “game is no longer linear.”

Indeed, as I was playing, I noticed that the maps seem larger than in the previous game, and there seemed to be multiple ways to reach objective points. As I was hurrying towards one point, I came across a boss-like enemy that took a good few minutes to actually bring down after using an array of both sword slices and revolver blasts to deplete its massive health bar. After collecting money and weapon upgrades from its dead body, Kowalewski told me these types of enemies will appear to give players an extra challenge and allow them to collect more loot, yet are not always necessary to kill. 

Compared to the extremely linear layout of the 2013 Shadow Warrior title, this appears to be a major upgrade. Sure, the linear maps kept things straightforward and simple, but with these larger maps (randomly generated at that!), Shadow Warriors 2 has the potential of offering players something other games in the series never had — gameplay that forces players to think and make choices before mindlessly slaughtering things.