The insane adventures of ninja warrior Lo Wang finally drops on PlayStation 4 after a few months of exclusivity on PC. Having played the PC version, I was excited to see how the game’s fast paced combat and focus on platforming would convert over to the DualShock 4, and while there are some motion issues that make the combat just a bit too hectic, Shadow Warrior 2 might be the most fun I’ve had all year.
Trip to the Shadow Realm
A tale of drugs and mystical warlords unfortunately wasn’t the tonic that kept me engaged throughout the game’s lengthy run time. Lo Wang returns from the original and quickly gets caught up with the Yakuza’s and all manner of supernatural beings, but the cocky action hero holds his own. The player travels to some incredibly weird locales as our ninja warrior battles demons, mechs, and robotic assassins that kind of look like Zer0 from Borderlands. There’s only a bit of character development from Wang’s many allies that he takes quests from, but I was impressed by the sheer amount of cut-scenes that followed main missions and side quests. This high production values carries over to the immaculate settings and lighting system present in the game.
There is no understating just how consistently good Shadow Warrior 2 looks. Purple mist descending over a mysterious village with a mile high ancient structure looming in the background or billions of lights illuminating a cyberpunk city are just some of the many breathtaking environments I went through, all the while chopping enemies to bits and bouncing around the map. The game’s hub world, Wang Cave, and some of the grayer areas of the game don’t look all that great, but the mystical and serene sections of Shadow Warrior 2‘s world will make you forget you’re there to kill any sentient being that moves.
Animations are also impressive as you slash your way through a horde of enemies or cleanly chainsaw each limb off your adversaries, which is especially important considering how quickly power abilities recharge and the sheer number of explosives riddled around the world. Characters move realistically, especially when fighting towering mechs that maneuver with meaning, and the detail on them is of a high quality. The game is a gorgeous sight to take in, and the level of production value far supersedes its competition.
Man on a Mission
Where Shadow Warrior 2 stumbles in not in the breadth of things to do, but in what is asked. Most missions, whether main story or side quests, have you clearing out a litter of enemies — sometimes on different floors which breaks the map and gets a bit annoying — and travelling back to the quest giver to receive your dose of XP, weapons, and skill points. While fighting the plethora of enemy types never gets old, being asked to do the same kind of mission over and over again does.
Thankfully, this is Shadow Warrior 2‘s biggest failure, because the map design and enemy types, which combine with the mission design to make for a level, are engaging and force the player to switch up their strategies on a whim. You’ll be doing a lot of jumping and dashing, and the levels are designed with that in mind. The game’s quick pace is compensated for with lots of space to move and high points to get a jump on enemies or set up traps with your abilities. Jumping and dropping through a set of floors as you blast enemies away with a force push or lock them into place by summoning spikes from the ground is a difficult skill to master on the fly.
Shadow Warrior 2 is incredibly fast-paced, and enemies will not let up — nor will the game, as switching weapons does not slow down time! Add to that the multiple enemy types flooding your screen in any given battle, especially important story missions or during boss fights, and you’ll quickly learn to figure out the best strategy for any given situation. But even then, it’s about how fast you employ said strategies and learning how to properly position yourself within the environment to not allow the enemies to trap you in a corner or in the middle of a pack.
Slice & Dice
It’s all set-up for some great battles, but how does the game feel? Well, that depends. See, Shadow Warrior 2 gives out a bunch of weapons to players after finishing quests, but not all of them are created equal. At first, you may be excited to try out that bright yellow DeVolt nail gun on an unsuspecting demon. That is, until you found out how utterly useless it is as it fires a barrage of non-existent shrapnel. But then there’s the chainsaw that systematically rips through hordes of enemies as you slice limbs off in slow-motion with your screen shaking so wildly you lose any and all orientation. Now you could always upgrade weapons with gems that boosts stats like damage and the amount of chi you attain after a kill, but I found out the hard way that useless weapons remain useless no matter how much gems you throw at them.
Melee weapons are complemented by some good old rifles and pistols that all feel good to use, although I’d stick with your swords early on until you upgrade the clip size and reload time of your guns. Special weapons like the grenade launcher have their uses, but I hardly came across ammo, so I didn’t get to enjoy their explosive nature as much as I’d hoped.
Now that covers most of the game, so I’m going to go off on a little tangent about one specific aspect of Shadow Warrior 2 that completely contradicts the entire design of the game. Enemies drop loot and items after they die, and you would think, in such a fast-paced “go, go, go” style of game that lets you dash across continents like a madman, that the developers wouldn’t decide to make you pick up everything manually. You’d be dead wrong. Not only do you have to pick up these items yourself with the touch of the square button, you have to sometimes maneuver to the perfect spot in order to get the prompt to come up. This might sound like a minor annoyance, but I got the crap kicked out of me when I decided to ignore this frustrating mess and just use whatever I had to pass missions.
It’s the case of a small issue that turned rampant and hindered my play experience, but Shadow Warrior 2 is such a fast-paced, irresponsible, chaotic joy ride, that the mental pain I had to deal with from this annoying decision was well worth it in the end.
Review code for Shadow Warrior 2 provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.