Review: Shadow Warrior 2

9f011b55c65d9aab9c7b4cc958bc25ecShadow Warrior 2 is one unusual game. It’s the sequel to a reboot of a game that never originally had a sequel. It’s also been greatly expanded compared to its predecessor, so…when you take a basic mindless action fps and double it in size with a hub world and a bunch of borrowed action-rpg elements, what do you hold it all together with when the previous games contained little to no story? Well, it seems the answer to that question is a massive amount of content recycling and some truly appalling story and dialogue.

Just shut up and look pretty, Shadow Warrior 2…

Let me take a step back here though, before I start getting into those serious issues. Shadow Warrior 2 plays much like the first game, with a lot of fast-paced combat where you find yourself up against medium-sized groups of enemies (not the massive hordes you see in games like Serious Sam or Painkiller, but usually of a larger than average size) that tend to require some quick thinking and acting as you’re often forced to switch between various melee, ranged, and magic types of attacks mid-fight in order to succeed.

This is where the game excels, because if there’s one thing that Flying Wild Hog knows how to do well it’s definitely combat. Battles are flashy and fierce, the weapons look and feel great, the enemies are well-designed and come at you in interestingly aggressive ways that often force you to switch tactics or elemental damage types on the fly. No, I have no complaints at all about the combat. It literally carries the entire game through some really unpleasant design choices (I’m getting there!).

Just fighting another Bunny Lord…

The combat feels much the same as it did in the first one for the most part, but there have been some well-intentioned additions. For one, there are now dozens of weapons to play with, so many that you don’t even have enough room to equip one of every single type, and they’re all customizable by way of special gems that you find and create. You’re going to need to fill some slots with specific elemental damage types too, as you’ll start running into a lot of element-specific enemies, the larger of which will really need that extra damage the opposing element can bring. The visual design is also quite nice. The environments are very easy on the eyes and the levels themselves are large and well designed, but alright, let’s finally get to that bad news.

Ok, for starters this sequel has also added a huge number of optional side quests along with its other action-rpg additions. There must be a good 100 or so various side quests and bounties to do, making this quite the content filled game. This probably sounds like pretty great news so far, but wait, remember those pretty levels I just mentioned? Well there’s only about 6 of them and most of the game is made up of you visiting the same 3-4 of them over and over and over and over again. To make matters worse, every single quest takes place in its own instance of the same level. Yes, this means even though you may have 25 things to do in the exact same map, you cannot do any of them simultaneously. You can only visit that same map 25 times, all nice and refilled with enemies every time.

Basically it’s like the shooter version of Dragon Age 2.

Now, these side quests are all entirely optional so you can cut a lot of this nonsense out if you want to and just stick to the main quests, although even then you’re going to find yourself revisiting those same places more than once. I remember two story missions in particular were almost identical. They both needed you to fight through the same level, following the same general path, fighting the same enemies, all to get to and talk to the same character at the end. I’m sorry, but that’s just lazy design.

Then there’s the story and the characters, which are just downright offensive, and I don’t mean offensive in the sense that it’s too vulgar (though it does try painfully hard to be edgy and lewd in the most juvenile ways possible), no, it’s just offensively badly written. I get that this must be trying to re-capture that same 90’s feel of the original game, with its endless fountain of ultra-cheesy (and casually racist) quips, but it’s just not funny this time. I suppose I should give you at least one example: “Want a little Wang? Well too bad, it only comes in XL!” Get it?? Because he likes to talk about his dick incessantly?!? HAHA! GET IT?! Yeah. It doesn’t get any better than that. In fact, most of it’s much, much worse. Main character Lo Wang wears out his welcome somewhere around the 50th bad dick joke and the people he encounters are usually equally miserable and repulsive, making me really, really want to just start skipping all the cutscenes to escape the pain of it all.

There are a LOT of cutscenes in this game too, and they’re all barely tolerable and completely insignificant. That was maybe why the original Shadow Warrior didn’t come off this same way, because for all its stupidity it didn’t even try to pretend that there was an actual story behind all the ridiculous jokes and destruction, it just let you get on with the action because it knew that that was all it was good for.

Conundrum: how do I make a dick joke about a genderless automaton?

So…we have here a shooter with some great combat, nice graphics, and a valiant attempt at becoming an rpg hybrid , but one that’s padded out with a massive amount of filler content and some really atrocious writing. Personally, despite these pretty huge flaws, I actually enjoyed it more than I didn’t. The quality of the combat and the weapons carried this mess of a game further than I would have thought possible.

This is definitely not a game for everyone though. Anyone wanting any semblance of story or substance isn’t going to find them here, and should probably explore other, better options. However, if you want some challenging high quality ultra-violent (and ultra-braindead) action and don’t care at all about what that action is wrapped up in, then this certainly has plenty of that to go around, though even then you probably don’t want to go out of your way to pick this one up unless you catch it in a good sale.