Have You Played… Shadow Warrior?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

But which Shadow Warrior do I mean? Despite my love of the magnificent Build Engine, not the 1997 original which never worked its way into my heart in the way that Blood did. Gotta have some Blood in your heart. But, no, I’m talking about the distant year of 2013, when Hard Reset developers Flying Wild Hog released a game that surprised me by being one of my favourites of the year.

I replayed Shadow Warrior recently, partly to see if it was actually as good as I’d thought during that first encounter. It is. The opening is a bit of a mess, with a sub Saints Row in-car singalong that I find as off-putting as nails on a blackboard, but as soon as the first demons appear, the game settles into a happy routine. Cut, slash, stab, kill. It’s a gory onslaught of intensely satisfying first-person melee combat, with a chunky set of upgrade sheets from which to select combos that are simple to perform and tricky to master.

Don’t be surprised if this year’s sequel ends up stealing my heart all over again. Shadow Warrior is very good at stealing hearts. It converts them into weapons of mass destruction.


  1. Hunchback says:

    Oh yes, and it’s magnificent!
    I, too, was very surprised by the game that turned out to be way more serious than wang jokes. And the gameplay is simply awesome. Really one of the best FPS of late.

  2. Mr_Blastman says:

    Shadow Warrior is fun but has two problems: The first one is enemy placement–they tend to appear in spawning mobs that are sealed in a location. This is fun at first but gets old the further you go because you realize all the pretty scenery is mostly just… pretty scenery. There’s not a lot to worry about along the way.

    The second problem is the game borders on being politically correct by pulling punches and not saying things it should. The first game held nothing back, it wasn’t afraid to shame or make fun of anyone or anything. This game does. And that sucks.

    Regardless of those two, it is a fun romp for a while until the mob repetition sets in.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      The old game was a bunch of lowbrow racist jokes, that’s not “not being afraid” that’s being lazy.

      • Mr_Blastman says:

        Those lowbrow racist jokes are okay. There’s nothing wrong with that sort of thing in a work of fiction. If you go back and read multiple nobel prize winning authors from the past you’ll find that their books have elements of racism, sexism, violence, profanity, sexuality, gore, incest and whatever else you might think of. Censoring stuff away only builds a false impression of things. You notice that right away if you watch movies from the 80s–they were raw and pulled no punches whereas many modern films are Hello Kitty.

        • Lumière says:

          Well, you said all: “go back” and “authors from the past”. We evolved, in the past it was ok, today isn’t anymore. The previous game is almost 20 years old, the new one couldn’t just ignore that our society changed.

        • Xocrates says:

          “Those lowbrow racist jokes are okay.”

          Why? Because you said so?

          Context matters. You can get away with saying “offensive” stuff if it makes sense to do so in the context of the work and/or enhances the message you’re trying to pass.

          Doing it just for the sake of doing it however is just perpetuating behaviour we should move away of, or simply being an asshole.

          “Censorship” implies that the creators wanted to make that kind of content and weren’t allowed to, when it’s vastly more likely that they didn’t want to do it in the first place.

          • Mr_Blastman says:

            Illustrating behavior in fiction reminds us of truth and reality and keeps the past alive for all to remember. Censoring and lambasting only censors free speech and creates a sanitized reality of insanity.

          • Xocrates says:

            @Mr_Blastman: And why exactly should our escapism present, and even encourage, the behaviours of the past, as opposed to the behaviours we wish to move towards to?

            Remember the past, sure, but maybe move forwards as well, no?

          • Kolbex says:

            Yes, he keeps talking about “keeping the past alive,” but really it’s just “I wanna be able to say and do whatever right now.” Whining.

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          gritz says:

          Shadow Warrior is not nobel prize winning literature.

          That should go without saying, but here we are.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          There’s a big difference between shining a light on racism and being racist. The first game was racist. I wonder if one of those 80s movies you love so much is Big Trouble in Little China?

          • Mr_Blastman says:

            Big Trouble in Little China is awesome. John Carpenter made some amazing films.

          • Afro says:

            What do you mean to imply? Big trouble in little china IS awesome! I mean the chinese guy is even the hero, Kurt is just the funny sidekick.

          • Renevent says:

            Which begs the question, what did the original Shadow Warrior do that BTILC didn’t do? I ask honestly too, as I have not played SW a really long time but I have generally the same feelings regarding the stereotypical stuff I remember in both.

          • Nick says:

            If you are implying Big Trouble in Little China is in any way racist you are actually delusional.

        • Det. Bullock says:

          Dude, that’s just moronic, if a guy wrote a novel in the 1920s of course there is a chance it will be racist, Shadow Warrior was made in the 1990s, what’s their excuse?

        • Det. Bullock says:

          And I want to add: why the fuck entertainment today should be racist because it’s entertainment?

          I’m not talking about censoring racism, one thing is showing racism (which is fine contrary to what Spike Lee and others of his ilk says), another is being racist by playing old derogatory steretypes completely straight (and no, humor isn’t an excuse, historically racist stereotypes were equally used both in serious and comedic contexts).

        • yoggesothothe says:

          I don’t know about the content of the original Shadow Warrior, but that’s almost irrelevant to the argument which you are presenting which is “lowbrow racist jokes are okay.” They’re actually not, and not least because they’re not jokes at all.

          Racism is not inherently entertaining nor is it enlightening. If you find it to be either, if racist statements seem amusing by virtue of being racist, well…

          And about that old “censorship” BS that people throw around so readily; only the uncritical of thought would seriously contend that all expression should be supported. We don’t support content that espouses child molestation because it’s morally wrong. Same goes for racism. It’s morally wrong.

          To quote Edmund Burke, the father of conservative thought himself:
          “Freedom without virtue is not freedom but license to pursue whatever passions prevail in the intemperate mind; man’s right to freedom being in exact proportion to his willingness to put chains upon his own appetites; the less restraint from within, the more must be imposed from without.” Yeah, even Burke doesn’t call freedom without virtue Freedom.

          Portray racism because it actually exists in real life? Sure, that’s fine. That’s entirely different, however, from exploiting racism to generate laughs and self-satisfaction.

          • Mr_Blastman says:

            Making fun of cultural stereotypes is NOT racism. It is comedy. Get off your high horse and loosen up a little bit. There was a time, a few decades ago, where we could make fun of one another and both laugh about it and not get upset.

          • yoggesothothe says:

            Sorry, but you specifically said “lowbrow racist jokes are okay.” And no, they’re not. Making fun of cultural stereotypes because they’re inaccurate, lazy and shallow? Yeah, that’s fine. But not the same thing as making “fun” out of cultural or racial stereotypes because that’s just perpetuating discrimination, othering and lazy thinking. The target of the joke matters. And once again, racist jokes are not okay.

          • Mr_Blastman says:

            They are quite fine. Millions of folks laughed at them in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and the world hasn’t imploded yet. Get off your high horse and lighten up.

          • yoggesothothe says:

            Racism is not fine, it never was, and it never will be. Fairly simple.

          • Mr_Blastman says:

            Jokes are not racism. They are jokes. Get over it–and if you /really/ don’t like it, make some jokes back.

          • yoggesothothe says:

            I don’t understand, which part of “racist joke” is not racist? It is by definition racist, the word is literally right in there. Just because you get a laugh out of them does not make them any less so. I think you yourself acknowledge how loathsome racism is since you are so repeatedly insisting on the utterly illogical statement that a racist joke is not racist. But this is like saying a red apple is not red because it’s an apple. Perhaps you would like to reiterate what you meant when you said “lowbrow racist jokes are okay”?

            Again, there is a difference between mocking stereotypes themselves (and yes, friends may refer among themselves to these stereotypes to highlight their inaccuracy and stupidity and thus derive humour) and mocking people using stereotypes. The latter is dehumanization, of refusing to acknowledge the reality of individual identity and reducing entire swaths of people to “jokes”. That’s simply unfunny. You are defending the indefensible if you are seriously supporting that (and perhaps you’re not, though you’ve given every indication that you are). No amount of laughter justifies treating people as less than people, and it really has nothing to do with a “sense of humour”.

          • Mr_Blastman says:

            You are correct. Racism itself is stupid and is alive and well, but joking about cultural stereotypes is not racism nor is it in poor taste. Shadow Warrior 1 was not racist and no more so than Big Trouble in Little China, which was not racist at all. It poked fun at Chinese stereotypes and that is quite okay and fine.

            On the other hand, denigrating someone in public as a peasant, pleb or gutter trash because they are of a different ethnic background than yourself is absolutely wrong and abhorrent. But they are two utterly different things.

        • dethtoll says:

          You know, based on previous comments you’ve made, I’ve assumed you were kind of a dolt.

          You’ve gone down a bit in my estimation.

        • Nucas says:

          nothing wrong with it because it doesn’t impact you? how would you feel if it was full of jokes about “white cis-hets” or something?
          why do i have the feeling you probably spend your time elsewhere on the internet complaining about “SJWs”?

      • Jackablade says:

        I rather liked that 2013 Lo Wang is evidently embarrassed by 1997 Lo Wang.

        *Lo Wang makes slightly insensitive joke*
        “Ah sorry – reflex. I used to be an asshole.”

    • Jalan says:

      Not that it matters a great deal, but I love the 3DR Shadow Warrior. That said,

      When Flying Wild Hog made the decision to alter Lo Wang, I didn’t see it as an attempt to shove a politically correct overhaul on him just to try and appease the detractors of the old game.

      It was an instance where the character became less of a cartoon-y/comically exaggerated cultural stereotype but still maintained a recognizable presence in the game he was in. They didn’t make him the “ultra edgy” ass-kicker type that a lot of these reboots go for, but they didn’t sanitize him into something devoid of all character either. The end result isn’t perfect but it still works.

  3. Det. Bullock says:

    I loved it, slashing hordes of demons with a magic Katana, a lot of laughs and a few tears at the end, it doesn’t get much better than that.

    • SomeDuder says:

      Actually, I’ve found there to be a genuine LACK of enemies to punch and blow up! They spawn in too few numbers to get your murderboner going, since the fights are usually too short.

      The exception is one of the last segments, when youre in the demonworld/hell/whatever it was called – there’s this long path with a massive miniboss at the end, but on the way there, these huge hordes of imps keep spawning, so for the 2 minutes it takes to get over there, it’s an absolute orgy of violence.

      I’m hoping SW2 will take it along those lines, since the SW1’s story was in danger of being eaten by mice, due to the high levels of cheese…

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Yeah killing stuff with the sword never got old. I’ve not played Chivalry so can’t compare it with that but it’s the best first person melee combat I’ve ever played, it was amazing and first person melee combat usually sucks *cough* Elder Scrolls *cough*.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Also the way that the game gradually gave you new skills was imo incredibly well designed. You never felt gimped without the unlocks but gradually getting new moves and expanding your playstyle throughout the game kept the gameplay feeling fresh, which could have failed horribly in this game because with the sword being the primary weapon (at least the way I played it), they kept the gameplay constantly evolving until the end, really great game design imo.

  4. Cimeries says:

    I was proselytising about this on a forum just yesterday. I picked it up on a whim expecting a fun B-movie game with jankiness and low production. What I got was Bulletstorm crossed with DMC and a bunch of really clever design decisions. I’m around 1/3rd of the way through and starting to feel the repetition on hard mode, might drop it down to normal if I start getting through it too slowly.

    This game is best played a chapter a day, I think, because it is repetitive, but also super fun.

  5. Chem says:

    I actually just started playing it last night and after getting past a few chapters I gotta say it’s been great so far. The swordplay is super fun and I thought the style of humor would bother me and come off as trying too hard but they really nailed it. Looking forward to the next one and I think it’ll be a day one purchase.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      I’ve also started playing it for the first time and it’s really great. I’ve almost exclusively used the sword and it’s very fun to run into a horde of demons swinging it with wild abandon. The powers and different sword attacks are great for giving the gameplay more variety and tactical options. I haven’t had this much fun since Jedi Outcast or Dark Messiah.

  6. Jay Load says:

    Funnily enough I’ve been playing it for the first time just last month.

    You couldn’t be more wang wrong the opening singalong, Adam. That just happens to be one of the greatest rock tracks ever created, from one of the greatest animated films ever made featuring warring, shape-shifting robots. It’s a stone-cold classic which lyrically and tonally sets the scene for the rip-roarious carnage to follow. “I have the POW-WWWWEERRRRRRRR…!!!!”

    But the game itself…yeah, it’s very accomplished. Very slick. Pretty as a . But, I dunno, I found something a bit lacking. For some reaosn it just hasn’t grown on me the way I wanted it to. Not sure I can really explain it.

  7. derbefrier says:

    Such a great fps. Loved every second of it and Shadow Warrior 2 is looking even better plus it has co-op this time around!

  8. aoanla says:

    I completely missed this at the time – I think because I had vague memories of the original which made me wary. It turns out that I actually heard about how good the remake was mere days ago via discovering the Demonsteele mod for Doom (described by some as “Shadow Warrior meets Doom”), but still too late for the Humble Bundle which had it as a bundle component :(

  9. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    I did but never got past the 2nd or 3rd level. Reached a point I couldn’t tell where to go next and realised I couldn’t be bothered to find the answer in a walk through. Never been back. Seemed fun enough, I guess

  10. bakaohki says:

    Played with it for half an hour but the sword never felt like a sword. Dunno. Sorry. Kinda liked the original in my teens, but couldn’t connect with the remake for some reason.

  11. Marclev says:

    Someone else already said it, but that opening song is none other than The Touch, from the only proper Transformers movie (1986 or thereabouts)!

    Nothing with it in it can be bad, therefore you are objectively wrong.

  12. Zekiel says:

    Played several hours of it. Didn’t click for me. Hard to put my finger on why – gameplay seemed fun enough but I just didn’t really care about the game and eventually realised I was kinda forcing myself to keep going. Think I may have learned I need more plot than a game like this provides (which isn’t in any way a criticism of Shadow Warrior).

  13. The First Door says:

    I was playing this a couple of weeks ago for the first time and started off really enjoying it… but I must admit I couldn’t quite bring myself to finish it. I quite enjoyed the gun and sword play, but I ended up finding the levels very, very repetitive, with quite a bit of ‘run to one end of the level, press a button, then run back to the other end’ padding, especially in the shipyards. Also there really did seem to be a lack of enemy types, which was a shame.

    Saying that, I think a sequel with more variety could be excellent!

  14. int says:

    You are tiny glasshopper.

  15. s1rrah says:

    Man what a game. I’m not the big FPS guy but this one got me with it’s tongue in cheek voice acting/scripting and the uber smooth gameplay (dual 980’s) .. the combat system is also ridiculous and truth be told? I play the katana 90% of the time because the combo moves are rad as all get out. Love the little demon that appears every now and again too … such an unsung masterpiece of time wasting glory this game. And though the overall texture quality/graphics isn’t what one could call “ultra realistic”? It’s still epic and beautiful as the colors and contrast palette is so “poppy” (I guess for the 3D crowd as I’ve read around that this is a good 3D title). Can’t wait for the sequel (is it already released?). Great original, first review BTW … it’s what sold me on the game as this is one of the only gaming sites that I actually trust when it comes to opinion.

  16. keithh_r says:

    Do we get a chance to write about games? I would love to add one Have you Played….?

  17. misho8723 says:

    In 2013 my 3 favorite games were FPS games : SW, Metro LL and Call of Juarez Gunslinger.. all 3 of them fantastic and MLL is probably my all time favorite FPS of all time, its better than even HL2

  18. Jackablade says:

    It did feel a little bit like they had to cut a few things – there are some story elements that either disappear or are waved away, the two ninja women being most obvious example, but it’s still a game I really enjoyed. Including the opening car-karaoke.

  19. Eukatheude says:

    I thought it was a bit shit.
    Weapons lacked any kind of punch whatsoever, and enemy were bullet sponges. The sword was fun but very limited.
    Also, turret sections.
    I found it odd since their previous game was truly a gem. For some reason SW also looks much worse than Hard Reset – and HR looked gooooooood.

  20. Steed says:

    Still haven’t played despite buying it of GoG or Humble for cheap a year or two ago… must get round to it.