Shadow Warrior Review

Richard Walker

Ninjas and demons. The only things missing from Shadow Warrior are robots and monkeys. Not that it needs them, mind you. Flying Wild Hog's remake of 3D Realms' bloody 1997 FPS is a raucous and unapologetically violent game, with its tongue firmly lodged in its cheek. Originally released for PC last year, Shadow Warrior finally makes its console debut, and it's still every bit a balls-out and deliriously fun experience.

The antithesis of every po-faced military shooter on the market, Shadow Warrior only very occasionally takes itself seriously. The rest of the time, it revels in wanton dismemberment and knowingly silly one-liners, as Zilla Enterprises' hired shogun Lo Wang goes about acquiring the legendary Nobitsura Kage sword for his employer. The story twists and turns, as Wang finds himself battling demons of various shapes and sizes, from feeble footsoldiers to towering bosses with weak points to expose and exploit.

Demon meet sword. Sword meet demon.

Shadow Warrior's controls take some getting used to, with the left trigger used for alternate fire when handling a gun, rather than aiming. Instead, clicking in the right stick zooms in and there's no way of changing your controller layout. Initially this seems like an oversight, but the controls soon make perfect sense, and you'll be blasting your way through bad guys with a big stupid grin on your face in no time. Not that shooting is your primary activity in Shadow Warrior. You'll more than likely find that Lo Wang's katana is far more enjoyable to wield, simply using the sticks and triggers.

A number of attributes attached to Wang's weapons, chi abilities and skills can also be unlocked. Money enables you to purchase upgrades for the range of guns you'll acquire, ki crystals feed into unique magical powers and karma is awarded for killing efficiency and variation. The latter is available for boosts to Wang's health, stamina, luck and so on. Upgrading these three distinct sides to Lo Wang's attributes gives Shadow Warrior a deeply gratifying sense of progression, as he grows increasingly powerful and gains new moves.

Before long, you'll be able to perform spinning sword swipes, head-splitting thrusts, shockwaves that temporarily suspend enemies in mid-air and other feats of strength and supernatural power. By the time you're into the game's later chapters, you'll be an almost unstoppable one-man killing machine, armed to the teeth with a crossbow, rocket launcher, shotgun, flamethrower, laser-spewing demon's head and more instruments of grisly death. You'll regularly be kicking a path through piles of demon entrails, limbs and other unidentifiable body parts like fallen leaves in autumn. With intestines. And still-beating hearts.

Well-paced, Shadow Warrior knows when to leave you to explore and sniff out the plethora of hidden areas harbouring secrets, and when to pour it on with armies of beasts to reduce to twitching, bloody mush. By the end of the game, the action can get a little too hectic at times, requiring frantic management of your weapons and which enemies to target and eliminate first. Thankfully the weapon wheel is easy to use, and the game copes incredibly well with huge amounts of activity on-screen, seldom resulting in slowdown or a crippling frame rate. Save for the occasional minor glitch and the fatal danger that daring to run down a flight of stairs presents, Shadow Warrior is quite technically impressive.

Granted, it's not the best-looking game, but when it's as entertaining as Shadow Warrior, aesthetics don't really matter all that much. Resolutely old-school from a gameplay standpoint, Shadow Warrior looks more than pretty enough, and nails its mechanics, making every kill something to celebrate, as awards pop out of vanquished foes and count towards the game's numerous challenges. These in-game tasks in turn tie-in to the game's achievements that encourage you to experiment with every one of the game's weapons and abilities, coaxing you into switching up the style in which you play.

Do you feel lucky?

The kind of achievement list we like to see, Shadow Warrior demands you dispatch a certain number of enemies in a variety of ways, scour each location for secrets – some of which are worth finding, like small sections presented in the style of the original 1997 version of the game – and stay on the lookout for environmental opportunities to kill baddies with fire or electricity. Some achievements are devoted to simple progression through the 15-20 hour long campaign, while others will tempt you into playing through a second time on a different difficulty, or in the unlockable EX Mode, which preserves your weapons, skills and upgrades. Then there's the Survival Mode and leaderboards to consider too. There's no shortage of bang for your buck.

A game that's far more fun than a remake has any right to be, Shadow Warrior might be a year-old PC title, but it's well worth grabbing for your new-gen console of choice. If you grew up on a diet of Wolfenstein, Quake, Doom and Duke Nukem, then Shadow Warrior will be right up your street. If on the other hand, you fancy a break from Call of Duty or Battlefield, then Shadow Warrior is also worth seeking out. Occasionally a tad repetitive, Shadow Warrior nonetheless remains an unadulterated, blood-spattered treat that deserves to be played. It's arguably the most fun you can have with Wang.

Shadow Warrior

A wonderful throwback to the 90s shooter, Shadow Warrior is a fine remake that doesn't purport to offer anything more than a rip-roaring blast through hordes of demons. Shadow Warrior is bloody, wilfully daft and rather brilliant.

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Funny voice performances and twangy oriental music are the sum total of the game's soundtrack. It fits the bill nicely.


Character models are slightly low-res and a bit shonky, but the environments are decent, making hackneyed locations like labs, shipping yards and so on actually worth visiting. The hand-drawn cut-scenes are cool too.


A glorious love letter to 90s first-person shooters, Shadow Warrior plays just like one. It's uncomplicated, consistently entertaining and above all, tons of fun.


A massive campaign with a new game+ EX Mode, separate Survival Mode and leaderboards makes Shadow Warrior good value for money. There's a lot of Wang to be had.


A strong list that'll ensure you utilise all of Wang's weapons and abilities to kill enemies in various ways. You'll probably need to play through twice to bag them all.

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