First and foremost, if you are easily offended by things that are a little (or a lot) on the politically incorrect side, then Shadow Warrior 2 is definitely not the game for you. If you’re not familiar with the series then you should probably know upfront – it’s full of dick jokes and cheesy gags – they certainly didn’t hold back for the latest title in the series. If you’re still with us and a little political incorrectness hasn’t scared you off, then you’ll find Shadow Warrior 2 is a really fun fast paced shooter with the right amount of RPG elements.
Shadow Warrior 2 follows the story of Lo Wang, a corporate mercenary who was tasked with collecting an artifact for the Yakuza. This simple mission goes South as you are quickly thrust into a conflict between demonic forces – a secretive young woman and Wang’s old nemesis Zilla. Once you get passed the initial hand holding missions you’re left to your own devices. Unlike previous games in the series, Shadow Warrior 2 takes a more open approach to missions. You have a hub which acts as a base for you to obtain missions and buy and sell items. Once you are free to roam you can pick to power through the main story or do a range of side missions which add to the story in a small way while, often giving you some pretty sweet rewards like new weapons and skills. These mission areas are procedurally generated so, if you choose to replay missions, the layout will be different every time. This new open approach works really well with the games traversal mechanics which make navigation a fun experience instead of a chore. Instead of having to run from point A to point B, Lo Wang can now dash, double jump and climb certain walls, which also adds a certain level of strategy as to how you can approach combat – and combat is where this game shines.
I can honestly say that the combat was by far the best part of Shadow Warrior 2. There’s something simply satisfying when you dash straight into the middle of a group of enemies and start slashing away, with little to no idea what’s going on. There’s limbs being hacked off and enemies with missing appendages still trying to stop you while you’re trying to survive – it’s something that never grew old during my time with Shadow Warrior 2. There’s a large range of weapons, each serving different purposes, that can be customized through the use of upgrades, which you get as loot drops from enemies or from chests scattered throughout the world. These upgrades can make small changes like adding health drain or decreasing reload speed, and they can also change a weapon completely by adding elemental damage or changing how a weapon fires completely. These upgrades come in a range of rarities, with the top tier upgrades making the most significant changes, but they also have a small drawback attached so you have to weigh up which upgrades are right for your play style.
While the weapon range is fairly varied, I found myself sticking to the melee weapons the majority of the time, applying different elemental damage to each weapon. As the game progresses the enemies start to get bonuses of their own, like physical resistances and elemental damage, which means it’s more beneficial if you vary up your damage types. There’s also a decent amount of enemies that get introduced at a good pace. Each enemy is fairly unique and has it’s own attack patterns and styles, meaning there’s rarely a dull moment through your entire playthrough. To add to the weapon variety there’s also a varied range of skills to collect to compliment your play style. If you want to focus on shooting over melee, you can invest solely on weapon skills. If you want to use your Chi abilities as your primary source of damage then you can. The game gives you the tools to play how you want and I didn’t once feel disadvantaged for picking melee.
The level design is Shadow Warrior 2 is great but I felt the environments weren’t varied enough. The neon metropolis looks fantastic with its vibrant colours and great cyberpunk setting, and in contrast the traditional village setting is done really well – it’s just the forest setting seems a bit drab which isn’t too bad but there’s only the three environments for the majority of the game. Even though the mission layouts change every time, it would be nice to have a few more environments to explore. Each mission area is quite large though and generally if you go off the beaten path you’ll find some decent loot or a mini boss to fight, which is always good fun.
Overall it’s the combat that is the shining star of Shadow Warrior 2. While the story isn’t necessarily a bad one or an overplayed one, it was really hard to get invested in either the story or the main characters as Lo Wang is constantly either making cheesy jokes and sarcastic comments, or just straight up making dick jokes. I’m not saying that I’m above the odd dick joke, but when it’s constant it makes it really difficult to get invested in the world or the characters. Aside from the cheesy humour the RPG mechanics feel solid and not overbearing – there’s just enough loot to keep you going. I feel like they got the balance right and it makes for an overall great experience. But by far the most best part is the combat mechanics and the constant joy you get from every engagement. If you like your games full of gratuitous violence and bad jokes then Shadow Warrior 2 is the perfect fit for you. If you’re easily offended or you’re after a game with a story you can get invested in, then this is not the title for you.