STAFF REVIEW of Shadow Warrior 3 (Xbox One)

Tuesday, March 29, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Shadow Warrior 3 Box art Do you love mindlessly shooting hordes of enemies? If so you might be a fan of classic Serious Sam or the newer entries of Doom or Doom Eternal. What about games filled with toilet and childish humor but still can’t help but laugh at stupid jokes? Then you probably had a fun time with the mediocre Bulletstorm back in 2011. If you’ve ever wanted a game that combined these two types of games, look no further, as Shadow Warrior 3 is an over-the-top off-the-rails shooter that is filled with fast paced gunplay, sword fighting, crazy parkour maneuvers and so filled with poop jokes and pop culture references that I found myself literally laughing out loud at times because that’s the type of humor that I enjoy. Yes, I know I'm a manchild.

I’ll admit, I’ve not had the pleasure to play the first two Shadow Warrior games, so I wasn’t sure what to initially expect. Originally released in 1997, Shadow Warrior got a reboot back in 2013 and a sequel in 2016, so it’s got a following over the years. Picking up where the second game left off, you once again play as Lo Wang, a modern day ninja that has some kick ass moves, weapons and quite the potty mouth.

Shadow Warrior 3 starts off with Wang talking to himself, in his underwear, basically giving a recap of what happened to this point, a clever subtle way to recap events from the previous game, explaining how the world is basically doomed now because there’s a massive dragon that was let loose on the world and destroying everything at the closing events of Shadow Warrior 2. As he’s feeling sorry for himself, former enemy, Zilla, enters his treehouse and basically talks Wang into trying to stop the ancient dragon and save the world.

The two will set out, meet some familiar faces along the way and go on quite an epic journey to try and stop the world from being destroyed. Armed with just his sword and a pistol, Wang is going to have a crazy journey filled with hundreds of demon enemies trying to stop him and needing to make insane leaps, crossing chasms and wall running across massive gaps. There is more to the main narrative, but because of the very short runtime of about five to six hours on normal, I don’t want to spoil anything else since it goes quite quickly. All you need to know is that the story is entertaining, gameplay frantic and fun, and Wang is similar to having Deadpool’s type of humor.

Taking place in a Feudal Japan backdrop, there’s some beautiful level design and settings that Wang will traverse, and even though much of the time you need to be constantly moving, dashing and running as quick as you can from area to area, taking a moment here and there to take in the scenery can be quite impressive. Fighting against a number of different types of Yokai enemies from Japanese folklore, they become bigger, badder and more, uhh, unique as you progress in the story, all of which need a specific strategy to overcome.

Played in first person, Wang will be essentially wall running and leaping from point A to B where you’ll then be placed into an arena that is impassable until all enemies are defeated. If this sounds like Serious Sam you’d be correct, as it’s the same design principles. This normally would be a knock against its dated design, but the combat is so frantic and fun that it never become tiresome, nor does the exhilarating running from arena to arena.

There’s almost never a dull moment, as Wang is almost always constantly on the move, either in traversing the levels, leaping and swinging from one platform to the next, but also in combat, as you’ll need to constantly be moving if you want to survive. The level design is very linear but there are a few side paths that can house a secret or two, but they are generally quite obvious and aren’t very much of a detour at all. For those hoping that level design would be like it was in the previous game, sorry, Shadow Warrior 3 is very linear but I still quite enjoyed going from one point to the next as the setpieces were made quite well.

Wang is able to jump, double jump, dash almost constantly, wall run on specifically marked foliage pathways and use a grappling hook to swing from point to point. Because Wang has all these moves, traversing levels is quick and fun, as you’ll need to utilize double jumps and dashes midair to make it to and from certain points. There’s a certain flow that happens in these platforming sections, and once you get it down without having to think it becomes very smooth. This movement also will be needed in battles as well, as Wang only starts out with his trusty sword and a pistol.

Combat in Shadow Warrior 3 is quite simple to perform, with Right Bumper acting as your sword attacks and Right Trigger for your ranged weapons. There’s fewer weapons this time around which you’ll unlock during your journey to stop the dragon (or is it a Wyvern?), but they are all fun to use, especially once you start unlocking their upgrades. If you have access to guns, why would you use your katana you ask? Well, Wang is a ninja, so he’s quite skilled with his sword and can cause a lot of damage. With some upgrades he’ll also be able to charge his attack and send out a fire, lightning or ice attack for ranged hits as well. When you become surrounded by minions, it’s usually better to start swinging away to clear yourself some room.

Your ranged weapons on the other hand generally have quite limited ammo, so they are great to use while closing the distance or when you want to keep away from the more dangerous enemies. To refill your health and ammo you’ll need to keep an eye out in the arenas for red and blue pickups, though later you’ll get some skills that will cause enemies to drop more as well, kind of like how the recent Doom games get you to switch between ranged and melee. I found combat at first a little tricky, as it felt weird to use ‘RB’ for melee attacks, but eventually it feels natural and smooth once you get the hang of switching weapons. That said, this is encouraged, as you instantly reload your guns if you swap to your sword, so it’s generally a great tactic to unload a clip, get in close with your sword to instantly refill and then switch back again.

There’s only a handful of guns you’ll find throughout your journey, but each gun is unique and best suited for certain situations. While enemies will be reused over and over, each level or so you’re introduced to a new type of enemy that keeps things exciting and fresh. The only ones I really hated was the exploding grunts later on that were clearly copies of the Kamikazes from Serious Sam, even down to the screaming as they rush and swarm you and explode.

Wang also has a finisher meter, starting out with two units, eventually gaining three. These are used for special gore moves that leave you with a powerful weapon for a short period after one-shotting the enemy. Small grunts only require one bar of finisher but these generally only give you a quick health replenish or a cryo grenade, but using two bars on the bigger enemies will rip them to pieces as you take their weapon to use briefly. Ripping the arm off a giant troll allows you to use their club and smash enemies all around you, or ripping the eye out of these annoying flying enemies will act like a homing missile going from enemy to enemy. It’s an interesting mechanic that can make a big difference in battle if used properly but gives you a huge damage boost for a short period of time.

As you explore the levels, even in linear paths, you’ll come across upgrade orbs for Wang and for his weapons. Each skill or weapon has three tiers of upgrades, costing 1, 2 and 4 to complete and can make a huge difference in your journey. Weapon upgrades become quite interesting, as you can freely choose what to improve, but being able to shoot elemental attacks from your sword can become quite handy, as is making it so your shotgun-like weapon turns full-auto or never needs to be reloaded.

The world Wang has to traverse is absolutely breathtaking at times, and while it’s hard to take a moment to stop and take it in, the vistas are absolutely gorgeous, especially when you see a massive dragon soaring on by as you wall run and grapple hook to try and catch up with it. I never had any slowdown or pop-in issues, but there’s some harsh transitions between gameplay and cutscenes sometimes, as it can happen instantly and just feels a little off. As for the audio, the writing it juvenile, but it’s meant to be and the voice acting is decent, even if some lines are repeated at times. Wang’s lines and interactions with the other characters is hilarious at times and cringe at others, but I do believe I think that’s what developers were going for.

I quite enjoyed my time with Shadow Warrior 3 from beginning to the rolling credits. That said, the asking price is quite steep for a game that I finished in about five or six hours that is very linear and has no multiplayer component. Your enjoyment is most likely going to be determined on your sense of humor, so if you love poop jokes and swearing, you’ll most likely be laughing like I did throughout in this Bulletstorm and Doom mashup.

**Shadow Warrior 3 was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.3 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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