Shadow Warrior 3 is the latest FPS from Flying Wild Hog, continuing its series that reboots the 1997 3D Realms title of the same name. As a sibling of the original Duke Nukem, the new Shadow Warrior series attempts to shake off antiquated gaming tropes while keeping its sense of irreverent humor.
You play as Lo Wang, a former corporate assassin who in the previous two games helped to stave off an interdimensional demonic invasion, but in doing so has opened the door to a bigger threat: an ancient world-eating dragon. With most of Earth’s population killed and demons freely roaming the world, you begrudgingly team up with former enemies in a last-ditch effort to save everything. Many high-quality cutscenes convey the game’s paper-thin plot, which mixes over-the-top action set pieces with cartoon-like slapstick, as well as a constant stream of character bickering and pop culture jokes. None of the writing or jokes landed for me, and Lo Wang came off as more annoying than funny. But those who’re more amused by a main character whose name is a dick joke might beg to differ.
Personally, I found it difficult to overlook the mish-mash of Eastern Asian stereotypes on display. It’s not as blatantly racist as the 1997 original, but it’s not a story or setting that takes into account any knowledge of the several cultures it’s borrowing from outside of buzzwords like “chi” and “yokai.”
Shadow Warrior 3’s gameplay also does a bit of borrowing. It combines fast-paced hip fire gunplay with first-person platforming, similar to Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal. It drops both the semi open world and co-op features of the previous game in favor of a much more linear experience. Waves of enemies mob you in cramped arenas with respawning health and ammo pickups, encouraging you to stay mobile to stay alive. Your arsenal of six weapons covers all of your bases: short range, long range, explosive, etc. At least two of the three upgrade levels for each weapon add some kind of interesting effect like slowing down time for your sniper or adding an electric element to your SMG.
There are also weapons you can pull straight out of the body of demons with finisher attacks. Some enemies will grant you limited-use weapons that are far more outlandish. The multi-colored vortex grenade was my favorite, but saving up finisher charges to strategically take out troublesome baddies with those special weapons became a gratifying core strategy for later fights.
Demon types offer good variety, and new ones are introduced gradually with distinct combat personalities that steadily pile on the chaos. You’ll need to juggle a variety of threats while keeping tabs on when pickups respawn, as health and ammo drops from enemies can be stingy. The gunplay feels weighty with the shotgun being especially effective and fun to use thanks to upgrades that allow for full auto and no reloads. The platforming is also really fun, focusing more on speed and reflexes than navigation. Using the newly added grappling hook along with air dashes and wall runs, you’ll zoom through hazardous yet distinctly unique locations.
Shadow Warrior 3 is generally a good-looking game. Its enemies and weapons all boast a strong visual personality. Its liberal use of color and particle effects can overwhelm your screen on occasion, however, so be wary if you’re sensitive to tons of visual noise.
It took me just under 6 hours to finish Shadow Warrior 3. As a new-age “Doom clone,” it delivers an action-packed, albeit short thrill ride. Yet its attempts to pay homage to the original problematic title only hold it back and muddy its potential. The game is out March 1 for $49.99 on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 and is included with PlayStation Now.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Shadow Warrior 3.