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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Shadow Warrior.

Transcript Edit

Everything's ready for Dark Souls III! I've erected a new wall to bang my head against and refreshed my stash of chewing bricks. All I have to do now is sit here wearing these hype-deflecting blinkers for about two more weeks and distract myself by attaching a honey badger to my bollocks.

But the union says that the honey badger has to have a lunch break every eight hours, so while it's away, I might as well pass the time with a game that's a couple of years old now but has been on my catch-ups list for precisely such a moment as this: Shadow Warrior, not to be confused with Shadow Man, A Shadow's Tale, Shadows of the Damned, Shadow of the Beast or Showaddywaddy, nor indeed to be confused with the Shadow Warrior that it is a remake of - a late 90's Build shooter from the Duke Nukem mold and you know what that means: violence, endemic key-hunting and a questionable attitude towards women But in this case, also with a spicy hint of casual racism.

I ain't no Tumblr tot getting my pronouns in a twist over cultural appropriation, but when a bloke with a comedy Engrish accent runs around with a samurai sword screaming about how his name means "penis", you gotta wonder how it would fly at a summit of the United Nations. So the remake takes quite a few liberties with the plot of the original; I'm not entirely certain the original had a plot. The only thing I remember clearly from it is a naked anime girl doing a big farty dump.

Our protagonist, Lo Wang, is remodeled as a quippy egotistical bungling bad-ass with a slightly less silly accent and so brings to mind the comedy Asian bloke from The Hangover movies being cast to understudy Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness. He's sent by a shady boss-type man to acquire a magic sword from some other gang leader-type. But Wang doesn't have a name that means cock for nothing and so "acquire" turns into "steal, kill everyone, burn house down". However the world is soon hit by an invasion of genocidal demons and it becomes clear that there are darker forces than the shady boss man with an interest in the niceties of magic sword ownership rights, and Wang sets out to finish the job and get the sword to his master. Somewhere along the way, this turns into "kill his master" and eventually, "kill the lords of Demon Town as well", and I'm not entirely sure where the change has happened.

See, the recurring issue I had with the plot is that the game seems to think Wang is undergoing a character arc and speaking as the guy who spent eight hours inhabiting his skull, I'd beg to differ. By the very end, it's making out like he's finally become a noble warrior hero, but no transformation was in evidence around the end of the previous episode but one in which he blew up a ship while his allies were still on it for basically no reason, although it's refreshing to be on the other side of a stock totally illogical betrayal for once.

So Shadow Warrior is a first-person shooter that got recommended to me as "like Painkiller, but with a plot", which isn't a great recommendation because as pretty much everything with the Painkiller brand on it beyond the first one demonstrates, trying for any plot more complex than "you man, kill demons, grunt grunt, fire hot" more often than not is the metaphorical handful of sand in the fleshlight, but Shadow Warrior does indeed boast fast-paced, arena horde fights that would be reminiscent of Painkiller if Painkiller maybe had more than one tenth of the monster variety.

There's a bit of a focus on melee sword attacks which has the usual issues that close combat in first person has, best demonstrated by strapping a GoPro to the head of an excited dog in a room of unshredded tissue paper and trying to follow what's going on. This is compensated effectively for by being able to propel yourself around the battlefield with powerful rocket farts and your special sword attacks can be a pretty effective last word, the word being "Argle- spurt, spurt, thump." It's just weird how you have to pull them off with Street Fighter combos. Tap forward twice then hold attack for the lunge. Is there any particular reason it couldn't have been tap forward once then hold attack? And that's still a bit much to spontaneously lever into the middle of a fast-paced monster fight when I've already had one bum cheek bitten off!

Mind you, it seems we've got plenty of bum cheeks to spare 'cause I only died like once in my entire playthrough, and that was from falling three feet into a place I wasn't supposed to be in. The Health Kit Fairy has thrown herself into her work to get over a bad breakup and on top of that, you have the power to clench your asshole and get a bunch of health back whenever you want.

I think Shadow Warrior suffers from a bit of the Too Many Upgrades Syndrome. You buy magic upgrades with special gems, skills with XP and gun upgrades with good old fashioned money. And almost none of them evolve the gameplay in any way. It's all shit like "Do 10% more damage to lower demons". What the fuck constitutes a lower demon, Charlie? You mean the less respectable or the ones that are under five foot?

There's also a combat rating system where you get stars out of five based on...something. I never figured out what it wanted from me. Nuke the whole battlefield with rockets, one star. Make an effort to use every weapon, every spell and kill at least one guy by tweaking his nipples, one and a half stars. Turret section where I tape down the fire button and zoned out for a minute, four stars, great job. Wouldn't it be funny to have a game that claimed to be rating combat skill but was actually throwing out random numbers? That'd infuriate the perfectionist lot, wouldn't it? And I'm not saying Shadow Warrior has done that, just that if it did, I probably wouldn't notice the difference.

So despite not being based around praying on your knees at the chest-high altar to the God of Cover Shooting, the combat's nonetheless clunky, Probably too many weapons. I never really figured out how the heart works, and the flamethrower is as much use as blowing raspberries at a cigarette lighter.

Also, I don't like the level design. I can tell the game is overlong 'cause it's working its limited art assets until you can get a cricket bat down their bumhole without touching the side. Take a drink every time you see an arcade cabinet. One of the characteristics of the old Duke Nukem 3D-style shooter and its peers was that each map was a distinct location. Level 1, the train station. Level 2, the shopping mall. Level 3, the domestic violence shelter. Meanwhile, the entire first episode of Shadow Warrior consists of about five hundred copies of the same house that all for some reason have the same IKEA cabinets. Secret hunting was also a big thing in the original Shadow Warrior, but if you're gonna bring that back, maybe don't discourage exploration by putting invisible walls all over the place, especially on objects that even Professor Stephen Hawking could've jumped on top of.

You know what, now that I have written all this down, I don't think Shadow Warrior was much good. Occasionally decent combat and dialogue blighted by overdesign, dull levels and poor plotting. Still, a must-play for people who like games where the main character's name means "penis", once you're finished with Solid Snake and Jet Set Willy.

Addenda Edit

  • Shallow Warrior: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I was trying to think of video game characters whose names mean vagina but all I came up with was Bubsy the Bobcat
  • Uh uh uh uh where is it

Screenshots Edit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017

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