Shadow Warrior 2 is a goddamn trip of the best kind.
The original Shadow Warrior was a game that repurposed the Duke Nukem 3D engine and its sense of humor with new coat of paint inspired by Asian films and mythology. In Duke's place, we got Lo Wang, a cocky katana-wielding assassin with a penchant for stupid humor. The original title was reimagined by independent developer Flying Wild Hog with better graphics, more weapons, more extensive levels, and a much better presentation.
Now Flying Wild Hog are reviving Lo Wang in Shadow Warrior 2. Following the events of the first game, the human and demon realms have been melded into a single world. Humans and civilized demons co-exists, while the wilder strains live out in the wilderness. Wang is given a simple mission to save a young scientist from his former boss, Orochi Zilla. Things go horribly wrong and Wang finds the scientist, Kamiko, sharing his headspace. Everything else is all about getting Kamiko's tainted body back and getting her out of Wang's head.
Guns Are Fun
I haven't had this much fun in a first-person shooter in a long time. Sure, I dig open-world shooters or the bombastic presentations of Call of Duty or Battlefield, but sometimes, you just want to shoot a lot of things. Shadow Warrior 2 gets that. This game is all about moving fast and killing things and Flying Wild Hog removes the things that get in the way of that. You can jump, double jump, and mantle like a king. Fall damage? Doesn't exist. Fall down a pit and you're instantly brought back to terra firma, though any enemies you were fighting will regain their health.
There is a whole catalog of weapons waiting for you and Lo Wang. Your trusty Lil' Wang katana, big cleavers, twin blades, shotguns, bows, pistols, nail guns, assault rifles, submachine guns, gauss rifles, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, gauntlets, and knives. There's even the wacked-out named weapons like Fujin, King Skeletor, the Warrrsaw (Flying Wild Hog is a Polish developer), Hammershot, and the Last Kiss Goodbye. Some you'll get for completing missions, some you'll buy at Larry's store, and others you'll find on the dismembered corpses of your enemies. You can equip up to eight weapons at once, with quick slots for a melee weapon and the last weapon used.
You need all those weapon slots because every damn gun is customizable and your enemies, they have specific weaknesses. Each weapon has three slots for upgrades, which add elemental damage, new firing modes, more damage, higher crits, faster reloads, better accuracy, and other effects. Eventually you can even craft new upgrades using old upgrades you have lying in your inventory.
It's an RPG weapon system for guns and within a few hours, you'll have a solid arsenal of your favorite guns for any situation: at one point, I had twin swords and a shotgun that dealt fire damage, a freezing bow with high crit, a electric revolver, and a toxic, weakness-exploiting gauss rifle. You'll find your babies, trust me.
Tell Me Where To Go, Who To Shoot
Once you've gotten your weapons, you'll find that magical hyper FPS zen here. That kind of feel that you find in games like Borderlands and Serious Sam, where it's just you, your guns, and your reflexes against a horde of enemies. That feeling where it's nothing but stick and move for a few minutes. Games that really tap into that feeling are rare and we got two this year? (Devil Daggers is the other, more pure release of this type.)
While Shadow Warrior was a linear experience, Shadow Warrior 2 is a more freeform murder experience. From your hub rest area, you'll pick up story and side missions, each with their own distinct maps. You teleport from the hub to the mission areas, complete your missions and then teleport back. At times, you can return to certain maps and free roam, but that's not your main focus. Does this blunt some of the purity of the first Shadow Warrior's murderthon? Yes, though I tend to find it fun hopping around the faux open-world levels.
These levels tend to be rather extensive. I'm sure a speedrunner can probably clear it in record time, but I found each mission taking anywhere from 30 - 60 minutes to clear, especially since I tended to wander around hunting for treasure chests with shiny loot. That said, there's really no reason to explore most of the environments unless you want more loot or you haven't found the named enemy. There's less incentive to really explore each environment. When you've polished off the main quest (10-15 hours), there's New Game+ for you to continue grinding your Wang.
While you're running around dropping bodies, you'll probably also notice that Shadow Warrior 2 is a stunner. Seriously, this is an amazing-looking game. We're talking detailed landscapes, flowing grass and trees, great lighting, and interesting atmospheric effects. The environmental design in certain areas, like Orochi Zilla's cyberpunk city, is simply wondrous, with luminous trees and bright neon splashed across harsh city walls. Hell, the game even has procedural gore, so when you slice an enemy with your swords or pump a shotgun shell into them, they fall to pieces in a shower of blood and flesh. It probably shouldn't feel satisfying, but it is.
Flying Wild Hog must've known that Shadow Warrior 2 looks amazing, because they included a built-in Photo Mode. You can pause the action at any time, move the camera around, or change the tilt, depth of field, contrast, and bloom. You can really get in there and tweak the ambient occlusion and chromatic aberration if you want before taking the perfect screenshot.
It's PC-first too, so the damn game is optimized like hell. It runs like a dream on my system - i7 4790, GTX 970, 32 GB of RAM - holding onto 60 FPS or higher like a goddamn champ.
I could sit at this keyboard gushing about Shadow Warrior 2 all damn day. It's a ton of fun. There are armfuls of weapons and even more upgrades to customize them with. You can upgrade your Wang with a host of skills. Movement in the game is a dream and there's nothing here to really get in the way of your fun. It's a damned beautiful PC game. Eventually, I even twigged to the stupid humor that's a hallmark of the series. Who can hate on a game with Stan Bush music? I can't.
It's only $40, folks. I have no idea how this happened. Flying Wild Hog are evil necromancers who sold their souls to make this game.
Buy Shadow Warrior 2. Go now.
So many guns. All of the guns. Shoot things until they die.
Once you've finished the campaign, there's the Wilderness and coop to keep you playing.
This is simply an amazing-looking game. Jesus.
Shadow Warrior 2 is a beautiful, fast-paced shooter with a ton of guns. There's an RPG-like layer of additional skills and extensive weapon customization, a great cast of characters, and nothing to get in the way of pure reckless shooting. And when you're done with the campaign, there's four difficulty levels, New Game+, and co-op play waiting for you.