I am familiar with Shadow Warrior. I played the original back when it first launched as an Eastern version of everything that went into 3D Realms' Duke Nukem 3D. I remember the great combat and the bottom-of-the-barrel humor. To this day, I still recall Lo Wang's "The shuriken is my favorite thing" monologue. I purchased, installed, and played the 2013 reboot, but I admit I didn't really get into it in the same fashion. So heading into my demo of Shadow Warrior 2, I'm not expecting all that much. More stuff, bigger world, yadda yadda.
The demo starts off in Lo Wang's new safe haven, the Wang Cave, five years after the end of the original game. The human realm and the Shadow Realm have overlapped, upending the status quo and letting demons out into our world. Some demons live among humanity, while others are still trying to kill everything they see.
Instead of the linear single-player experience, Shadow Warrior 2 is now an open-world title split between three areas, two of which are hand-crafted for maximum action and the Wilderness, which has procedurally-generated terrain. Even within the hand-crafted areas, the missions are semi-procedurally-generated; the objectives will be the same, but where you go and the enemy placement will change each time.
I pick up my quest - to find items to heal the body of a young woman whose soul currently resides in Lo Wang's head - and dutifully follow the waypoint. Movement is fast and fluid in Shadow Warrior 2. Wang can dash and double-jump, something you can do over and over again without worrying about limiting mechanics like stamina. He now mantles, catching overhangs if he gets close enough, and there are spots around the environment that he can climb. It's easy to get around. I'm following the mission waypoint and the instructions of my developer handler, when I fall into a pit accidentally.
This was my 'come to Jesus' moment.
I'm down in this dark hole and enemies are just coming from every damn direction. I'm using sub-machine guns to mow down enemies, but it's not enough. I pull out my shotgun and a satisfying 'BOOM' punches a hole in one demon's chest. There's too many, so I'm double jumping and dashing around like a jackrabbit. I gain some height for a breather and these demons follow me up. I pull out the katana, slashing wildly at smaller demons, removing limbs and chopping them in half. I switch to a grenade launch with some sort of electricity element attached and start dropping bombs.
I'm whittling them down, occasionally using Chi Powers to heal myself. I use another to create vicious impaling spikes for some space. Back to the shotgun, I'm blasting the head off another large demon. The grenade launcher comes back for some clean-up, but I'm low on ammo, so I go hunting for some on the ground. I'm still dashing and jumping everywhere because I can't stop moving, not even for a moment. I drop a grenade right on top of the last guy and it's all over. I'm alone in a hole.
For me, that's when Shadow Warrior 2 goes from "Oh, okay" to "Holy shit, I need some more of that!" My inner child is slamming on my chest, screaming, "YEEEESSSSS!"
I'm talking hard and fast Serious Sam or classic Doom-style action with some really great weapons. There's a weight to the shotgun that just feels right. There are over 70 weapons in the game according to the developer and most of those can be modified with elemental effects or other augmentations you can find on the gory bodies of your foes. Those enemies fall apart procedurally too, meaning you can blow off arms or legs, or simply slash a foe into pieces.
I'm nearing the objective, which seems to take place in a semi-ancient Japanese town. I'm following the waypoint again, but it's sending me around a building. I figure I can't go over the building, because I'm too used to invisible walls, but it's a demo, so I try it anyways. Hell yes, you can go on top of these buildings! Now I'm jumping and dashing from rooftop-to-rooftop like a free-running fan.-
I'm nearing the final objective, clearing out some samurai armor demons using a bow-and-arrow with a freezing effect, before mopping up with an acid rifle. I'm digging everything about this demo pretty hard at this point, when I enter a courtyard and there's this huge flaming beast that wants me dead. David and Goliath action is going on; I'm running around to prevent this thing from getting a solid hit in at all. I actually die here once, because it unexpectedly throws a huge chunk of concrete at me. Luckily, I teleport back to a shrine I recently passed. I run back in and it's another few minutes, but I have this. It eventually goes down.
I only played for 20 minutes, but it felt like much shorter. Shadow Warrior 2 was so good, that I went back the next day and found the other game by the same developer on the PAX East showfloor: Hard Reset Redux. That game was an awesome throwback to the 90's shooters, while Shadow Warrior 2 is a great blending of those 90's shooters and some of the gameplay systems of today.
Developer Flying Wild Hog could be pulling one over on me, but I'll be damned if Shadow Warrior 2 wasn't one of the best games I played on the showfloor.