Shadow Warrior 2 review screenshot

Shadow Warrior has always been a silly game, both in terms of weaponry and in terms of humor, but Shadow Warrior 2 takes things to a whole new extreme. Not only are the weapons even more destructive and extravagant than ever before, but the jokes are so cheesy they are just about ready to topple over!

So how ridiculous is Shadow Warrior 2 when compared to its predecessors? Well, let's just say that you can wield a giant flaming chainsaw and a grenade launcher enchanted with so much miss chance it quite literally hits everything except your target, while pretty much every sentence that comes out of the main character's mouth is in some way guaranteed to be related to wangs. In other words, Shadow Warrior 2 definitely manages to live up to its heritage, and good lord is it fun to play!

Shadow Warrior 2 screenshot of some colorful enemies

I'm betting that guy regrets not bringing a rifle

One of my major complaints with Shadow Warrior 2013 was the relatively weak assortment of weaponry. Sure, you had your classics such as the rocket launcher, flamethrower, and shotgun, but the rest of the arsenal was just kind of mediocre. This was especially obvious when compared to how diverse and powerful the sword was, with the difference being so large I spent the later parts of game simply slicing my way to victory. The ranged weapons ended up being nothing more than a mere contingency tool should the enemy be slightly out of reach.

In Shadow Warrior 2, however, the situation is much more pleasant. Pretty much every single weapon I've used so far has had enough firepower to really make a dent in the enemy's armor, and more importantly, their head! Everything from revolvers, to machine guns, and even bows, is fully capable of carrying you through the entire game, and that is something I greatly appreciate since I'm one of those weirdos that likes his medieval weaponry in futuristic games. 

Shadow Warrior 2 bow gameplay screenshot

The Elder Scrolls VI: Wang

Its also worth mentioning that the weapons aren't just powerful, they also feel powerful! Shooting an overpowered revolver straight into an enemy's head would be boring, even if it killed in one shot, if the accompanying sound and recoil weren't appropriately meaty - and as luck would have it, they are! A similar story applies to the melee weapons, of which there are multiple to choose from, as some of the most powerful blows are capable of turning demons into flesh-spewing pinatas. I must give a special mention to the chainsaw in this regard, because when it comes to sheer brutality there is absolutely no other weapon that matches it. I am by no means a squeamish man, years of FPS games do that to a person, but even I felt a bit... wrong tearing through human opponents with a giant, electrified, flaming chainsaw. Can't deny its pretty damn satisfying to cleave through demons, though!

In order to actually get to these demons with your head still intact you'll need to employ some fancy footwork, and it is here that Shadow Warrior 2 pulls out its secret weapon. Not only do you move about at the speed of an average car, but you are also able to sprint indefinitely, double jump, fall from impossible heights, and dash around the battlefield like a rabid chipmunk. It might sound silly now, but once you finally become comfortable with the controls and start weaving in and out of combat with 5-6 weapons at a time, Shadow Warrior 2 stops being just a shooter and turns into something truly magical.

Shadow Warrior 2 shotgun wound screenshot

Like I said, magic!

The reason all these weapons are able to constantly remain useful, from the very beginning to the very end, comes from the newly introduced looting system. As you wreak havoc throughout the world map you will frequently find money, upgrade materials, weapons, and even special skills - all of which are pretty self explanatory. What this means in gameplay terms is that no matter what weapon you use, as long as you upgrade it in a way that befits its playstyle you'll be able to reap a bloody harvest with it. So instead of having a boring ol' SMG, you can shove in a whole bunch of relics that convert most of its damage to fire, and thus turn it into the ultimate weapon against anything foolish enough to not be flame resistant.

While all of that sounds amazing, the unfortunate reality is that the loot system is completely inconsequential. You are bombarded with so many items, so many upgrade tokens, that its far too easy to create an 'optimal' weapon and just use that for the next couple of hours - only upgrading when it starts loosing effectiveness. In other words, there is very little excitement about opening a chest and seeing a shower of rare items spew forth. They will simply be dumped into the deepest and darkest reaches of your pockets, never to be seen or heard from again.

The one part of the loot system I do enjoy, however, is the acquisition of new weapons. They are often more powerful than your previous ones, which means you now have a rather good reason to shake up your playstyle, and they often come with their own unique mechanics! Whether you will play around with a katana, or a pair of claws, or a chainsaw, or dual swords, all of it comes down to how you like to dish out the pain. Call me old school, but I personally stuck with the katana for most of my playthrough, but the fact that each weapon category has so many choices in it is an absolutely amazing thing. Variety is the bread and butter of an action-packed FPS game, and Shadow Warrior 2 comes buttered up on both sides!

Shadow Warrior 2's items and enhancements

This is just one tab, I've got three others equally as full of upgrades!

Now that you've stopped groaning at how horrible that joke was, its time to discuss the throbbing erection elephant in the room - the humor. As you're no doubt aware, once upon a time the developers of the original Shadow Warrior thought up the most hilarious joke ever devised by mortal man: "What if we name the main character Lo Wang, the puns will practically write themselves!".

I like to consider myself a connoisseur of shitty puns, but even I can get sick of hearing the one, singular joke repeated ad nauseam. I'm fully aware that Shadow Warrior 2 is just taking the piss with all of these Wang puns, but there comes a point where no matter how cleverly you erect the joke, the climax is going to be painful if you've done it ten times in the past five minutes... What was I talking about again? Oh yes, Wang! Nearly a third, maybe even half of Shadow Warrior 2's dialogue in some way, shape, or form ends up referencing the fact that the main character is named Wang. Wang, Wang, Wang, Wang! That's all you hear throughout the game, and while I'm able to giggle at a juvenile joke every now and then, this one became old decades ago. 

You want to hear something truly ironic? The writing is otherwise great! In between the constant Wang onslaught there are some truly touching moments, and full-on laugh inducing dialogues that really make the characters and their world come to life... only to then once again be mired by an incredibly low effort pun. I even like Lo Wang as a character given that he is capable of some really snarky quips and insights, while also remaining genuine and compassionate when the situation demands it. So why not focus on that? Why go for the rotten fruit on the ground when you have an entire orchard to choose from? 

Shadow Warrior 2's Larry is rather hillarious

Larry, I think you and me are going to get along just fine

But let's face it, the writing in Shadow Warrior 2, no matter how good or bad, doesn't really matter. What does matter is how good the shooting feels, how exactly do the enemies crumble when you blast their face off, and how well do the maps funnel you towards the next batch of demons that need dismembering. The answer to that last part is "pretty damn efficiently" given that Shadow Warrior 2 takes some of its level design inspirations from Final Fantasy 13 - by which I mean you'll spend most of your time in corridors. Its nowhere near as bad as in Final Fantasy 13 given that Shadow Warrior 2 goes to great lengths to ensure that the corridors are expansive and filled with plenty of things to do, but there is no getting away from the fact that pretty much all of the levels are designed like this: corridor -> arena -> corridor.  

With that said, I don't actually consider this too much of a problem given that the levels feel unique and interesting to explore. When you look at it now its easy to see how many of them are just a series of branching corridors, but while you're running around and shooting demons in the face the level design manages to constantly guide you towards the action, and more importantly, towards more demonic faces in need of blasting. So while I don't think the levels in Shadow Warrior 2 are the a prime example of the genre, their use of verticality and detailed environments is more than good enough to keep the action flowing. And for a game a game as fast-paced and action-orientated as Shadow Warrior 2, that's all really matters in the end. 

Shadow Warrior 2's vertical map design

You can climb all the way up, just in case you were wondering

And speaking of environments, its probably high time I've mentioned that Shadow Warrior 2 looks gorgeous. Its not on the same level of quality as The Witcher 3, then again I can say that for 99.9% of the games out there, but it has a distinct style and it manages to make the most out of it. The landscapes are downright lovely to look at, monsters come in all shapes and sizes, there is gore and ooze spilling out of every sword wound, and the combat itself feels more like an elaborate dance than a manic bloodbath. In a world where most shooters are heavily entrenched in dark, depressing tones, its good to see Shadow Warrior 2 embrace bright, vibrant colors as they really do make the environments stand out, and the action even more exciting. 

And finally, allow me to give you a little bit of advice if you find your copy of Shadow Warrior 2 looking somehow... wrong: turn off Chromatic Aberration! I don't know if its just me going blind, and if that's the case please let me know so I can begin my Demon Hunter training before its too late, but with Chromatic Aberration turned on the whole game had this blurry, headache-inducing filter over it. Its hard for me to explain this given that it all comes down to personal preference, but let's just say that for the first time in my life I realized how seasick people feel. So if you find yourself staring down a forest that looks more like a soup than an actual collection of trees, try turning off Chromatic Aberration and see if it helps you. It certainly made my playthrough about a hundred times more enjoyable! 

Shadow Warrior 2's forest screenshot

Nothing quite like a stroll through the forest

Closing Thoughts

Shadow Warrior 2 does not have a single mature bone in its body, but I can't deny that it still has a certain charm to it. No matter how bad the puns get, or how obnoxious Lo Wang becomes, it is simply impossible to hate. It also helps that the action is downright terrific, with both the melee and ranged weapons packing one hell of a punch, and it all being up to you to decide when and how you want those demons obliterated. If it wasn't obvious enough by now, allow me to say it plain and clear: Shadow Warrior 2 is a ton of pure, mindless fun! 

If you're into old school shooters, or even games like Borderlands, then I fully recommend you give it a try. I've blazed through the entirety of Shadow Warrior 2 within two days of release and I'm already considering a second playthrough, so if that doesn't tell you enough, I don't know what will. Oh, and did I mention the main character is named Lo Wang? Can you imagine that, a guy named Wang? Hilarious!

And just in case you need a visual example, here's the video version of this review: