Is Shadow Warrior too dated for a modern audience?

August 8, 2014

In 1997, 3D Realms attempted to mash kung fu films with the first person shooter, just as Duke Nukem had previously done with the American action film. The result was Shadow Warrior, a title whose grindhouse violence and cheesy humour drew a firm cult following, but one that ultimately rode on the toned rear end of Nukem’s success.

It’s strange then, that Flying Wild Hog and Devolver Digital would decide to reboot for the title, especially considering the negative reception that Gearbox’s Duke Nukem Forever managed to receive.


As soon as I sat down with the hands-on preview, it was evident that Shadow Warrior‘s modern iteration suffers from the same disease that brought down the Duke. No matter how accurate its shooter mechanics, how precise its katana slices, how crisp its graphics – main character Lo Wang just feels dated. Everything from his name, cheesy humour, kung fu attitude, and necessity to comment on every single action speaks of an era gone by. Sure, if it were a small aspect of the game it wouldn’t be so bad, but the 90s racial satire that sits at the core of Shadow Warrior is huge a problem because frankly, modern audiences know better.


To be fair, I only previewed the first hour of the game. For all I know, this stereotype might reverse itself to become a clever study of the thens and nows – but after an hour of dated gags and worn references (“it’s dangerous to go alone” being used in a particularly uninspired fashion) those who would care for that comparison would  simply pass the game by, preferring to spend their time on something else. I know I did.

For some, the call backs to the over the top title will still be entertaining as hell. The punchy opening scene which sees Lo Wang driving through a bamboo glade belting out “You’ve Got The Touch” in an unashamedly broken karaoke voice, all while being briefed on the phone by his mysterious boss is as strong a start as any. The following scene, in which Lo Wang “negotiates” his way through hordes of enemies, continuing to “negotiate” with their dismembered limbs after they no longer have the will nor ability to “negotiate” is similarly well handled, providing a solid action romp that displays the game’s impressive katana, shuriken and pistol mechanics. But for me, the dated nature of things couldn’t be shaken off, no matter how fun it was to cut both man and demon into tiny pieces.


It’s high time game developers (and you too Michael Bay) realise some things live longer when left alone, as reincarnating a franchise that is very much a product of its time does more damage than good. It’s kind of like bringing your 90s self to 2014 and trying to get your current mates to hang with them. It’s cruel, embarrassing and ultimately pointless.


But why listen to this loon? You can decide for yourself when the PS4 edition hits down September 2014, running in (a very modern) full 1080p at 60fps.