One of the quieter titles making a showing at E3 was the sequel to the cult hit, Shadow Warrior, hidden away across the road from E3 at Devolver Digital’s BBQ caravan park. Shadow Warrior 2 is of course the sequel to a re-imagining of a classic 3D Realms game, which is a confusing pedigree. However, the reboot had a fun mix of melee and gun first-person combat along with a wicked sense of humour. Fans will be pleased to know that all returns in this game, along with some interesting new development decisions and features.
First and foremost, Lo Wang returns as the protagonist, and as the game’s announcement trailer indicates, he’s bringing some friends with him. Co-op play is available throughout the single player campaign, but each player will only see themselves as Wang and their friends as his team-mates, to help keep the story on track and the player at the centre of the action.
Once again, you have access to a range of deadly melee weapons, from samurai swords and Wolverine claws, along with your standard machine guns. Damage is displayed with RPG-like hit points flying away from baddies, as part of a new HUD design that was mostly kept hidden during the demo I saw. You can also gain abilities, like invisibility, to avoid enemy encounters entirely, although these abilities come at a cost – for instance, invisibility is cancelled out the moment you make a move to strike.
One of the big changes is in the levels themselves – as they are constructed in a unique way. Think of the story campaign as a series of tiles. Sections which are important to the story or hold unique boss encounters remain the same on each play through, but the path to these are randomised to an extent. There are large, open-plan tiles which connect the larger set-pieces, that might take you through garden areas or sprawling cities. The transition feels natural, and along with the new customisable weather system, it also means that returning to areas for side missions or looting can be different every time.
Of course, a lot of the fun comes from being able to play how you want to an extent – jumping around rooftops like a ninja, or ploughing through bad guys like Duke Nukem. Stealth is actually a pretty viable option more often than not, as you can attack enemies from behind for a greater boost to damage, even being able to one-hit-kill weaker foes. The enemies themselves are gruesome to behold, but have some pretty cool designs. They range from mutated humans to demons from another realm, brought to Earth as the two realities begin merging in a Doomsday-like scenario. The mini-boss and boss encounter shown off in the demo especially had some pretty metal designs – kind of a Ghost Rider meets Japanese mythology feel.
The first game was surprisingly successful in building a cult fanbase, but with any luck it’s sequel should recruit even more devotees to the clan. With some wicked designs, an irreverent tone, a tonne of content and replayability and co-op built into the experience, Shadow Warrior 2 promises to be a sleeper FPS hit when it comes out in 2016.