Shadow Warrior 3 is an awfully reactionary game. In part, it answers for some of Shadow Warrior 2’s misgivings. This is most apparent when comparing the second game’s ill-received, lite looter-shooter nature with Shadow Warrior 3’s more linear, straightforward gameplay. However, that’s not to say it necessarily goes back to the first game’s roots; it feels more like a response to last decade’s reboot of Doom, and not a particularly good one at that.
What Is It?
Shadow Warrior 3 is a fast-paced first-person shooter that follows up the stories from both 2013’s Shadow Warrior reboot as well as its 2016 sequel, Shadow Warrior 2. You play as Lo Wang – an immature assassin who you might as well call “Deadpool Lite” – as you work to defeat an ancient dragon.
To be frank, the story is pretty insignificant; the real draw here is killing waves of enemies with guns, swords, and special moves.
Why Should I Care?
Shadow Warrior 3 makes a pretty strong impression at the start. It wastes no time outfitting you with various abilities to utilize in combat, and I had quite a blast figuring out creative ways to use them. The first few times you slice up an opponent, shoot through them like you’re trying to make swiss cheese, or use your Chi Blast to effectively force-push them into a wall of spikes, it makes you feel really good.
However, many of the game’s mechanics feel as if they exist more for show rather than practicality. Throughout my playthrough, I gradually relied more and more on simply gunning my way through SW3’s enemy hordes – a tactic that brought me a great deal of success. I hardly felt compelled to swing my sword or use my grappling hook because, well, they didn’t feel useful in the normal course of gameplay.
So, how is it as a shooter? Pretty solid. The guns are fun to use, varied, easy to switch between, and they all make your foes explode in delightfully gory ways. However, this is the kind of game that needs to do a little more than just have good shooting.
Its swordplay is woefully underdeveloped. Whereas 2013’s Shadow Warrior had the distinction of being one of the few first-person titles with all-around solid melee combat, SW3’s swordplay is no more useful than knifing your foes in Call of Duty or Battlefield. I never felt like my sword was the best tool to use in any given encounter. Given how prominent sword combat was in the previous two titles, the degree to which it’s taken a backseat in SW3 is a little shocking; it’s among the most defining features of the series, and without it, SW3 is little more than a Doom knockoff, which renders its existence nigh-pointless, because Doom already exists.
When you’re not fighting, the game tries to mix things up with platforming sections that see Lo Wang running, jumping, and wall-running his way around various obstacles. Unfortunately, these “challenges” are all too linear and simple. The game practically goes on autopilot during these sections, with little input required from you aside from the occasional leap to avoid a pitfall. It’s especially disheartening, considering most-every cutscene sees Lo Wang doing some pretty cinematic freerunning that looks worlds more exciting than any of the in-game platforming sections. “Why am I not controlling this instead?” I asked myself during these scenes.
While the cutscenes are well directed and packed with style, the game never quite got its narrative hooks into me, which probably had a lot to do with its terrible main character. Lo Wang is an awful protagonist with an equally bad sense of humor. He has next-to-no personality aside from being a wisecracker, and his quips suck too. With the amount of poop jokes and dick puns found throughout, SW3’s jokes feel geared towards 12-year-olds and resemble the kind of unfunny memes your out-of-touch uncle might share on Facebook. Sometimes bad humor can be a part of a character; sometimes it can be so bad that it’s good. Here, however, it’s just plain bad.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Shadow Warrior 3 shows flashes of brilliance at times. Some of the game’s bosses do a great job of simultaneously testing your combat and platforming abilities, and it’s during these encounters when SW3 is at its best. But its highs are not emblematic of the experience at large. This is an eight-hour game, seven of which are filled with bland combat, lackluster platforming, and a forgettable story lined with the most cringe-inducing humor I’ve heard in a game this year.
At a $60 price point, this is a pretty raw deal. Shadow Warrior 3 is neither worth your time nor your money, unless you find it in the bargain bin later this year.