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Shadow Warrior 2

Shadow Warrior 2

Unleash the Wang once more in this blood pumping sequel.

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Flying Wild Hog's 2013 Shadow Warrior reboot went down extremely well with players, keeping the identity of the original game while transforming it into a fun and modern shooter, and fans took well to the childish humour and the over-the-top action that the game provided. Shadow Warrior 2, then, always had a lot to live up to, and set its sights on being as entertaining as the first game while offering new things to draw fans in again.

The opening scene cuts to Lo Wang, (the protagonist, for those who are unversed in the ways of Shadow Warrior) riding in a car and bobbling the bobblehead on his dashboard before enemies come along and crash his ride, which starts the opening gameplay section where you have to get out of your vehicle and deal with them. This beginning section alone should convince fans that they are in for more of what made the first game great, as it's funny, crazy and Wang is still the same ridiculous, yet lovable, protagonist.

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As you play through the first half an hour of the game the narrative starts to unfold. It is set five years after the 2013 game and Wang is tasked with rescuing Kamiko, however, her soul has been placed in danger and she needs to be stored inside Wang's head until her body is saved, leading to some funny exchanges between the two as they argue inside Wang's mind. As with the first game the Zilla are causing chaos and releasing monsters into the world, and part of your job is also to combat them and their demonic allies, meeting some familiar faces along the way.

Shadow Warrior 2 has a whole host of weapons to choose from. Within the first hour we found enough weapons to fill up our eight weapon slots, and the game includes 70 different weapons overall. Understandably this means that gameplay can be as varied or as limited as you see fit. For example, we found ourselves switching between four weapons although players could easily switch between more or just stick to one. Each has their own benefits and some are better used in certain situations than others. All of them feel satisfying to use as well - the sword slashes really hit home as do the bullets, with obvious differences in between them. The shotguns feel weighty and destructive whereas the submachine guns feel lighter but more accurate, for example.

Each can also be upgraded and modified as you see fit. Effects can be applied to different weapons, such as restoring Chi, fire damage or accuracy, although there are only a certain number of slots available for each one, so the choice needs to be made wisely. Upgrades can be bought, sold and found in the hub worlds, and there is no shortage of upgrades that you can come across and utilise, so you can be sure to find something to suit you.

Shadow Warrior 2
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The action itself is just as high-octane as it has always been, and you will more often than not find yourself surrounded by enemies, bullets flying everywhere while blood sprays all around. This is a welcome return and the addition of more weapons and firepower to the mix only helps the game achieve this ridiculous level of violence and destruction, not to mention the procedural damage generation which allows players to blow off enemy body parts, hugely helping the game's combat to feel more visceral. Skills can be used alongside weaponry, too, like Grip of Darkness, which impales your opponents on spikes and immobilises them, or Vanish, which makes you invisible and able to sneak up on enemies. These make for interesting gameplay options which can also be adapted to each situation.

Hub worlds also allow you to upgrade, customise and purchase things in between each mission, giving you a breather and a structure to separate missions, especially since there can be a lot of them at any one time. Here you can claim rewards for missions, look at what's next and decide whether you're strong enough to face it, as some will recommend you be a certain level before attempting them.

The biggest change in this instalment, however, is the level design. These are far less linear than the 2013 game and mechanics like climbing and double jumping have also been added in order to encourage exploration of these open levels. Secrets can be found, chests looted and enemies are dotted around these levels, and to make matters even more interesting, each mission has randomly generated level design and content, including enemy spawning. All missions can be replayed as well, meaning that there's no limit to how much you can upgrade Wang's skills.

The various environments are incredibly impressive and arguably the standout feature, offering multiple avenues not only for exploration but for combat as well. The types of environments you encounter range from a neon-style metropolis to jungles, and they offer unique challenges and design choices, not to mention enemy types. They are a joy to explore and take in and navigating them is made that bit more accessible through the easy to use mini-map which shows each area.

As if that wasn't enough to get the blood pumping, now you can play Shadow Warrior co-op too, with up to four players able to join in with Wang's narrative. Given the light-hearted nature of the game, we're sure fans and newcomers alike will enjoy the chance to play the game with friends and work together to tear enemies apart, upping the craziness by a whole other level.

Shadow Warrior 2 is not without faults, though, despite its confident humour and captivating gameplay. The UI could be just that little bit more user-friendly, as finding how to access missions, upgrades and what weapons to switch in and out of the radial menu took trial and error, and we found that we would have missed certain elements had we not looked to see what features there were. Clarity would be beneficial here, especially since there are a lot of things going on in the menus at any one time, and quite a lot of items to interact with. We also experienced an odd glitch, which occurred after upgrading our character. The weapons didn't sit right, the animations were jagged and the textures never loaded, but a simple reset fixed the issue.

Boss battles are also something the game doesn't execute particularly well, being more tedious and time-consuming than they are challenging. One noteworthy example of this is a boss which involves shooting drones which make the boss invincible before targeting the boss, but these drones respawn and are hard to hit, making for a repetitive and annoying encounter. None of the boss fights are particularly enjoyable and the bosses act more as bullet sponges than a fresh, tactical challenge.

Shadow Warrior 2 is sure to please fans of the original but you don't need to have necessarily played the first to enjoy this crazy experience. The story is pretty well explained and suited to newcomers, so if you want to you can jump in and start wrecking enemies and listening to Wang's quips, and at six to eight hours without side missions, and north of ten with them, there is enough content here to keep players satisfied, especially since this can all be played online and there are collectibles to accumulate as well. The odd negative element wasn't enough to stop us loving the mindless destruction Shadow Warrior 2 offers, and fans of the original are sure to enjoy this sequel just as much.

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08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
Signature comedy returns, High-octane and intense action, Great open levels, Lots of weapons and upgrades.
Occasionally unclear UI, Tedious boss battles, Some glitches.
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REVIEW. Written by Sam Bishop

"The action itself is just as high-octane as it has always been."

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