Shadow Warrior as a game series has a somewhat uneven history. It started back in 1997 as a classic 3D shooter, but a lot has happened since then and in 2013 it got a reboot. I'm of the opinion that the 2013 game was better than both its sequel and its predecessor. So I was quite excited to take on Shadow Warrior 3.
Let me start by saying that this game is very short. It took me 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete on normal and around an extra hour on the hardest difficulty. It sets itself a bit apart from its predecessors, which were significantly harder. Lo Wang is back in the lead role but is now acted by Mike Moh who replaces Jason Liebrecht. This is a bit of a shame, although the new actor does a good job. It's clear that the third instalment was created for fans of the series as incredibly little is explained to new players and most of the characters you meet are from previous titles. An argument can be made that it doesn't really matter that much though.
For those of you who have played these entertaining action games before, you'll know that it's not the story that's the focus, but the shooting. I would venture to say in good conscience that the action bits are better than ever. You can tell that Flying Wild Hog has taken inspiration from Doom Eternal. The shooting almost always takes place in arenas where mobility is the focus. Fun weapons are weaved together with fantastically creative monster designs to create amazingly entertaining chaos. Weapons are fairly typical for the series and you have a sword, a revolver, shotguns and more powerful weapons at your disposal. One of my favourites was the grenade launcher and a weapon that fired saw blades.
Many of the newer customisable features that were added in the second game are not present here. Instead, you collect special bullets that can be used to upgrade weapons with more effects. I upgraded the shotgun pretty quickly to remove the need to reload and to shoot in fully automatic mode. This meant that enemies died fairly immediately. You also have a magical power that allows you to blast away enemies that have swarmed you. This too can be upgraded as well as other things like health. The system is quite robust, but also a little limited in its design, however, I feel after several hours with this that it's not quite in the same league as Doom when it comes to the rhythm of the game mechanics.
In battles you can run on walls and use a grappling hook to be constantly mobile. I like this aspect and it adds a bit to the battles being constantly engaging. However, the finishers could be a bit faster. You can, when a meter fills up kill an enemy on the spot, which usually takes a bit too much time. However, it does something Doom didn't offer and gives you an ability or that enemy's weapon for a short while. These can range from homing throwing stars to two machine guns that literally shred through foes. You're constantly encouraged to use this with your other abilities to chew through any monsters that stand in your way, but it's worth noting that you will constantly need to prioritise certain enemies over others in order to survive.
The problem I have with this third instalment is that the battles can't really save this game. After a number of arenas towards the end it starts to feel a bit repetitive in a way the original didn't. Another aspect of this title I don't really think works are the cutscenes. These constantly interrupt the action bits, are lower resolution than the game itself, and don't look quite as good. They are often quite short and I don't think they add to this experience. At the same time, I find that just as it starts, it's over. There's no co-op like in the second to make up for the short duration, instead you pay full price for an extremely linear 3-4 hour campaign. Some may love this for what it is, at the same time the price is pretty high for what you get if you compare it to the competition. Both Doom Eternal and Shadow Warrior (2013) are better experiences than the third, at this point.
In conclusion, Shadow Warrior 3 lands, gameplay-wise, better than the second, but overall is the weakest title in the series. I wouldn't recommend this to new players as it assumes you've taken part in the former instalments. Even to veterans who hacked and slashed their way through the predecessors should think twice before taking this on. I leave this with a disappointment as the third one took the right lessons gameplay-wise from the horrible second one but couldn't offer anything more meaty content-wise. It also missed the mark with the cutscenes, which often distract rather than add to the experience. I think the story itself is made better through the dialogue and without interruption. With that, I leave the third game in the series, impressed with the combat and enemy design but disappointed with the overall experience.