Electronic Theatre Preview: Shadow Warrior

From the offset Shadow Warrior strikes the player as a thoroughly modern design. The menu system of the 1997 original featured spinning emblems and ‘comedy’ sound bites; here in 2013 it’s all straight lines and silver with sharp splashes of blood. This is not a […]
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Electronic Theatre ImageFrom the offset Shadow Warrior strikes the player as a thoroughly modern design. The menu system of the 1997 original featured spinning emblems and ‘comedy’ sound bites; here in 2013 it’s all straight lines and silver with sharp splashes of blood. This is not a videogame that thinks it’s funny: this is ninja, and modern ninja are serious business.

The modern rebirth of Shadow Warrior at the hands of Devolver Digital is surely a two-pronged attack, following the success of the high-definition (HD) upgrades of the original Serious Sam titles and the new iterations, as well as the renewed interest in 3D Realms after the eventual launch of Duke Nukem Forever and the expectation that a Electronic Theatre ImageGearbox Studios developed sequel will be announced any day now. It’s shrewd business, that’s for sure, especially now the videogame has become playable for the press following the ‘mistaken’ free repackaging of the original.

Often cited as a remake, Shadow Warrior is anything but. Was it not for the lead character being known as Lo Wang this could be an entirely different videogame franchise. Exactly why it was deemed necessary to return to the Shadow Warrior brand is not known – other than the fact that the name casts the right atmosphere for a visceral combat videogame, perhaps – but in doing so Devolver Digital have cast their latest first-person shooter (FPS) Electronic Theatre Imagein a good light. Shadow Warrior is more approachable, cinematic and action-packed than its predecessor. In other words, it’s very modern by comparison.

Of course, you would hope this would be the case for new title being compared to one that’s more than fifteen years old. Next to newer releases however, it’s a different story. Just as with Serious Sam 3: BFE, Shadow Warrior is a modernisation of a different arm for the FPS genre; one that many feel has outstayed its welcome. This isn’t a military based FPS, an entirely cinematic affair or a logic puzzling experience. This isn’t a co-operative challenge nor a competitive simulation. Shadow Warrior is an action videogame through-and-through, and it’s all the better for it.

Duke Nukem Forever was an attempt at modernising the puzzle-combat-puzzle formula of Duke Nukem 3D, and was berated for doing so. Regardless of the quality of its puzzling formula many cast a poor light on it due to the fact that it’s outdated visuals and limited combat simply couldn’t stand up to modern videogames, but it still presented an enjoyable campaign regardless. The original Shadow Warrior was based on the same Duke Nukem 3D template, but ourElectronic Theatre Image new Shadow Warrior has decided to sidestep the opportunity to modernise that design and instead boil it down to violence and a little exploration. A shame for sure, but not one that the development team can be wholly blamed for.

Of course the visual quality of Shadow Warrior is as high grade as would be expected: this is, after all, a brand new design for a brand new videogame. The motion of your close combat weaponry is far superior to that of Zeno Clash II and your enemies – though not the smartest of adversaries – do generally provide interesting meat to cut through. Whether or not Shadow Warrior can evolve this simple formula into a dozen-or-so hours worth of gameplay that rises above the original, overlooked formula remains to be seen, but of course Electronic Theatre will keep you updated as it approaches release.

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