First person shooters (FPS) have always been a core genre in the gaming industry. The genre first gained momentum back in 1992 with Wolfenstein 3D and we have since seen great FPS titles such such Half Life, Duke Nukem, Doom and Quake.
The genre started off simple. It placed gamers in a large map and started off with a basic weapon such as a pistol, a katana or a crowbar. Regenerating health was unheard off back in the day and players were punished if they were careless in enemy encounters. Resources are also scarce in those games. Players had to explore the often large maps to find weapons, health packs and ammo in order to survive. Secret areas were also scattered all over the map and will always provide players with a sizable reward should players find them. As such, combat is always exciting in a sense that players had to make every shot count and a mistake can very easily lead to death.
These elements which make old FPS’ exciting seemed to have been lost over the years. Modern day, or modern military shooters (MMS) are more interested in telling a sub-par narrative set in a corridor environment and more often than not, provide players with a near infinite amount of ammo and unrealistic ability to shake off damage. However, all that is about to change.
Shadow Warrior puts players back in the shoes of Lo Wang who has been sent by his employer, Zilla Enterprises, to retrieve a legendary katana by the name of Nobitsura Kage.
The game starts the player off with a katana and you will slowly arm yourselves with a variety of weapons such as a revolver, a sub-machine gun and a crossbow. Despite the variety of weapons at Wang’s disposal, I hardly ever switched out my katana in favor of a gun.
Don’t get me wrong, shooting monsters is fun. But getting up close and personal with the katana is better. While sword fighting is not designed to be complicated, the carnage and gore that you can cause with your katana is simply Wangtastic. The combat with the katana does not require players to parry or block attacks but to simply cut down as many enemies in a furious rage as fast as possible.
As players progress further into the game, they will gain access to the upgrade menu. Players can upgrade three aspects, Skills, Weapons and Powers. Skills are earned by killing enemies and earning Karma Points (similar to experience points in any other game) and often tend to affect physical aspect of Lo Wang’s capabilities such as finding more money and ammo, or increasing your base health. Powers can only be learned if players manage to find Ki Crystals scattered throughout the map and will reward the player with new Ki abilities such as healing or a knockdown ability. Weapons can be upgraded with money which can be found throughout every level and even ammo can be bought from the weapon upgrade screen. Each upgrade tree has their own mini skill trees which will offer players a wide variety of passive or active abilities which can be activated by double tapping in a specific direction and holding down either the left or right mouse button.
There are also secret areas to be found in Shadow Warrior. These are usually tucked away in some hard to find sections of a map and rewards players with one of three things, money, Karma Points or a Ki Crystal. I initially thought I was adept at finding these secret areas only to realize that I only have found an average of less than half of the secrets. It is definitely a game that is worth a second look at just to find all the secrets.
On the flip side however, this means that missing secrets can potentially mean missing out on a potential upgrade further into the game.
A few things I noticed that were different from the original was the size of the maps as well as resource management.
The game has 17 chapters in total, each chapter being a map by itself. However, the maps are not large by any standards nor has a lot of variety either. Each map by itself is a self contained arena where Wang will be put into a fight which is signaled by a very obvious monster roar. After clearing all monsters from the encounter, the fight will be ranked on a scale of five shurikens depending on how well the player has performed. After each encounter, the player can once again roam around the map in search of resources either to heal or to replenish ammo until he reaches the next encounter. This thus mean that enemies are almost non-existent until the next arena where monsters will spawn in droves which eliminates the sense of foreboding which once gripped the FPS genre.
In the FPS like Duke Nukem 3D or even the classic Shadow Warrior, ammo and health is limited to only those that can be found on the map. The reboot on the other hand has drastically changed that. While health does not regenerate automatically like in a MMS, players do have the ability to heal themselves up to a maximum of 65 percent of your health at any given time. On top of that, health packs can be found around every corner on the map and no longer a valued commodity like in the past. Likewise, ammo is no longer scarce as player can simply bring up the weapon menu and purchase ammo. As such, there is little to no need to properly manage your resources as you can simply obtain them with no effort and can make the game feel very easy.
Ultimately, the charm of the new Shadow Warrior comes from the fact the gamers who spent any amount of time playing classic FPS will surely feel familiar with it. Flying Wild Hog did an amazing job capturing the finer aspects of the early FPS. While the game is not complex or difficult by any stretch of the imagination, the Karma reward system does require some finesse to master. The game progresses at a steady pace and combat is fast and rarely stops for players to catch their breath. Shadow Warrior is a wonderful re-imagining of a classic FPS and I hope that it is the first of many more to come.