Shadow Warrior preview: fresh cut

An E3 closed-door demo of Shadow Warrior shows off how Flying Wild Hog stays true to the spirit of the original title, while simultaneously updating it for a modern audience.

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"You've got Wang." These are the words that greeted me at the start of the closed E3 demo for Shadow Warrior. Right there, I had a feeling that Devolver Digital and Flying Wild Hog's reboot of the 1998 original understood the essence of what made it such a cult classic. The game's opening cutscene saw lead character Lo Wang driving down a road in a convertible, blaring Stan Bush's "The Touch." He gets a call from Zilla Enterprises founder Orochi Zilla, hiring him to retrieve the fabled Nobitsura Kage blade. After cutting down numerous Yakuza in an excessively ultraviolent manner, Wang retrieves a piece of the Nobitsura Kage, setting the stage for a supernatural story that has demons and monsters trying to stop Wang at all costs. The first thing to note is that Wang sounds very much like Ken Jeong of The Hangover fame, turning him from an outright Asian stereotype to... slightly less of an Asian stereotype. There's no explicit racial humor and no busty anime girls, but the essence of Wang shone through as he cut down enemies and reeled off one-liners like nobody's business. With a badass demeanor and a tongue as sharp as his katana, Wang manages to retain a sense of edginess without descending into a total caricature. Shadow Warrior initially set itself apart with sharp katana action and over-the-top violence and I'm pleased to say that the reboot does these combat ideas justice. Wang's katana can be swung around in eight directions and will lop off most limbs in one swing, leading to Kill Bill-like blood geysers. For those that would rather shoot demons in the face, there are plenty of firearms to brandish, including revolvers, dual-wield sub-machine guns, shotguns, and a crossbow. All weapons have a secondary fire function that can be used at any time. For example, the crossbow will fire explosive rounds that can be detonated remotely. All of these weapons can be upgraded throughout the game. The biggest addition to Wang's arsenal is magic, which acts as the katana's secondary attack. Spells can be charged with the right mouse button and any of the four directional keys, with the down key used for healing and the other three directions used for offense. Magic is helpful for crowd control and also for reaching distant foes. There's no mana or limitations for how often Wang can use magic, making it an appealing choice and can also be upgraded. However, the trade-off is that demons will become enraged upon sensing mystical energies, making them more powerful and more difficult to defeat. Don't expect Shadow Warrior to get bogged down by modern shooting tropes. Flying Wild Hog has a great respect for what makes an old-school shooter, as evidenced by their previous work on Hard Reset. Likewise, Shadow Warrior will not have any cover mechanics, restrictions on how many weapons you can carry, or cooldown times on any of Wang's magic. There are also several easter eggs that harken back to the original game, including secret areas designed with the old-school 3D Realms-style visuals and numerous bunny rabbits hopping around each level. There are also Shadow Warrior arcade cabinets that will play classic music from the original after inserting a coin.

A katana is nice, but Lo Wang can also wield heavy firearms

While much of Shadow Warrior aims to respect the original game, Flying Wild Hog has included many new aesthetics to their reboot. The old grays of the original have been traded in for more colorful Japanese landscapes. A more thoughtful narrative will unfold through comic book-style cutscenes and animated shorts that show growth in Lo Wang's character as the story progresses. A large part of that narrative plays off of Wang's burgeoning partnership with a banished spirit named Hoji. There's more that's yet to be revealed about Shadow Warrior, with game designer Pawel Kowalewski indicating that the game will also feature boss fights. While he didn't demonstrate this at E3, he hinted that the bosses would be massive in size, comparing them to the behemoth creatures from Shadows of the Colossus. While there's a strong possibility that Shadow Warrior will come to next-gen consoles, Flying Wild Hog made sure to emphasize that the game was created for a PC audience in an effort to stay true to its heritage. It'll be out later this year.
Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty

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    June 16, 2013 12:00 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Shadow Warrior preview: fresh cut.

    An E3 closed-door demo of Shadow Warrior shows off how Flying Wild Hog stays true to the spirit of the original title, while simultaneously updating it for a modern audience.

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      June 16, 2013 12:09 PM

      It looks like it could be fun in that B-movie / budget title kind of way. The original game had the same kind of styling, so looks like they're not straying too far. This could be a real nice hit at the $15 price point. Any word on the pricing model--is this a budget downloadable title? Or are they aiming for a full-price retail release?

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        June 16, 2013 12:11 PM

        Devolver is publishing, so that'd suggest an online only distribution.

        And Hard Reset was cheap on release too, I guess they'll follow the same (great!) strategy!

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      June 16, 2013 12:11 PM

      For some reason I thought this was just a re-release of the 90s Shadow Warrior. Really loved that game and can't wait for this one.

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        June 16, 2013 1:04 PM

        "For some reason I thought this was just a re-release of the 90s Shadow Warrior."

        They are doing an updated official source port ala Duke 3D Megaton Edition as well, it is called Shadow Warrior Classic Redux. Meanwhile the original is free on Steam. The Steam release is indentical(literally the same .exe files and everything) with the GOG release with the exception of two expansions packs that are free anyway.

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      June 16, 2013 12:14 PM

      This game teeters on the edge of what constitutes offensiveness.

      I thought the first game's full-blown parody style made it inoffensive, but I'm sure there were a ton of people who were offended.

      As long as this game doesn't valorize any stereotypes (unlike DNF), I think it'll be a blast!

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      June 16, 2013 1:23 PM

      If this and the ROTT game end up being somewhat successful, I wonder if that Blood comeback will end up happening?

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      June 16, 2013 1:26 PM

      Yessss

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      June 16, 2013 5:29 PM

      bluesnews had a interview with 2 of the developers the other day. Showed a video of some of the gameplay, and one of the developers was shown playing it with M+K. Looked pretty good to me, if it comes to steam I will happily buy it.

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      June 17, 2013 5:43 AM

      You had me at Stan Bush...throws money at screen...

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      June 17, 2013 5:43 AM

      AH, my favorite game growing up as a teen. I just hope there are still city levels. Thats what got me so hooked to the game... the little japanese market place and bath house and so on. The ambiance with the lanterns and patchinko machines were so well made. Shadow Warrior sparked a love for japanese culture before animes got cool... and even though there was questionnable humor that i found hilarious.

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      June 17, 2013 10:32 AM

      Looks like there'll still be cringes when playing this.

      I like Hard Reset, can only hope for the best.