Would you believe it? A reboot of a retro franchise has essentially crept into retro itself. While I personally don’t feel that only a decade justifies the label, many disagree with me. And as such Shadow Warrior is now officially considered ‘old’. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t run the gamut against modern titles.
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. In 2013 it was 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.
Shadow Warrior Reborn
The modern rebirth of Shadow Warrior at the hands of Devolver Digital was 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 Gearbox Studios developed sequel would be announced any day. It wasn’t. But still, it was shrewd business at the time, that’s for sure. Especially now the series has seen three new entries.
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) in a good light. Shadow Warrior is more approachable, cinematic and action-packed than its predecessor. In other words, it’s very modern by comparison.
A Modern Game for a Modern Audience
Of course, you would hope this would be the case for newer title being compared to one that’s more than 25 years old. Next to more modern 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. Yet it still presented an enjoyable campaign regardless. The original Shadow Warrior was based on the same Duke Nukem 3D template, but our 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.
Standing the Test of Time
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. Despite being a decade old it still stands up. Especially thanks to its compatibility with modern consoles formats. The level design could be seen as limited by comparison to more modern titles, but only in the same way as the first Titanfall could be compared to Titanfall 2. Shadow Warrior does it’s job and does it well. Even 10 years and two sequels too late, it’s an action experience well worth engaging with.