Having made its debut in 1997, Shadow Warrior was 3D Realms’ understated follow-up to Duke Nukem 3D. Despite achieving moderate success on PC, it never reached the dizzying heights of multi-platform console ports. Well, that was then. Now, thanks to the strength of a rebooted series, the Shadow Warrior 1997 can be played on a multitude of formats.

Shadow Warrior 1997

From the off it’s easy to tell that this is a creation from the house that made Duke Nukem 3D. From the art style to its use of sound bytes to define character, Shadow Warrior attempts to create a brand familiarity that 3D Realms never quite achieved first time around.

The gameplay is also very familiar. Following the exact same pattern as Duke Nukem 3D, but capitalising on the response from the growing online communities of the time. Players advance through largely linear levels that provide the illusion of an open world, engaging in combat and solving puzzles. The former against rather single-minded 2D enemies, and the latter largely involving hidden paths, platforming challenges and keycards. This is, for all intents and purposes, a Duke Nukem FPS under a different name.

Shadow Warrior 1997 screenshot

Shadow Warrior’s Sensibilities are Outdated

Some time after its initial release in 1997, Shadow Warrior came under fire for what was deemed inappropriate depiction of eastern culture. It’s true that the videogame is rife will casual racism, though it must be said that it’s very light-hearted in its use of stereotypes. It never once dares push boundaries as far as modern animated television shows. The likes of South Park, which first aired only a year after the release of Shadow Warrior, stand to make much more racey humour. Lo Wang, the player character, is undoubtedly a low point. Elsewhere, the game is an enjoyable – if dated – FPS experience.

Shadow Warrior 1997 screenshot

Pushing the PC Envelope

In its day Shadow Warrior looked the part. A smooth, better animated Duke Nukem 3D in a time when everything else was trying to replicate trends. The game was a challenge for the average PC of its era. When many households had a single family computer, it demanded more power than most could muster. This was arguably a defining points for many gamers of the ‘90s. Second PCs being adopted with designs on becoming superior gaming systems. While there were obviously many who had PCs solely for this purpose prior to the advent of 3D gaming, it was arguably here that the purchase of high-end graphics cards and gaming accessories become a standard for the core demographic.

Shadow Warrior harks back to this period in PC gaming for more reasons that we could list here. The demands it placed upon the player and the hardware are just scratching the surface. The idea of shareware was prevalent, while publishers are today doing their best to limit sharing. The idea of a ninja as something to mock rather than nothing but strong, dark and wholly serious was arguably a design of limited technology. Freedom meant within limited boundaries rather than vertical scalability of an entire city. Anyone who remembers this time fondly will find Shadow Warrior worth revisiting. Gamers of the modern era however, will surely deem Shadow Warrior puerile and unsatisfying.

Categories: Games