Shadow Warrior 3: Definitive Edition
Last year, we looked at the PlayStation 4 version of Shadow Warrior 3 on the PS5 as we previewed the first two levels in the form of our “First Impressions.” An honest “Boomer Arena Shooter,” Shadow Warrior 3 would receive several patches that added highly requested features including a Chapter Select and a New Game Plus mode. New difficulties, hardcore, and Hero mode would also be included in future updates leading to the announcement of Shadow Warrior 3: Definitive Edition. Perhaps the biggest update goes to console players with the inclusion of 60 FPS in Performance Mode. This would also be the time the game would have upgraded PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions to reflect these changes.
With the exception of the performance upgrades, Shadow Warrior 3 Definitive Edition includes a brand new mode—Survival Mode. In Survival Mode, Lo Wang must outlast several rounds of increasing enemies in a “roguelike-style” progression system. It’s only unlocked after clearing the main game, which meant that I had to play Shadow Warrior 3 from beginning to end before I’d get to experience the sole Definitive Edition exclusive content. While I’ll highlight the features included in Shadow Warrior 3 Definitive Edition, this will also double as a review for Shadow Warrior 3 itself. A special thanks to Devolver Digital for letting us play an early copy of Shadow Warrior 3 Definitive Edition just in time for its release.
Coming back from where I last left off, I mentioned Shadow Warrior 3 was the best in the series, which was a bold claim for having merely played “two levels.” After completing all eleven levels, I still hold to that claim, but with a more realistic approach. After the second level, the player would have seen most of what Shadow Warrior 3 has to offer as they all follow a similar song and dance. Lo Wang gets himself in trouble followed by a parkour section with someone berating him for being who he is. After this, an arena section occurs where Lo Wang defeats waves of enemies. Then the barrier opens, Lo Wang moves on, and the cycle continues—Navigation, Arena fight, Cutscene, Navigation.
While Shadow Warrior 3’s gameplay is repetitive, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. After all, the main appeal is destroying all kinds of demons in a bloody gorefest and the ultraviolence is where this game excels at. I’m noticing a trend where if a game’s selling point is one thing, the developers do what they can to stick to it. I was wrapping this review up as I was playing Wanted: Dead and coming back to Shadow Warrior 3 Definitive Edition, that’s the one thing I say both games did exceptionally well. Players can run and gun, shoot monsters to death, and move on until the next group of monsters wants a piece of the Wang.
That being said, players concerned with not understanding the story of the previous Shadow Warrior games can rest assured knowing it’s its own self-contained story. Lo Wang wants revenge on a killer dragon that seemingly came from nowhere and ruined Lo Wang’s house, therefore his day. The entire game features Lo Wang chasing the dragon as well as making sure it doesn’t destroy the world. Spoiler alert: Lo Wang kills the dragon and it plays itself as just another day in Lo Wang’s life.
For a game like Shadow Warrior, it doesn’t need an intricate plot. All Lo Wang needs is an excuse to cause wanton destruction and a trail of demon guts in his wake and that’s what Wang gets. Players who like to focus more on the gameplay than the story will love Shadow Warrior 3 as the gameplay is the clear star of the show.
It also helps that the campaign is very short, however, with most players being able to finish the game in a single sitting. There is replayability thanks to New Game Plus, allowing players to start with all weapons and new specific challenges. These challenges increase a player’s “warrior rank,” which is one of the two ways players can unlock the Definitive Edition exclusive skins.
Shadow Warrior 3 took more time looking for all the upgrade orbs than it did simply beating each level. There’s no reason for the player to ever stop and engage in combat with any demon outside of its “arena-style fights” unless they are dying and need health. There’s enough gunplay in Shadow Warrior 3 to last a while, which allows the navigation sections of each level to become sort of a breath of fresh air.
One of my favorite sections of Shadow Warrior 3 Definitive Edition wasn’t the combat, although using an enemy’s weapon against them and carrying two large rocket launchers on your shoulders is undeniably cool. It was the parkour or “free-running” sections in between fighting the waves of enemies. When it allows itself to flourish, Shadow Warrior 3 offers a lot of world-building in the short time it captures the player.
As the dragon moves about, various environments will break apart, leading into new routes that require the player to grapple and wall-run on the fly. Many cheap deaths were given to me because I simply went on ahead without taking a look at my surroundings. Despite this, several techniques from other “boomer shooters” apply in Shadow Warrior 3, including slide jump canceling, which makes the already fast-paced gameplay even faster. With enough skill, cutting some of the levels is possible, making these sections short while the arena fights tend to drag on for a while.
On harder difficulties, this was the source of some frustration. There was nothing more disappointing than almost clearing a wave only to have several large oni corner me and shred my health to zero. There is a “last stand” mode that grants Lo Wang invincibility as the player scrambles for any health items, but without upgrades, these battles become more trouble than fun. With how good the parkour sections are, it encourages the player to look for upgrade cores, which in turn makes fighting bearable as well as fun. Using everything in your arsenal to become a one-man demon-killing machine was satisfying especially by the final level.
As mentioned earlier, most of Shadow Warrior 3 Definitive Edition’s content was already included in previous patches. The Hero mode is an interesting touch to old-school action games where Lo Wang has a finite number of lives. There’s also a chapter select to help narrow down those critical upgrade cores or replay your favorite level. I’m quite fond of the first half of the jungle stage, where the platforming reaches its peak until it becomes an on-rails mad dash to escape the dragon’s wrath.
Survival mode is the main unique feature of Shadow Warrior 3: Definitive Edition. The player chooses between three arenas and must survive at least ten rounds in order to unlock one of the unique weapon skins for each level. The reason why the player must clear the game first is that in the later rounds, enemies from the later half of the game are introduced. Since the player would have already fought them in the past, they would be well-equipped to handle the challenge. After each round, the player can choose between one of three weapons or upgrades to existing weapons. None of the player’s skills or challenge progression is transferred here—It’s all about skill and using the environmental hazards to your advantage.
Shadow Warrior 3: Definitive Edition is a free upgrade for existing Shadow Warrior 3 owners, making this version the “gold standard” for Shadow Warrior 3. I’ve noticed that the game’s performance was far smoother in this version than on the original PlayStation 4 version and the PC version tights up an already sound version. Console owners are finally caught up to what many considered the “better” version and it’s the perfect time to experience Shadow Warrior 3 like one never had before.
Shadow Warrior 3: Definitive Edition is now available on the Xbox Series X/s and Sony PlayStation 5. PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC owners will receive this update for free.