Shadow Warrior 3
"You've Got The Touch!"
The Shadow Warrior series has always had an interesting history, originating from the ashes of the original Doom's success. Touted as one of many "clones," the game saw a rebooted revival sometime in 2013. Coincidentally it was also the year of many 90s revivals including Tomb Raider. Also, coincidentally, each game in the Tomb Raider series was radically different from each other, with the final game in the trilogy finding its identity. Shadow Warrior 3 fits the same criteria as the "radically different" game in the series, but it is these changes that make it the best in the series.
Originally, Shadow Warrior was an unapologetic "Doom clone," utilizing a plethora of crude humor, stereotypes, and self-aware references to place it above the other 'clones.' The adventures of the miscreant Lo Wang who was bolder than Duke Nukem yet having a sociopathic penchant for violence would get a complete makeover in the reboot. In the first two games, Lo Wang became a wise-cracking assassin who somehow saves the world despite his aloof attitude. Originally driving a sweet Nissan 240z with a clean shave, black tux, and expensive shades, the Lo Wang in Shadow Warrior 3 is considerably different from how he was presented.
Lo Wang's Personality Grew As Much As His Hair
That's probably one of the first things I've noticed when I saw Lo Wang. His hair has grown considerably from his previous adventure where he was bald. The second thing that players will notice is an extreme change in voice as the voice talents have changed from the first two games. Replacing Jason Liebrecht is Mike Moh, best known for playing Ryu in the Street Fighter: Assassin Fist and Ressurection live actions. I feel this change makes Wang sound a lot more natural than his forced accent of the past. Moh's vocal delivery is very wild and expressive, being a perfect replacement for Wang and giving the Shadow Warrior protagonist a much-needed personality boost.
The first two games tried to capture what made the original Shadow Warrior a talking point among gamers with its type of humor. In Shadow Warrior 3, the humor comes naturally and is kept within the confines of the plot. Wang isn't spewing as many random quips but his personality isn't hindered. As with "Doom shooters," Wang has his own set of one-liners according to the action surrounding him, which is always welcome for these types of shooters. The best comparison I can give to Lo Wang's personality, honestly, is this.
Shadow Warrior 3 Is What 'No More Heroes' Would Be If It Was An FPS
Featuring an eccentric cast of characters with a protagonist that has just as much of a charming personality as Mr. Touchdown himself, I couldn't stop thinking of No More Heroes. The action is over-the-top and does not shy away from its Doom influence. Compared to the first two Shadow Warrior titles, it's painstakingly obvious its influence was the success of Doom and Doom Eternal. Shadow Warrior 2 and Doom were released months after each other and the former followed the same formula of the original Shadow Warrior reboot.
It's more than a mere coincidence that this game has the "modern Doom" feel as Flying Wild Hog had years to do their homework. Being a "Doom clone" is not a bad thing, in fact, it's something I highly welcome as this is something this era of gaming desperately needed. With many indie shooters based on "modern Doom" as much as they have in the 90s with the original Doom, Shadow Warrior 3 is another honored guest in the party. Compared to the gameplay of both Doom titles, SW3 is a simplified yet easy to grasp version of the winning formula.
If "Doom Lite" Was In The Dictionary, This Would Be An Example
Beginning with a tutorial section leading up to the events of Shadow Warrior 3, the player is introduced to their weapons, a katana, and a revolver. Eventually, they find a shotgun that acts just as good as any Super Shotgun does in similar titles. Melee and ranged attacks are equally useful as the katana doesn't require aiming and the shooting aim assist is generous. Players who are concerned about losing resources will be pleased to know that Shadow Warrior 3 practically gives them out for free.
For every kill with a katana, enemies will drop ammo for your guns as gun kills will drop health resources. The gist of SW3's gameplay is to go gun-crazy, shooting everything while dashing to avoid enemy fire. If the player is low on ammo, several simple katana kills will be enough to resume the carnage. This equivalent balance of resources, as well as a "Last Stand" mechanic, should the player be at 1 health point ensures the player is always in control.
The Enemies May Be Supernatural, But You Are The Most Feared
If that's not enticing enough, then the more kills the player accumulates, the faster they are able to do their "finisher." Using your finisher on certain enemies will grant you buffs, one, in particular, giving you 100 bonus health and 5 seconds of invulnerability. If Shadow Warrior 3 wanted to make the player feel like an unstoppable force, they certainly succeeded. Unfortunately, outside of combat is a different story as platforming can be finicky. The game outlines climbable areas with this green vine, which sometimes doesn't trigger. This led to me falling to my death several times until I realized it was too late.
Shadow Warrior 3 feels like I have too much power at my fingertips as well. If the gameplay description makes the player feel like they are invincible, then it's the truth. I'm not the best FPS player and even I was able to manage enemy hordes with little difficulty. For FPS veterans I'd highly recommend putting the difficulty too "Hard." Another negative I have is the jarring transition from cutscene to gameplay. The cutscene engine is seemingly different from the gameplay itself, using FMVs that instantly cut to the gameplay. These "cuts" are sudden and have at times taken me off guard.
Despite the flaws, Shadow Warrior 3 is the best in the series, especially for those who enjoy the modern Doom series. Currently, it's free for PS Now owners so for those curious, it costs almost nothing to enjoy what may be "2022's sleeper hit." I throw this term a lot, even using it earlier when describing Triangle Strategy. It further proves how great of a year this is for gaming even for the non-AAA titles. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this title finally managed to form an identity of its own.
Shadow Warrior 3 is now available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.