Let’s be honest and straightforward here: Shadow Warrior 2 (SW2) is Duke Nukem, except with ten times the dick jokes and only a fraction of the misogyny. The protagonist’s name is Low Wang, for Christ’s sake. You have a vast arsenal of weapons but only really need one or two to finish the game. There’s a pseudo-RPG levelling system that informs the player about as well as Daikatana’s, and there’s enough gore present to make it feel like a DOOM fan-game. It’s certainly not the worst game that I’ve ever played, but it has such an incredible aura of being a generic, late 2000’s shooter that I have to wonder why they even bothered.
Unless it was for the excessive dick jokes, because, honestly, they are pretty funny.
I’ll state now that I never actually played the first Shadow Warrior remake, but that’s not really an issue since you’re given a drawn out recap over the course of SW2. A lot of characters and events are revisited as part of the overarching story, learning what happened after the events of the first game. These moments don’t actually bear a lot of significance for the storyline, they just seem to be there to allow Wang to get more jokes and one-liners into the dialogue. In regards to the story itself, it’s kind of a distracted mess. That is to say, it starts off with a single, major plot point before getting lost for awhile in side quests, and then finding itself near the end again.
Set five years after the events of the first game, demons overrun the Earth, everyone is either a criminal or involved in criminal activities, and Wang is the world’s greatest assassin (apparently.) Zilla, an evil mob boss/genius scientist/possible demon whisperer, kidnaps Kamiko, injecting her with a serum that she developed, which begins turning her into a demon. Her spirit is then put into your head for… Reasons? And her body turns into something not unlike the monsters from Tokyo Gore Police. Things go off the rails a bit, side-quests consistently distract from the main plot, and significant developments are so obvious that even I saw them coming from a mile off without any prior knowledge of the series. Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m somewhat juvenile in what I find hilarious, the “story” of this game wouldn’t have a single thing to offer.
Like, they stick dicks jokes wherever they can in this game… Tee hee.
In game theory, there’s a term called “strategic dominance,” which dictates that if a particular strategy always works for a player, they will always use that strategy. The chainsaw weapons are to Shadow Warrior 2, what strategic dominance is to gaming in general. You will be given piles of weapons, including shotguns, pistols, swords, and even rocket launchers, but you will never need anything besides the chainsaw. It’s incredibly overpowered, especially when given damage buffs from loot drops, and the only time you’ll ever need to upgrade is when you pick up the double-chainsaw towards the end of the game. Throw in upgrades to your max health, a health regen spell, and passive mana regen, and you’ll beat Shadow Warrior 2 without even trying. Just run in there, flail around, and have a grand ol’ time.
While we’re on the topic of upgrades, this game has one of the most shoddy pseudo-RPG systems I’ve ever seen in a game since Daikatana. You’re given “Karma” points over time that you use to spend on abilities, but you’re given no indication of how close you are to obtaining them. They’re absolutely tied to a level that’s shown in the upgrade screen but no kind of experience bar or feedback to show you how far along you’ve come. In fact, you’re given very little about character information all around, from base stats to modifiers. So, even though the game provides the illusion of being able to min-max with things like weapon buffs and ability choices, it’s all rendered moot by the chainsaw.
Or perhaps it was just rent by the chainsaw, hahah.. LAUGH, GOD DAMMIT.
Even while being healed in perpetuity, there’s really no need to be concerned with dying since there isn’t exactly any punishment for it. You black out and respawn at the last checkpoint you reached, all of which are spread out roughly every ten seconds. Unless you’re on the higher difficulties enemies don’t regain their health, and you don’t actually lose anything for dying; if anything, it’s just a minor setback. The game boasts having non-linear, procedurally generated maps, but I honestly couldn’t comment on that because I never played the same level twice. The open-world feeling doesn’t add much to the experience, unless, like me, you just want to skip past a lot of fighting to get to the mission goal, which the level design lends itself too quite well.
The combat system also leaves a lot to be desired regarding depth. Aside from the “chainsaw murders everything” aspect, enemies either have ranged attacks or melee attacks, and that’s about the gist of it. You can sever limbs in gloriously bloody ways, however, it doesn’t seem to make any kind of difference to how they fight. There’re no logic puzzles or defeating enemies in any special way, which means all there is in the game is just endless killing. The open-world levels offer very little except for ammo and money pickups that you’ll be tripping over every few seconds, the latter of which is pointless given how many weapon buffs you’ll sell. It just feels like you’re thrown into large battle arenas to explore for no reason other than the sake of exploration itself.
And the scenery isn’t that interesting.
So, with poor design, lacklustre gameplay, and little in the way of actual, decent story, what is there to enjoy? Well, you might’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned dick jokes more than a few times and boy are there a lot of dick jokes. I mean, we’re talking at least two or three in every conversation, and some of them are superb. There’s still some hit and miss but, and perhaps I’m alone on this one, Wang’s constant wise-cracking is what kept me going to the end. The gore is well done, not DOOM levels, but it looks the way gore should, but there’s not a lot of variation, and it gets pretty tiresome by the end. The camera is also a bit dicky when you use the chainsaw, having a tendency to tilt the entire screen on its side while you’re sawing things in half, and I’m not sure that’s a stylistic choice.
Aside from Wang, who was obviously crafted to be a walking stereotype, every character in this game feels exactly like a walking stereotype and I can’t figure out if that was deliberate or not. The voice acting is not great for the most part, and doesn’t sell me on the idea that this is meant to be a parody of any kind, or riffing on any particular genre. Some parts would come off as being completely racist if they weren’t so cornball in their delivery. Wang is definitely the star and, even though I just recently finished the game, I struggled to think of any other character besides him. Despite being carried around in your head for the majority of the game, talking incessantly, and being integral to the plot, I had to go back for a quick reply just to remember Kamiko’s name. That’s how poorly most of this was made.
The weird, sex obsessed demoness was better than Kamiko, and I can’t even remember her name. Amena? Amonea? …. Twi’lek rip-off. There we go.
Shadow Warrior 2 can be summed up as thus: endless phallic humour, chainsaws, and action that would have made people in 2008 go “PHWOAR!” Ignoring all the side quests, you could probably complete the main storyline in less than seven or eight hours, and that’s being generous. The combat, and the RPG-lite system built around it, are pretty pointless when you’re given a weapon near the start the completely blows through everything you encounter. Aside from the main character, everyone you encounter is mostly forgettable when some of them really shouldn’t be, and the obscene gore present in the game is only fun for so long. I felt like I was mostly enjoying it while playing, but looking back it’s impossible to overlook some glaring faults. Basically, your enjoyment of Shadow Warrior 2 depends entirely on whether your sense of humour matured past primary school levels. Mine did not.