Shadow Warrior 3 PS4 Review: A Poor Console Port Marred


Doom and Wolfenstein weren’t the only two ‘90s shooters that got modern revitalizations as Shadow Warrior also got a reboot of its own in 2013. It was a competent reimagining that lived in the shadow of those Bethesda titles but was one decent distraction nonetheless. The disappointing, trend-chasing sequel tarnished that reputation a little, putting pressure on Shadow Warrior 3 to get Lo Wang back on track. While this third entry does tease a better, stronger Wang, it’s also a soft and disappointing package overall.

Shadow Warrior 3 is one of those third entries that quickly addresses where the second game failed and tries to channel the first game, much like the original Devil May Cry trilogy. It ditches the co-op nature and all of the superfluous loot and wide-open maps from Shadow Warrior 2, making it a more focused and traditional shooter experience. Levels are incredibly linear, but that’s where fast-paced first-person shooters like this excel, and Shadow Warrior 3 doesn’t stray far from what’s expected in the genre.

Shadow Warrior 3 Review: Flaccid Wang

Shadow Warrior 3 Review: Flaccid Wang

Shadow Warrior 3’s shootouts move at a brisk pace where enemies dump in and explode at an alarming frequency, always giving the player a steady stream of poor saps to turn into goo. The general energy of combat is thrilling and switching back and forth between weapons to kill its many weird foes adds to this frenetic nature. Wall-running, dashing, and grappling around also lets players close the distance even more quickly, so it’s hard to not always be shooting or slicing. Arenas are often filled with different environmental hazards and grappling hook points that players can use to their advantage and be more creative in how they wreak havoc. It’s quicker and more liberating, making it a step above the prior two installments.

The broad overview of its combat loop paints a blood-soaked and rosy picture of what ends up being a collection of systems that don’t always fulfill their potential. Enemies are hideous, both in their gaudy, oversaturated color palettes and bewildering designs that look as if they were crude children’s drawings brought to life. There’s no consistency as one is a weird drill with one single, tedious attack pattern while another is a flamboyant jack-in-the-box-like being. Doom has hellish demons. Wolfenstein has hellbound Nazis. Shadow Warrior 3 has off-putting things that were seemingly plucked from different games that don’t match the setting and tone of this title at all.

The enemies also barely put up a fight. Even on the hardest difficulty, this overly simplistic bestiary will almost never swarm the player in a way that’s actually intense; they just don’t have the AI or the agility to be that big of a threat. There are other systems here like using the sword for different resources and a clever Glory Kill-like mechanic that gives Wang a new temporary weapon (although some of those weapons are unwieldy), but the game never demands that players fully take advantage of them. It’s not as elegantly woven together as the most recent Doom games, which is a tough comparison but one it invites since it so clearly borrows from those titles. If Doom is combat chess — thoughtful and engaging — then Shadow Warrior 3 is combat 52-card pick-up since it is exciting at first, but a little mindless and tiresome after the initial burst of energy dies down.

There’s also a last breath mechanic that always steps in and automatically saves the day and recharges quickly enough to make Wang feel like an unkillable god. All of these mechanics and the dumb enemies do make for a satisfying power fantasy at times that can be a highlight in certain scenarios. However, that power fantasy isn’t earned and, thus, not as fulfilling in the long run.

Shadow Warrior 3 Review: Flaccid Wang

Shadow Warrior 3 Review: Flaccid Wang

There’s not much of a long run in Shadow Warrior 3. Its campaign is relatively brief and can be cleared in around six or seven hours. Games are often too long, and, as Wang would probably attest to, it’s not the size that matters but how that size is used. However, it’s not used well here. There’s almost no reason to revisit it, as there’s no new game plus or even a chapter select to hunt down its collectible upgrade orbs.

Since it is already pretty easy even on hard, there’s no reason to try and crank it up to the next difficulty. Shooters like this benefit from mastery and this game just doesn’t allow that, which is absolutely devastating for its replayability. There’s value in just running through a game once, but it’s a missed opportunity here. Not only does it not yield a deep enough experience to dig into, it doesn’t even give players much of a chance to do said digging with its lack of other modes.

Shadow Warrior 3 Review: Flaccid Wang

Shadow Warrior 3 Review: Flaccid Wang

Granted, it would be difficult to listen to more Lo Wang, given how annoying he is. Wang is a filthy loudmouth, but not in the charming, Deadpool-esque way that he’s desperately trying to achieve. Almost none of his jokes are even remotely worth the slightest chuckle, a true failure given how this dork never shuts up. The same applies to Hoji, Wang’s returning masked partner, and means that about half of the small cast can be downright insufferable.

It’s just an onslaught of corny or downright cringeworthy lines that were written with little to no thought. Some are just movie quotes, others are just uninteresting combinations of naughty words; both of which posit that just saying “cock” or a phrase from The Flintstones is somehow a joke in and of itself. It’s not some deep anti-humor humor or something that is so bad that it’s good, but just a poorly written bundle of actively unfunny non sequiturs and dick jokes. At least they’re not said with tacky, fake Asian accents from non-Asian actors this time around.

The story attempts to explain how a person can come up after falling from grace, but it doesn’t meaningfully explore the topic since its weak writing can’t support anything more than “man shoots at big dragon.” That setup does take Wang through a more varied and lively landscape where the overly saturated colors look better and pop more splendidly when compared to the ugly enemies that inhabit said world. The art direction of the levels can sometimes evoke the same aura of gaudiness as the creatures, but it’s a stronger and more distinct style than the ones found in the first two titles.

Even though it looks and runs well enough, Shadow Warrior 3’s technical prowess doesn’t quite hold up quite as much. Aside from semi-frequent unexplained platforming deaths and a handful of buggy challenges, the game is a nightmare to control with a controller. No matter how they are tuned, the sensitivity options are completely off and downright painful when trying to aim diagonally. The reticule moves at a fraction of the speed when not moving in a cardinal direction and makes lining up a shot a laborious chore. Thankfully the overly aggressive auto-aim can be turned off, but there’s no getting around this game’s janky aiming; a returning shortcoming that was somewhat in the first game, but remedied in its sequel. Additionally, the console port has accessibility issues as its user interface is ill-suited for television screens and on-screen text that is so tiny that it’s near impossible to see unless you’re sitting right next to it (although easily ignoring Wang’s humor might be an unexpected perk for those using subtitles).

Shadow Warrior 3 revels in its mediocrity in a way that it thinks is charming, as evidenced by the frustrating and irritating one-liners that it tries to pass off as silly and endearing. Its barrage of D and F-tier jokes, repulsive enemy design, sloppy controller aiming, and lack of challenge weigh down the gunplay that can sometimes excel because of its sense of speed and strong arsenal. Blasting baddies and ripping out their organs can be empowering, but the game built around it doesn’t make that feeling sustainable. Shadow Warrior 3 did take the series back to basics, but a Wang this basic is not always as satisfying as it should be, especially when it isn’t hard enough.

SCORE: 5.5/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5.5 equates to “Mediocre.” The positives and negatives wind up negating each other, making it a wash.

Disclosure: The publisher provided a PlayStation 4 copy for our Shadow Warrior 3 review. Reviewed on version 1.05.

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