The Shadow Warrior series has always been known for its fast-paced combat, ridiculous humour and stunning visuals. It has gone on to garner critical acclaim since the 2016 reboot due to its combination of platforming and incredibly satisfying katana slicing. Fortunately, protagonist Lo Wang is back again for the threequel, Shadow Warrior 3. This time is no different to the others, offering an action-packed, blood spilling adventure filled with guns and guts galore. While this won’t be 2022’s FPS game of the year, it’s still an addictingly fun linear single-player adventure.
“Shadow Warrior 3 offers a series of genuinely exciting set pieces that tie the narrative and gameplay together in an incredibly satisfying way.”
While the narrative of a Shadow Warrior game has never been the core focus, the events of Shadow Warrior 3 do follow on after the events of the second game. Fortunately, for the uninitiated like myself, there is a monologue recap that catches you up to speed on everything Shadow Warrior. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the recap had been excellently woven into the tutorial section, which made it a far more compelling and immersive experience.
However, it is worth mentioning that the central narrative is little more than background noise that fuels Lo Wang’s immature sense of humour. Nevertheless, Shadow Warrior 3 knows just how to impress, and offers a series of genuinely exciting set pieces that tie the narrative and gameplay together in an incredibly satisfying way. Within the tutorial alone there is a spectacular set-piece that saw me fight against a colossal dragon in the sky, pistol in one hand and katana in the other. It’s truly jaw-dropping stuff, and it mostly masks the lack of any nuance in the narrative.
“The soundtrack that accompanies this frantically heart-pounding action is suitably exhilaratingly, bloodcurdingly electrifying.“
Throughout your time with Shadow Warrior 3, you will journey across some of the most stunningly gorgeous locations set in a supernatural version of feudal Japan. Every environmental landscape is immensely detailed and textured, being brought to life with a colourful vibrancy, mesmerising sunsets and a plethora of gore.
Finisher moves, which feel ripped directly from Doom Eternal, are equally astounding. Seeing Lo Wang rip the head of a Yokai clean off manages to be simultaneously brutally visceral and totally awesome.
Additionally, the soundtrack that accompanies this frantically heart-pounding action is suitably exhilaratingly, bloodcurdingly electrifying and does not disappoint. Shadow Warrior 3 features rock heavy beats akin to that of Doom or Serious Sam, mixed with Asian influences. It complements the action in a gloriously magnificent way, making each encounter feel that much more thrilling. While the violent and visceral action would have sufficed without, Shadow Warrior 3 simply wouldn’t be as engaging without its phenomenal soundtrack.
“The limited diversity of weapons and enemy variety often makes gameplay feel extremely repetitive.“
In regards to the gameplay, I found it to be immensely enjoyable. Weapons are distinctive, both in visual and audio design, and each gunshot packs a serious punch made all the more impactful through the excellent sound design. While there isn’t a huge roster of weapons in Shadow Warrior 3, every single one of them can be upgraded which makes the selection feel more substantial as a result.
You also have access to a double jump, air dash and a grapplehook which are all used to traverse the varied and complex environments. This level of manoeuvrability not only makes combat far more exciting due to the plethora of potential positions from which you can blast Yokai to smithereens from, but it also makes the game’s linear exploration segments more engaging.
Unfortunately, it is that linear level design that often lets down the overall experience. While there are diverging paths that lead to various secrets, I found that, for the most part, you can get by just following the main path as there was rarely anything of note off the beaten track. Don’t get me wrong, each stage is a visual delight that deserves to be marvelled at. It is just that they tend to end up being all too short and never fully living up to their potential.
Additionally, the limited diversity of weapons and enemy variety often makes gameplay feel extremely repetitive. New enemies do get introduced sporadically and pulling offer finisher moves on different enemies can provide some diversity, but many portions of the game felt like a chore to get through. This was accentuated during certain grapple hooking portions where the platforming felt far too inaccurate and inconsistent and resulted in repeated deaths.
“The lack of content and repetitive gameplay make Shadow Warrior 3 an experience that I’m likely to forget.“
Unfortunately, Shadow Warrior 3 ends the fun all too soon as it only lasts around 5 hours. There are no other gameplay modes other than the campaign, no challenge modes, endless modes, new game plus or even a chapter select. This is a real shame especially considering its lack of multiplayer options and repetitive gameplay.
Perhaps a future patch may add more replayability, but an asking price of $50 for five hours of playtime is far too expensive. Additionally, I also ran into some performance and technical issues as well mainly including frame drops and stutters. It never truly impeded my overall enjoyment, but it is worth mentioning all the same.
Despite the criticisms, I do feel that the base Shadow Warrior 3 experience is rather enjoyable. Seamless gun and swordplay, spectacular visuals, dirty jokes and plenty of gore make it a genuinely fun and at times exhilarating game to play. However, the lack of content and repetitive gameplay make this an experience that I’m likely to forget.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the Publisher.