Now that Shadow Warrior has been released on gog.com, I can almost die happy. Of the big four games created using the Build Engine – the other three being Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Redneck Rampage – Shadow Warrior is my favourite of the lot.
It’s hard to say why. Everything comes together to create a fun factor that few modern games can match. The story is ridiculous, not least of all because the developers either didn’t know one Asian culture from another – or they were taking a poke at people who didn’t know one from the other. We’ll probably never know. Anyway, players are put in control of a Japanese martial arts expert for hire. His name is Lo Wang – both parts of which couldn’t be Japanese, and which basically ensures there’s a new wang joke every five minutes.
Lo Wang is out for revenge against his former employer, Zilla, the CEO of a massive corporation dabbling in morally dubious research and black market activities. What this translates into is a linear set of episodes, each one containing about ten levels full of enemies and bosses to fight, and the occasional puzzle to solve.
Along the way, Lo Wang is attacked by everything from Uzi-toting ninjas to giant bees, and he has an arsenal of satisfying weapons with which to dispatch them, including his bare fists, a katana, shurikens, Uzis rocket launchers that fire rockets, heat-seeking missiles or nukes, and even the head of a demon that shoots three different types of flaming projectile depending on how Wang sticks his fingers into its brain. There are also support items like health kits, flash bombs, gas grenades and caltrops.
This carnage is amazingly good fun on its own because of the over-the-top gore factor, but it’s enhanced a good deal by the bawdy humour. Wang is full of comments to make when he kills enemies, like “Ho! You half a man you used to be!” when he slices someone in half with a katana, or, “Oooh! Sticky bomb like you!” when he manages to attach a sticky grenade to an enemy. He also has plenty to say when he encounters the many naked anime girls hidden in the stages. Another of my favourites is when you make him run over his own caltrops, prompting him to shout, “Who put these here? Ow!” His corny Japanese accent makes every outburst a hoot.
What surprised me the most going back and playing these old games is just how distinct the levels are. They may be limited in graphics, but I remember every detail, secret and theme to each area a lot more than the most of the unremarkable, generic brown slums in modern shooters. It’s also hard as hell, if you play on a decent difficult setting. Some of the enemies can kill you in the blink of an eye, and there’s no regenerating health here, kiddies.
So go on. Put that Modern Warfare or Battlefield crap down for a few days and educate yourselves on what a really fun shooter is.
You can get Shadow Warrior Complete from gog.com for $5.99 by clicking this. Do it, for glory.