Lo Wang Returns to Fight Demons in the new Shadow Warrior

Title: Shadow Warrior73af76807e737e8f3ffa2817c36f6d25
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Distributor: Devolver Studios
Platforms: XBOX One, PS4

The following review is based on the
XBOX One Version of Shadow Warrior, HD.

More Entertaining Than:
Painkiller Hell and Damnation

Less Entertaining Than:
Serious Sam Gold Edition

Pros:
-Beautiful graphics
-Serene soundtrack
-Deliciously bloodthirsty
-Occasional humor

Cons:
-Concept seems outdated
-Repetitive game-play
-Long-winded
-Lackluster storyline

Verdict: 6.5 (out of 10)

When it comes to the argument that games these days need to be longer, I am often at the forefront. In the case of Shadow Warrior however, ironically, I am of the opposite opinion. Don’t get me wrong, Shadow Warrior is great when it works, but, so much of it doesn’t. The opening of the game is borderline fantastic. The humor is immediate, as is the volume of blood, and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing as my katana turned vicious soldiers into hapless pieces of meat.

Not long into the opening, lead protagonist Lo Wang is introduced to Hoji, a spirit banished from the Shadow Realm, who joins the player on their quest to find the mystical sword, that will inevitably bring an end to the horrific demon invasion, that Wang unwittingly helps start.

This premise is well conceived; it is what comes after that unfortunately falters. For one, the game is attempting to balance seriousness with humor. The back-story involving the Shadow Realms and Hoji’s exile is incredibly deep and meaningful, however it does not have the attention it deserves in order to spur any prominent reaction from the player. The tranquilly serene soundtrack which plays when you are not drowning in the blood of your enemies is very nice on the ears, and conveys the depth the developers obviously wanted for the title. This soundtrack though lasts about as long as a bar of chocolate does around me, and before long, the general rock anthems which too often occur in shooters, is blasting out of your television.

Instead, the developers tend to focus more on Wang’s and Hoji’s punchlines, which blur the line between ridiculousness and hilarity. The humorous fortune cookies which can be found, alongside the bunnies which are often discovered fornicating somewhere on the battlefield, only furthers the idea that this is not a game the player ought to take too seriously. This seems to contradict the locations which Wang traverses though, each of which have been made void of life after everyone has been slaughtered by demons. Rather than acknowledging the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people who have been murdered, he strolls over their mutilated corpses as though they aren’t even there at all. On top of this, the human opponents you encounter seem to be as equally unaffected as Wang, regarding the unquantifiable level of death that surrounds them. Strangely enough, the developers found enough time to push their own wheelbarrow, with games like Serious Sam 3 and Hard Reset been frequently advertised, to the point that I occasionally had to remind myself what game I was even playing.

What is most annoying though, is the repetition. After the beginning, almost every level is a carbon copy of the prior. You kill a bunch of monsters. You find a locked door. You find a key to open said door. You kill a bunch of monsters. You find a door locked by a sigil. You kill a bunch of monsters. You destroy a statue which breaks the sigil. Then, you repeat. Hold the phone though; sometimes, you need to destroy more than one statue, or hit a switch, in order to open a door.

But it’s not just the game-play which is repetitive; it’s the environmental setting. There’s a moment when you are fighting in a ship yard, and perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad if it hadn’t gone on for five levels, many of which begin to look exactly the same after a while.

Now, although the visuals are gorgeous, and cannot be faulted, the length of time it took to navigate an area, like the ship yard, does nothing to effectively show the attention that has been provided to the graphics. A dull atmosphere like this one takes away from several of the other locations you visit, which brilliantly take advantage of the new system’s abilities. Furthering this argument, in games like Halo 4, there is one primary mission per level, which continuously keeps your attention. In Shadow Warrior, you may have one primary mission for several levels, and after a while, you begin to wonder if you are ever going to accomplish your mission objective at all.

The addendum that in many levels the player is forced to go backwards and forwards to complete objectives only intensifies this nuisance. There’s one level later on when you must retrace over your own footsteps three times in a row, and what would have made this laborious task slightly less agitating, is a compass. No aid however is provided to finding objectives, and on more than one occasion I found myself waltzing around an area trying to find the exit. Additionally, the sub-missions, including turn the valve, or find the key, are about as interesting as they sound, and the fact you need to repeat them several times over during the campaign takes deja vu to an all new level.

The continuous onslaught of demons and sigils moreover, eventually feels less like entertainment, and more like speed bumps, which deliberately cause traffic congestion. In a game spanning 17 chapters, it is unnecessary to hold the player up in a vain attempt to make the game last for longer than it probably should. Although I have no qualms with defeating a barrage of enemies, the fact the demonic legions only come in so few flavors does nothing to enthrall. After killing the 100th enemy in a level, which looked remarkably similar to the previous 99, even I begin to lose the urge for battle. The massive, yet infrequent boss encounters tend to shake things up, and the challenge of fighting an enemy the size of a tall building is the breath of fresh air the game is hopelessly lacking.

Furthermore, the fact that the player is unable to govern many of the choices that Wang makes over the course of the campaign seems rather restrictive. There are numerous moments when Wang makes what can only be described as a rather douche-bag move, and instead of having the opportunity to choose an alternate path, you either act like a douche-bag, or, you act like a douche-bag.

Fighting agaisnt the enemy though is made somewhat more entertaining with the wealth of upgrades Wang can apply to both himself, and his weaponry. While cash is used for the armaments (and the player needs to suspend their disbelief, for I find it hard to believe that cash can literally be found every couple of meters on the street), chi is applied to Wang’s abilities, and Ki crystals are used to strengthen demonic powers. Although Chi can be found, a great amount of its energy is siphoned from the demons that you kill, and much like in Uber Soldier, the more violent you are, the better the rewards.

The opportunity to use demon hearts, and even their heads agaisnt opponents, proves advanetgous in battle. Additionally, been able to block incoming projectiles with a shield that surrounds the player, and having the ability to heal your wounds are fantastic bonus features agaisnt the unending waves of monsters. The key combinations however (for instance, to heal, you need to tap the movement key to the right twice, and press the left trigger) can occasionally be more of a hindrance. The abilities you earn are more mandatory than optional, and when you are battling a wealth of massive creatures, like warlords or crystal demons for instance, you are less concerned with the buttons you are pressing, and more on taking out the opposition. The addendum that the keys need to be pressed in just the right manner (not to quick, but not to heavy either) means there are numerous times when you don’t execute the ability you were after, resulting not only in failure, but occasionally in death as well.

Weapon upgrades on the other hand prove to be just as unreliable, but for a completely different reason. Although each weapon can have alternate firing solutions and damage boosters applied, and true, in the case of the rocket launcher and shotgun, these are quite apparent, more often than not, the katana seems to be the most reliable weapon. As an example, there was a moment when I fired a torpedo from a rocket launcher at the wings of a boss monster, only to have the round go right through it! This was not the only time this particular incident occurred either, which repeated during battles with other creatures as well. However, for those who grow bored of Wang’s default sword, they can wield either the classic katana from the original game, the hammer from Serious Sam BFE, or several other melee armaments available from the options menu.

With the Halo Master Chief collection on the horizon, alongside Doom 4 arriving sometime this century, it would seem that remakes are in vogue. What makes Shadow Warrior quite disappointing is, rather than rejuvenating the franchise, it seems so outdated. When the original Shadow Warrior arrived, mindlessly killing monsters, finding key cards, and traveling through one level after another with no real goal was common practice. Today however, where gamers (I presume) are interested in enjoying mature story-lines, portraying detailed, well imagined characters, alongside the opportunity to choose how their story ends, these lacking opportunities cause Shadow Warrior to fall short.  Though there is some enjoyment to be found in the game, much of it is buried beneath unnecessary occurrences, that cause what little plot there is, to become lost amidst mindless repetition and an over-excessive, unjustifiable quantity of violence.

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Doom3 BFG Edition – is this the Biggest Friggin’ Game in the Doom franchise?

 

Last week in Australia, our shores were graced by the arrival of no, not more ‘boat people’, but by Doom3 BFG Edition, which comes equipped with the original Doom, Doom2, Doom3, the mission pack, Doom3 Resurrection of Evil, and a new campaign consisting of eight levels titled ‘the Lost Mission’.

Doom3 in itself was a terrific action shooter that went out of its way to make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and boy did it succeed! The high definition reboot of the action classic is graphically sublime, and cannot be faulted in any way with the seemingly stupendous visuals that it throws at you in every frame. The in game movies have been beefed up along with the general gaming experience to fully immerse you within a realm that has been graphically redefined.

The monsters look absolutely terrific, and some, especially the Pinky Demon seem especially grotesque in their appearance.

The sound is in your face, exploding out from the speakers with an unrelenting fury as it envelops everything within the vicinity.

Moreover, the game itself has not been changed, so gamers will be able to expect all that they once endured and suffered at the hands of Hell’s demon spawn to once again suffer some more.

Suffering is the right term though for those of you who think I have lost my mind. Playing the game on Veteran – I had forgotten just how difficult it could be. It is easy though – as long as you don’t get hit by anything. After a couple hits you’ll find your character lying on the ground with his legs and arms in the air, so you need to be extra vigilant whilst exploring the UAC Mars Facility for the enemy can come from everywhere and anywhere.

There is also the fact that id decides to teleport in a demon or too into a room if you fail to leave in an unspecified time frame, or you decide to begin retracing your steps in an attempt to find some health or are looking for the cabinet that wouldn’t open before because you failed to have the right combination.

However, one will not suffer at the hands of the boss monsters. As one will recall, the boss creatures from the Doom games are never that complicated – all you require is ammo – you can never have too much of it. From the original Doom, in which you blasted the Spider Mastermind a couple times with the BFG to make ‘im blow up till now, the bosses of Doom have never offered the worst challenge imaginable, and most of them (minus the guy at the end of Resurrection of Evil, unless you have the strategy down) will be taken out on your first attempt.

The multiplayer experience moreover for those enjoying the game on console is strictly for online multiplayer, so don’t expect to go round fragging your friends in a split screen game.

However, id compensate for this by allowing the original 2 Doom games to come equipped with such a function.

Yes, Doom and Doom2 can be played on all platforms now, which is really impressive, although don’t go expecting the graphics to be any better than they once were. Hailed as the greatest graphics ever conceived back between 1993-95 when the games were originally launched, now they seem rather obtuse in comparison to games of today, but the fun they will provide has not at all been extinguished. What’s more, both the Doom games come equipped with all of the add on packs that were conceived, so for Doom you have all four original terrifying episodes, and for Doom2 you are granted the ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ game as well.

What is a little upsetting for the biggest Doom fans might be the fact that Evilutions (which wasn’t exactly the best Doom game ever) and the Plutonia Experiment (or, as I like to call it, the hardest Doom game ever – people may remember a secret level filled with Cyber Demons!) are not included in this limited edition reboot.

However, as previously mentioned, the multiplayer is capable of allowing gamers who experience BFG Edition on console the ability to either play the campaigns co-operatively or in a death match via split screen. Massive Doom gamers will no doubt remember the fun that Doom multiplayer provided back in the day – I mean, it was what, the first ever game that allowed people this opportunity?! That fun has returned and is exceptional!

It feels incredibly fun to once again blast your enemies away in these original Doom conceptions, although at the same time the music and the sound of all the items respawning is no doubt capable of making your brain turn to juice as you slowly but surely lose your mind.

I guess the only negative feature of the original games is the weapons – the keys to select which one you wish to use are incredibly fiddly and never will you properly get used to them, which becomes especially annoying during a massive fire fight. If that’s not enough, not all of the weapons are in the order they once were on PC all those years ago – you would expect the Super Shotgun to come after the Shotgun? Nope, it comes in as one of the last weapons.

However, do not let this little addendum cause you dismay; the original games are just as fun as ever before!

Moving back to the Doom3 series, although Doom3 in itself looks fantastic (although once or twice you can see something’s a little off but that happens in all games), when it comes to Doom3 Resurrection of Evil you can clearly see a difference when you start to play – it is as though whoever was involved in rebooting this particular campaign into high definition lost their passion after being involved rebooting its predecessor.

The graphics in game do not look quite as beautiful, and the cinematics – they have not even been changed. These parts of the game, of which there are quite a few mind you, look exactly as they did back in 2005, which isn’t all that bad – but when you compare it to Doom3 you can clearly see the graphical differences and feel a slight ping of disappointment.

Again, when playing Doom3 and its sequel the keys to switch the weapons can be a little annoying, but less so in these particular games than they are in the originals. Upon acquiring the special artefacts found in either game, these can be accessed just by pressing the left button on the D-pad, although it is annoying when the game fails to register your pressing need for the artefacts and so decides against giving them to you – often resulting in a rather unpleasant death.

As for ‘the Lost Mission’ and the eight ‘levels’ of entertainment that such a campaign provides – I’m sorry, but I have to ask – what’s the point? This particular campaign will take you less than two hours to complete on Veteran difficulty, and the supposed ‘levels’ (hence the reason why I put such a word in quotation marks before) are incredibly minuscule – in fact to even call them levels is a downright insult to the levels in the other Doom3 games which are by far larger in size than what you shall experience in this campaign.

In this new campaign you find yourself in the shoes of a member of Bravo team after this small militarian group were attacked by ravenous demons in the Empro Plant. Waking up to find you only have half your health left, if you are anything like me, you begin by thinking ‘what’s the point?’ (as previously stated).

In Doom3 and the sequel, the games both focused on you bringing a stopper to the invasions that had taken over the base. The objective, as you will find later on in the second level, is as follows; a scientist is in need of your assistance. Believing himself to be the only person who has survived the invasion, he needs you to be a good boy and go into what he calls ‘the other realm’ (why can’t he just call it Hell?) and switch off a teleportation system there that is still online and linked to the UAC Mars Facility. Worse still, the demons could use it as a means to travel directly to Earth! Good times!

Much of what you shall find in these eight levels look to be rehashed from the Doom3 experience. Segments in the Empro Plant and the Mars City Underground will leave you with great feelings of déjà vu, and the secret ‘Exis Labs’ that is supposed to be capable of bettering the Delta Complex upon completion looks exactly on several occasions like sections of the Delta Complex that it is supposed to be bettering!

A couple sections in the game are new, including running around, trying to hopelessly find the code to the cabinet with the double barrelled shotgun in it; fighting a couple of the enemies that appeared in the mission pack; the updated looking teleportation units, which look considerably impressive mind you, and at one point using the ‘Grabber’ to send energy from one pylon to another (think Portal, but less challenging).

When you eventually do find yourself in the midst of the ominous ‘other realm’, this I have to say does look very different from previous experiences in the Doom3 games – if anything, it looks a lot like Hell did back in the original Dooms, which classic fans will no doubt be impressed by. The final boss is nothing special though, but the big bastard will have you on your toes on a few occasions, but as long as you run and gun you will eventually prevail with very little injury on your first attempt.

All three campaigns for Doom3 furthermore will take you less than ten hours to complete on Veteran, however, don’t do what I did and play them all one after the other in a row, else you might find that you suddenly become Doom3’d out!

Long story short – you simply must buy Doom3 BFG Edition as to partake in the HD Doom3 campaign. The multiplayer aspect in the original Doom games is an additional reason to add this game to your collection, whilst the rest of the Doom experience seems a lot more like random bits and pieces that will mildly entertain you if you have nothing better to do.

All in all, a quick little appetiser to entice you for Doom4, which is supposed to come out on the 31st of December this year, but who knows? What can be said about id is that their games are always long awaited and very fun, with no bugs to speak of. However, never have they been really good at keeping to their schedules, i.e. Doom3 – meant to come out August 2004, then September and then October, and then eventually came out mid 2004. And don’t even get me started on Rage!

In summary:
8/10

-Doom3 graphics are sublime

-Doom3 cinematics are beautifully articulated

-Doom and Doom2 multiplayer is fun

-Doom and Doom2 graphics remain unchanged

-Doom3 Resurrection of Evil graphics seem less than exceptional in comparison to Doom3

-Doom3 ‘the Lost Mission’ seems pointless and trivial, yet flawlessly presented graphically

-Doom3 multiplayer strictly online

-Switching weapons is a lot like putting a red hot iron down your trousers – it’s a risky business

-Many levels, but rather short in all

What I am looking 4 in a Doom 4

 

It was in 2007 that id announced the promulgation of the fourth installment in the Doom franchise, and since then I have been patiently waiting. Quite often, such hype is exposed, and later it draws to a close and the project is called off and left unfinished. Apparently not in this case, with little bits and pieces of detail emerging each year with the exception of Quakecon 2010. Recently it was rumored that the fourth Doom game would be loosed upon the world in December, and I have heard nothing since to deny this rumor as anything but what could very well be the truth.

With the announcement of Doom3 BFG Edition at E3 2012, the roll out of Doom 4 seems almost even more ‘exciting’. Could this be the appropriate word? Dunno. However, it seems rather odd that so little information is being broadcast about the upcoming Doom title, although when Doom 3 was on the rise, trailers for this particular title were put out as early as a year before its release, although the game was indeed postponed on a couple of occasions, thus my disbelief that it may actually arrive as planned, but here’s hoping.

What is strange about Doom 3 BFG would no doubt be its release. The 12th of October for the Yanks and many other countries, and the 19th for Australia? Perhaps the distributors temporarily forgot there was a country that existed above Antarctica? Or the games are being placed on very slow ships. Additionally, there is of course the price. In America, the game is set to be $50 for XBOX360, $40 for PS3 and $30 for PC, all of which are rather attractive prices. The Australian prices have been unveiled as well, with all platforms to be charged the exact same allotment of cash – $98.99! Last time I checked, the Aussie dollar and that of the American were very similar, so I am at a loss as to why the game is set at such an exorbitant price on this particular side of the hemisphere. I remember when Halo HD came out; it was only $60 over here, which seemed rather cheap – especially when in contrast to the rebooted version of Doom 3 in HD.

However, this post is meant to be about Doom 4, so back on topic. What has been unveiled so far by some of those involved in the project, is that the graphics are meant to be ‘awesome’ and better than that of Rage, but will run at a slower frame rate at only 30 bits per second, whilst Rage ran at 45. The game is additionally not a prequel, nor a sequel to Doom 3 or any of the other titles in the franchise, and is not intended to be a reboot, but a standalone game in the Doom universe. It however is meant to be similar to that of Doom 2, in that it is set on Earth. The forces of hell have torn the planet a new one, with the world of Doom 4 set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, which seems to be the current setting for many an id game. The game sees the remnants of the human race, in particular, what is left of their military fighting for survival against the forces of hell. Other than that, very little is yet to be showcased, with id specifying that any and all trailers and clips that have been showcased thus far to be fakes, and that when they finally do unveil any content to the public, the fan boys will be thrilled beyond belief.

With that in mind, since the contents of the game are still yet to be brought to light, I thought I might compile a list of what I would like to see in the future of the world of Doom.

One: I would like the option of playing as either a bloke or a chick. Such would spice up the battles and bring a different flavor to the fight. We have played as blokes for so long, so why not take time out and play as woman?

Two: I would like around 95% of the game to be set on one’s lonesome – basically, I do not want any back up most of the time. Doom has proven over its longevity that it is about taking on the forces of hell all by yourself, so why trade tradition in for a team based shooter?

Three: I would like the next gen Doom game to last me a while. I remember Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 lasted me seven hours and eighteen minutes on the highest difficulty setting – not very long I will admit. Halo Reach however lasted me approximately 25 hours on the highest setting – now that is the kind of length I would be more impressed with.

Four: I would like to see all of the monsters from the original Doom and Doom 2 games, along with the creatures from Doom 3, and a couple of new ones tossed in to add more spice to the fight.

Five: I would like the Cacodemon to be red and have one eye. I mean, back in the original, he was pretty cute – that is of course when his giant fire balls weren’t depleting your health of forty five hit points per attack cuz you failed to have any armor on…

Six: I would like the creatures to be really hideous. Many a time during the development of games when the designers showcase the way creatures are going to look, they seem far more gruesome initially than when they do when the game is finally released because additional changes were made. This is reflective of many titles, but a great example would have to be the third installment of the Doom franchise. The Lost Souls for instance, were far more gruesome during their initial unveiling a year before the game was finally released, when the faces of the creatures were far more uninviting, whilst the latter versions had far smoother features that were not covered in blood. Additionally, the original conception of the Arch-vile was friggin’ grim, the creature being a cadaver, with flesh hanging from its limbs, blood dripping from its torn body and fire encasing its hands. The final version was a thin white creature with a flawless complexion – not exactly the creature from hell’s dominion, eh? More like a Caucasian pyromaniac waltzing around in his birthday suit.

Seven: I would like the game to have a pretty good story. Often in games, the likes of Prey, Bioshock, Halo 3 and Mass Effect, it is great to have a story where your character needs to save someone of importance to them, whether it be a friend or loved one. This would be a good theme to have throughout the piece.

Eight: Although I would like a story, I would also like the game to be restored to its original roots. The original 2 Doom games were quite open, whilst the third installment kept the player stuck in repetitive corridors where it was difficult to maneuver. In the originals, the levels were not linear, but that did not matter, and the primary goal was to get in, and then get out alive, with keys having to be often found to ensure the completion of this goal. The return of this, along with the score the player gains upon completion of each level, with perhaps a reward for gaining 100% quota for all avenues, would be quite impressive.

Nine: I would like the bodies of the dead to remain. In almost every game today, as soon as you kill a bad guy, their body simply vanishes into thin air. Back in the days of Doom, Heretic and Hexen, this did not occur, and I would like to return to this. Having the bodies remain allows one to remember their accomplishments. Not having them – it’s like walking through a ghost town after you’ve killed all those who once resided in it. It is quite depressing. At least the dead provide you with, all be it, limited company.

Ten: I would like the health and armor hit points to go all the way to a thousand! Bearing in mind, this can only be achieved by picking up those tiny pickups or through using those special mega spheres.

Eleven: I am worried about the amount of violence, or perhaps the lack there of. The previous Doom game did not have much. True, the walls and floors wee drenched in blood, but the enemies gave off very little as you blew them away. Rage especially was a game that was so blood thirsty, you could take all of the spilled blood and store it in a vial approximately two centimeters in height! Doom was seen as the end of the world by those who do not wish to have an R18+ classification in Australia for games due to its excessive violence. I want Doom to be returned to its original violent state. I want the game to be drenched in so much blood once more, that you literally need a towel to wipe it from the screen.

Twelve: I want the A.I of the enemy to be quite impressive. In Doom 3, the former human opponents were smart enough to take cover – if there was cover to take, whilst the denizens of hell simply attacked the player with little regard for their survival. I would like to face off against an enemy who cared about living as much as they did about killing, which would be more challenging, cuz a creature that simply kills without mercy is not much of a threat when you have yourself a bazooka and all they have are a couple little arms and a fireball.

Thirteen: I want the games released on the non-PC platforms, in particular the XBOX360 version to come equipped with a split-screen multiplayer match capability. Online matches are all fun and good, but they lack one little thing; on XBOX live, you cannot physically see the other player – and therefore, you cannot yell at them and slap them over the head when you kick their ass from one side of the map to the next. That in itself, is classic. Kodak moments are born from moments like these!

Well, that is about it. I know, thirteen is an unlucky number, but since Doom is a game franchise where one tackles the hordes of hell, perhaps in this case it will bring good fortune rather than bad. Time can only tell I guess, and one can always only hope.