Shadow Warrior 2
The list of good singleplayer first person shooters released in the past 5 years isn’t long. There’s Doom 2016, Wolfenstein: The New Order 2014, Shadow Warrior 2013, and Serious Sam 3 in 2011. As a fan of Shadow Warrior, I had high hopes for this. I got worried when I learned they’d added co-op, and especially worried when I heard levels would use procedural generation. Unfortunately the game is even worse than I had feared. This is a review of the game viewed only as a singleplayer experience, and it’s possible it’s more fun in co-op. But that’s not how I was interested in playing this.
To be fair, Shadow Warrior 2 has fixed some things from the last entry. Bosses are way better, which is important as they were a joke last time. Also, the last game had inconsistent performance, whereas this game runs incredibly well, while looking way better. In general, the look of the game is its greatest asset. Human characters look like they were thrown together by a complete amateur, but the environments are nice. It’s also the first game on PC to support HDR10, so if you have a HDR TV the game doubles as tech demo.
But apart from those positives, Shadow Warrior 2 is bloated and vapid. Almost none of the qualities I look for in a singleplayer FPS are present, and it’s all because of the change in direction of the game and level design. You get quests from a central hub, and then select missions on a map. These maps are generated based on a few visual themes, and enemies are randomly placed on them. The effect this has on level design is that you walk around general purpose buildings and arenas, which might or might not be populated with enemies.
Unlike a properly designed game, there’s no sense of pacing or drama to the levels. Enemies just kind of mill about randomly in the levels, and there’s never any sense of surprise or tension. Even worse, there’s so few pre-built assets used for randomization that you’ve seen everything halfway through the game, just like Halo 1! You run up the same giant tower in the city three times, the same dungeon two times, the same everything over and over. And somehow, even with this amount of padding, the game is 5 hours shorter than the last one. How much time was wasted on this system? And for what? To make replays slightly less tedious in co-op?
To further ruin any sense of excitement when you play, the story is total garbage. The whole adventure feels like it doesn’t matter. This is in stark contrast to the last game, which successfully created not only a drama curve for the general story, but also character arcs. It wasn’t brilliant, but it was good enough to pass as acceptable. Shadow Warrior 2 is so far from the last game that it’s worse than the 1997 Shadow Warrior. When this little care is put in the story, you might as well not have one. I skipped several cutscenes for side quests, because they were the most torturous tedium I’ve ever seen in games. And I have a high tolerance for cutscenes, being a fan of Metal Gear Solid 4.
I don’t hate this game, but I’m disappointed. It’s 10 hours of generic paste, only slightly more interesting than Borderlands 1 and 2. This isn’t what I wanted from Shadow Warrior 2, at all. I guess if you really love the Borderlands games this might be fun. But I’d like it if these co-op based first person RPG shooters became more ambitious. I want to play a real game, not a collectathon. “Oh, I got a new weapon! Oh it’s shit, just like the last hundred.” “Which skill should I pick? Oh it doesn’t matter, there’s a hundred of them, so it’s balanced in a way where you don’t need to pick any.” No thanks, I’m fine.