Shadow Warrior: Jumping The Gun - Games Weekly

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Shadow Warrior: Jumping The Gun

The tasteless, unrefined yin to Wolfenstein: The New Order’s classy and thoughtful yang, Shadow Warrior is an FPS reboot that’s aimed pretty squarely at undemanding nostalgists.

Do you pine for the days in which endlessly circle strafing was the most valuable weapon in your arsenal ? Do you like your “secrets” to be extraordinarily well sign posted ? Are you a sucker for enemy AI that’s as simplistic and predictable as humanly possible? If you just nodded more than once, then this new fangled Shadow Warrior might be your game of the year.

But as bluntly entertaining asit occasionally is, it’s a prosaic washout in terms of design. The twelve hour campaign basically never changes: you career through a procession of bland, empty environments either dispatching enemies or looking for a switch of some kind in order to progress. The rigid and mechanical enemies look like direct descendants of Golden Eye's angular bulb heads, and the multi category skill tree is an exercise in clueless overkill. First person shooters don't get much more straightforward than this, and yet there are nine upgrade tiers and three different currencies to support them. These systems don’t even create an illusion of depth, it feels like shot in the dark desperation.

The action is absurdly zippy, so much so that it'll make the last FPS you played feel as if it took place underwater. The original Shadow Warrior was essentially a  Duke Nukem reskin, and that totally relentless pace has been  preserved here, you don't so much walk through these vacant arenas as perpetually glide. The incessant carnage is leavened by a fairly plentiful supply of terrible jokes, but the tone is larky and eager to please rather than spiteful or lewd. The plot is nonsensical but
even it if wasn't, the cutscenes (and there are several) are inexplicably rammed with pregnant pauses and inaction, and are thus entirely worth skipping.

With the exception of a couple of adequate set pieces, you’re never forced to choose between wielding your sword and wielding a firearm, which is a welcome touch. The swordplay is more tangible and infinitely more enjoyable than the shooting anyway because, even when you’re blasting away with a fully upgraded shotgun, gunplay is weightless and bereft of any impact. Presentation is of tendire, too: loading times are protracted, and some menu prompts are permanently clipped by the edges of the screen on Xbox One.

It feels unsporting to castigate something for being so cheap, but the reality is that Shadow Warrior is four or five mindless, carefree hours stretched to more than double that, a retro tour of a simpler era that just doesn't know when to quit. The campaign begins with gameplay footage of the 1997 original, presumably to remind you of just how much gaming has changed since then. The flourish is completely unnecessary.

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