The older we get, the more we notice how much history repeats itself. Video games tend to copy mechanics from other games with mixed results. This is nothing new. There is nothing wrong with this approach if the developers are taking the RIGHT mechanics and putting their own spin on them. After Halo Combat Evolved came out, every shooter had to have regenerating health and a two-weapon limit (very few copycats got this right and there are FAR BETTER mechanics to rip from Halo). After Modern Warfare, every shooter had to be cinematic and military themed with slow movement and a multiplayer focus (again, wrong lessons taken). But let me take you back to a time when developers had enough creativity to put their own spin on borrowed design. The year is 1993 and DOOM has taken the gaming world by storm. There were a few first-person shooters before DOOM but there is a reason why it is considered the Granddaddy of first-person shooters. After the release of DOOM, came the “Doom clone”. Yup, first-person shooters were so new that the genre didn’t have a name yet, so they were lovingly referred to as “Doom Clones' ' until the late 90’s. Heretic swapped the guns for magic, Duke Nukem brought level interactivity and a voiced protagonist, Dark Forces brought Star Wars and Shadow Warrior brought dick jokes and a sword. In 2022, we appear to have come full circle. Shadow Warrior 3 (reboot trilogy) is a modern-day Doom Eternal Clone with dick jokes and a sword. Just like the original game in 1997, Shadow Warrior 3 has put its own spin on Doom Eternal’s mechanics (not just with phallic humor). Doom Eternal is my all-time favorite game for many reasons, so I really hope Shadow Warrior 3 is the first of many “clones''.
I played the Xbox One version of Shadow Warrior 3 on Xbox Series X via backward compatibility as no native Series X version exists yet on the medium/ hard difficulties (big gamer energy). Per usual, this was hooked up to an LG CX OLED.
Graphics and Performance
Let’s start with the good. The art on display in Shadow Warrior 3 is stunning. Sky boxes look incredible, the environments are detailed, and the game is saturated with vibrant colors. The frame rate does not budge from 60fps, and the load times are non-existent. Now for the bad… Like 33% of men out there, Shadow Warrior 3 has some performance issues. Cutscenes are rendered at a much lower frame rate than gameplay. It can be jarring when the game transitions and even appears choppy. Shadow Warrior 3 runs on Unreal Engine 4, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but the game suffers from stuttering, which is a common Unreal Engine 4 performance issue. This occurs when you first load into a new area. The game feels like it is running slower and there are brief pauses. Thankfully, this never happened to me during combat, which leads me to believe this issue is caused by loading assets at the start of a level. If you reload a checkpoint, the issue is completely gone.
Customization and Accessibility
Shadow Warrior 3 gets this mostly right. You can remap every button to your liking (EVERY GAME SHOULD DO THIS), you can adjust the stick sensitivity (something we all wish we could do in real life), brightness, aim assist, etc. You can also change the difficulty at any point without losing in game progress. For me, there is one glaring omission here and that is the lack of FOV (field of view) slider. The game defaults to a low FOV, I’m guessing 70ish. This isn’t the end of the world if you sit far away from your screen, but up close in a blisteringly fast paced game with bright colors, que the headache. This was so jarring to me that I found myself adjusting the aim for half the game trying to compensate. I eventually made the decision to sit behind my couch at my computer desk, which was odd but moving further away from my TV really helped me.
Story/ Context for Actions Time
You are a former mafia enforcer/ ninja named Low Wang (you read that correctly). In the previous game, you accidentally unleashed (and I quote) “A Giant F**king Dragon that is going to freeze everyone’s balls off’. You team up with a few characters from the previous two games to find a way to kill it and save the world. It has a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe where the heroes are a dysfunctional group that come together in the end to save the day. The jokes are both sophomoric and self-aware. Some are really funny, some are really cringey, but it’s all lighthearted and not meant to be taken seriously. Like most first-person shooters of the 90’s, Shadow Warrior 3’s story takes a major backseat to the gameplay. You are given just enough context and world building to make sense of your journey without bogging the player down with constant exposition and ultimately useless details. There is plenty of lore to read if you want, but it is not required, and I didn’t bother.
Gameplay, Mechanics, & Systems
Movement – You have a dash, double jump, wall run, slide, & a GRAPPLING HOOK. You are more than mobile enough to avoid incoming damage.
Guns – Every gun is like a tool in a toolbox. Each gun has its own role/function that rewards smart usage. My two favorite weapons are the “Riot gun” and “Basilisk”. The Riot Gun is the shotgun, complete with FOUR BARRELS (compensating for something?). Once upgraded, it becomes automatic and does not require a reload. The Basilisk is the railgun. Devastating single fire hit scanning weapon that freezes nearby enemies with a money shot when fully upgraded.
Sword – Large and pointy, useful in resource replenishment as well as enemy dismemberment. Also the dick jokes kind of write themselves here.
Chi Blast – Most definitely not a force push… it’s a force push. Falters enemies and gives you breathing room. Gives the player health when fully upgraded.
“Finishers” – Similar to Doom Eternal’s glory kills. You must build up a meter to perform a finisher, which is an execution animation. This yields a full health recharge and allows you to use the executed enemy’s weapon and dish out an absurd amount of damage for a short time.
Enemies – Each is unique, aggressive, and creatively designed. There are efficient ways to take each of them down to further incentivize using all the tools at your disposal.
Resource Management- Like Doom Eternal, you are in complete control of your resources.
Ammo – Enemies killed with the sword drop ammo. When upgraded, simply hitting an enemy with the sword yields ammo.
Health – Enemies killed with guns drop health.
Upgrades – Come in two flavors, weapon and character. You find upgrades hidden(ish) in the levels or earn them by completing challenges. Challenges consist of playing the game better (headshots, multi kills, hazard kills, etc.)
High Skill Ceiling – You can theoretically play Shadow Warrior 3 by using one or two guns, reloading, and relying on health & ammo pickups in the arenas but you won’t have a good time. You will die… a whole lot. You can automatically reload your guns and cancel cool down/ reload animations by swapping weapons or using a sword slash. Quick swapping weapons will also yield much higher damage per second. There is no cover system to speak of in Shadow Warrior 3, so you need to learn how to effectively avoid damage. Faltering enemies with a chi blast allows you to avoid damage and dish out your own. Using your advanced movement will get you out of the way quickly. Using your grappling hook and staying in the air makes you untouchable to hard charging melee enemies and lets you rain down death from above. There is a lot more to cover here but we don’t have all day. The more mechanics you learn, the better you will get at this game. Having good aim and relying on overpowered guns isn’t enough.
No BFG Type Weapon or Rocket Launcher - Shadow Warrior (1997) had a tactical nuke for a super weapon. This game has no super weapons. A rocket launcher would have been nice too, because who doesn’t want an oversized explosive phallic symbol of a weapon in their game?
Amount of Game Currently Available – Shadow Warrior 3 is roughly a 6-hour single player experience with no multiplayer mode. As of right now, there is no level select option to go back and find upgrades you might have missed. There are only three difficulty settings and there are no in game modifiers to increase the challenge (skulls in Halo). This game desperately needs DLC missions, a horde mode, New Game Plus, or level creator.
Shadow Warrior 3’s gameplay is exactly what I would hope for in a Doom Eternal clone made by a small studio and non-gigantic publisher and I hope it paves the way for more games like this. Flying Wild Hog and Devolver Digital do not have the budget and marketing of 343 Studios and Microsoft, but they have done well with their resources available. Shadow Warrior 3 isn’t perfect, but it mostly succeeds in being a single-player, skill-based shooter that demands the player’s attention. As it currently stands, I give it a 7.75/ 10. 50 bucks is a bit steep for 6 hours of content (most players only play games once), so it is hard to recommend to non-Doom Eternal fans or anyone that isn’t a hardcore FPS fan. HOWEVER, this score could very easily go up with a few changes. Simply adding an FOV slider and fixing some of the stutter issues would instantly bring this to an 8/ 10. If this game gets free DLC, a horde mode, or a new game plus, we’re easily looking at 8.5 - 8.75 out of 10. If they do both, it’s a 9/ 10 and a must play. I hope we get a native next generation console version at some point as well, but beggars can’t be choosers.