Shadow Warrior 3 review (PS4)

Shadow Warrior 3 may have been overshadowed (pun intended) by the likes of Elden Ring, Dying Light 2, Horizon Forbidden West and Gran Turismo 7, but we had been looking forward to the return of Lo Wang. It’s available now for PC, PlayStation and Xbox – we played the PlayStation 4 version.

When you consider how violent some of their titles are, it’s crazy to think that when we first met developer Flying Wild Hog, it was for a cute and sweet platformer called Juju. Close to ten years later, the studio’s built up a nice reputation of shooters that emphasize fun single player gameplay over multiplayer-centric shooters, and we love them for it – we have plenty of shooters trying to be the next big online thing.

We sometimes refer to protagonist Lo Wang as “this generation’s Duke Nukem” here, and it doesn’t take long for the game to remind us why. He’s a protagonist with plenty of attitude, and although we’re sure that makes him an acquired taste we really enjoy all the (sometimes intentionally terrible) jokes that are a constant part of the action here. Very often they’ll also include some kind of pop culture reference, so those are bonus points if you’re into that kind of thing as well.

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And yes, underneath the sometimes shallow humor (that doesn’t shy away from body part jokes) there’s a story here as well, which involves Lo Wang going up against a giant dragon by invoking a bit of dark magic. It’s silly stuff and we doubt anyone plays Shadow Warrior games for their narrative, but the story does an adequate job of guiding you through a campaign that’s somewhat on the shorter side – our playthrough clocked in at just over six hours for a story that’s divided up into 11 missions.

Part of that is that the game world has a more linear design this time, when compared to Shadow Warrior 2 – which required a bit of pathfinding at time as you traversal wider areas and a central hub. Combat sequences often benefit from this change, as a relative lack of wide open spaces means you can’t just run away and come back with a fully charged health bar. Much like in the recent DOOM games, Shadow Warrior 3 prefers you to stick around, stay mobile and stay on the offensive.

Lo Wang enjoys swords so he’s more prone to melee, but with a wide arsenal of ranged weapons it’s not hard to see the resemblance to DOOM in how kinetic the combat is – you can even pull off finishing moves, though you wouldn’t be surprised that they’re a bit more outrageous here. Shadow Warrior 3 is a gory game with its mix of slicing and dicing, shotgun blasts up close and explosions, but it fits with the over-the-top nature of the writing and personality of its protagonist. That makes it a game for those who are still in touch with their inner 15 year old, but for those who are it’s a blast.

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Shadow Warrior 3’s level designs work well for your traversal options. We wouldn’t call this a parkour game, but with tons of verticality, shortcuts and zip lines it’s a lot of fun to double-jump, wall run and grapple your way around levels, especially when you can chain these moves into a few kills. In a few cases, Flying Wild Hog has even included traps – but not necessarily for you. You can activate these, and chop up a few enemies without breaking a sweat.

The relatively short campaign length works in Shadow Warrior 3’s favor as the action does tend to get repetitive after a while, and short platforming sequences and the occasional upgrade can only do so much to mix things up. Lo Wang isn’t the type of character who goes through a meaningful character arc either, so the emphasis is firmly on the combat and humor here – both of which are fun in an over the top kind of way.

We could see people holding out and waiting for a sale on account of the game’s short runtime and limited replay value, but fans of Lo Wang’s previous adventures will certainly enjoy this latest chapter as well. Its combat is excellent and its jokes are often shallow, but boy is it fun.

Score: 7.9/10

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