Shadow Warrior 3 Review – Lowbrow Lo Wang

I cut through three yokai with a lightning-infused sword strike before dashing away and equipping a grenade launcher that takes out another two with a satisfying boom. Aiming for the strongest of the bunch, a massive beast that slams his fist on the ground, I grapple hook towards him and unleash a finisher that takes him out in one move and temporarily gives me a hammer made out of bone to ruin the day of the remaining enemies. I feel like a god. No, even better – I feel like the Doom Slayer.

That lasts until protagonist Lo Wang makes yet another dick joke, or sings along to Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang, or talks about demon farts, or does anything else to send me into a cringe so hard that Wang’s katana would have trouble cutting through it.

That’s been my whole experience with Shadow Warrior 3 – five hours of punchy, fast-paced, Doom-style combat that is constantly brought down by the game itself. It builds on previous entries, but it can’t stop itself from diving too far into trying to cringe its player out. Well, I hope it’s trying to be this unfunny.

Shadow Warrior 3 takes place shortly after the second game, where former ninja and current twat Lo Wang summoned a dragon that proceeds to cause the apocalypse. To fix his mess, he teams up with former rival Zilla to try and find a way to stop the dragon and save the world. That summary is about as interesting as it gets, and at least I didn’t fill it with shit jokes.

No matter what you’re doing, Lo Wang is constantly narrating the action and stuffing it with pop culture references and unfunny remarks that only serve to distract you. The rest of the cast are slightly less smarmy but don’t worry, they’re just as boring. The only interesting theme of the game comes from Wang “losing his mojo” but it’s rarely touched upon and still can’t carry the rest of the nothingness.

The story just serves as an excuse for you to jump around environments and kill yokai while Lo Wang occasionally talks to another character and more frequently boils the piss of the player. Shadow Warrior 3 has to be one of the least funny games I’ve ever played – I like stupid jokes and can appreciate cringe humour, but Shadow Warrior 3 lacks both self-awareness and laugh-worthy moments, despite forcing both heavily. Some of the… go on, let’s call them ‘jokes’, don’t even make sense.

One scene has Lo Wang getting a grappling hook from an upside down corpse while a love song awkwardly plays in the background. Is he in love with the corpse? The grappling hook? Or is it just a bunch of random YouTuber-tier comedy ideas thrown in a blender then vomitted out into my ears? Judging from the rest of the game, I think I know which it is.

Thankfully, Shadow Warrior 3 is a lot more fun to play than it is to listen to. It’s a linear level-based first-person shooter that’s trying to ape the recent Doom reboots and focus on fast-paced shooting and movement, and it does so pretty successfully. You’ll be jumping from enemy to enemy, using an admittedly pretty standard set of weapons, such as a shotgun, dual uzis, a revolver, and a grenade launcher, as well as the series’ staple katana for melee attacks.

It’s nothing original, both in the first-person shooter space and for Shadow Warrior as a series, but mowing down waves of demons with an expanding set of skills and weapons gives you just enough serotonin to keep on going and put up with the gags. Every level works mostly the same way too – do some platforming until you reach an enemy arena, clear out everyone within, and then platform to the next area. Repeat until the level is over, unlock a new weapon if there are any left, and then move on.

There are a few new additions to the formula here, such as the ability to wall-run on specifically marked walls and the new grappling hook you can use on enemies or green circles in the environment. These platforming sections are satisfying thanks to how fast you can move around and I wish there were a few more in there to break up the lengthier enemy arenas.

Again, those additions are nothing that original or groundbreaking, but it’s refreshingly simple to not have to think too hard beyond whatever’s in front of you. You’re here to kill demons, so that’s what you do. The strict formula and lack of innovation does mean that things start to get stale in the final few levels as the game runs out of new things to do with itself and uses its 52nd dick joke, but blink once after that and you’ll have finished the whole thing anyway.

Being short isn’t a bad thing though. In fact, one of my favourite things about Shadow Warrior 3 is how quickly it can be beaten. That may seem like a dig at wanting it to end faster, but it’s refreshing to just be able to breeze through something and not have to keep a notebook handy. There are a few things to come back for, like challenges to help you level up your weapons and skills, but once is enough here.

I’m sure I won’t be thinking about Shadow Warrior 3 in five minutes’ time, but I’m okay with that. It doesn’t do anything to reinvent the wheel or the first-person shooter, but it moves away from the co-op looter-shooter nonsense the second game tried to pull and delivers a short, satisfying campaign that’s fast-paced and close enough to Doom to be considered good. It’s just a shame there’s no “shut the fuck up” filter.

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