Shadow Warrior hands-on preview: hack ’em to pieces

Within just a few minutes of booting up Shadow Warrior, you’ll quickly learn that this is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. From the first few bars of Stan Bush’s euphoric ‘80s anthem, ‘The Touch,’ during the intro, to main character Lo Wang unleashing a barrage of cheesy one-liners as he nonchalantly slices up hordes of armed thugs, this is a game that aims to put a smile on your face before anything else. And despite a few flaws here and there, that’s no bad thing.

Set in the first-person, Shadow Warrior opens up as our hero stops off at the lush abode of Mr. Miyazaki, whom you are planning on purchasing a legendary sword off of. Things don’t go swimmingly, however, and before long you’re forced to slice and dice your way through hordes of demonic foes and Miyazaki’s goons. Combat is where you’ll spend most of your time—at least, from my impressions anyway—and is pretty easy going. Hitting R2 will unleash a quick swipe with your razor-sharp katana, while holding L2 will activate a charged attack. For ranged attacks, you’ll get your mitts on a revolver or hurl shurikens at your adversaries by hitting circle.

Make no mistake: combat in Shadow Warrior is a bloody, visceral melting pot of hacking, slashing, and dismemberment. Cutting up foes is satisfying, no contest; you’ll decapitate enemies, slice off limbs, and bisect them neatly, leaving a sea of claret in your wake. However, that’s pretty much as deep as it goes. From what I ascertained from my hands-on, foes tend to prove more of a threat due to their sheer numbers, as opposed to how deadly they are in terms of AI. Still, there’s no denying you’ll get a kick out of seeing your enemies explode into bloody chunks. Gun play is less riveting; holding down the right analogue stick to aim feels counter-intuitive considering how ubiquitous the use of L2 to bring up your sights has become over the years, and as such it’s very awkward to find your mark. 

Shadow Warrior packs an extensive upgrade system, too. Grabbing loot in the environment can be used to enhance your weapons, while Karam Points are utilized to buff The Adept’s powers, unlocking new attacks in the process. Finally, accumulating Ki Crystals gives you some much-needed oomph to your healing abilities. I wasn’t able to spend much time with the upgrade system due to limited time with the game, though there definitely seems to be a noticeable sense that you’re going to have to choose wisely when selecting your upgrades, and knowing when to hoard some of that hard-earned cash for later. 

The demo was a pretty linear jaunt, though environments are ripe for exploration. From authentic Japanese interiors brimming with sumptuous architecture, to lush gardens and forests, Shadow Warrior certainly sets the mood with its locations. As mentioned, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to uncover hidden caches of health, cash, and other collectibles as you stray off the beaten path in the woods or around Miyazaki’s sprawling estate. It’s certainly no slouch in the visual department, even if I experienced some odd hiccups when entering a new area.

Despite some wonky AI and a few technical hiccups, Shadow Warrior is shaping up to be a competent hack-’n-slash romp chock full of over-the-top gore, vibrant locations, and a protagonist who refreshingly basks in irreverence. 

Shadow Warrior is available for PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One formats.