It may be hard to comprehend, but it’s been a quarter of a century since Shadow Warrior first burst onto the gaming scene. Admittedly, it wasn’t until Flying Wild Hog picked up the franchise reins in 2013 with the reboot of the series and then the release of Shadow Warrior 2 in 2016, did it start to become a little more mainstream. But since that time it’s a brand which has slowly gone from strength to strength. It’s here, with Shadow Warrior 3 where Flying Wild Hog have really nailed things though, with a fast-flowing, totally madcap romp that is a joy to play through, from start to finish.
Shadow Warrior 3 once more focuses on the series protagonist, Lo Wang, a modern day ninja warrior who is on the edge of losing it at any time. It’s here where Wang – with his friends Zilla, Hoji (the demonic god), Motoko and her little Tanuki – in which Shadow Warrior 3 finds focus, as you take charge of Wang and attempt to save the world from the ever-increasing threat of a huge dragon; a dragon that he has unleashed. Or is it a wyvern? Who cares when the gameplay is this good.
What plays out is a single player, first person adventure that is an utter joy, as it goes about tasking the player with combining all manner of abilities as one, overcoming hordes of freaky foes, taking in some seriously tight parkour platforming, and even having to solve the odd puzzle or two whilst they are at it.
For the most part, Shadow Warrior 3 plays out as a very linear adventure. In fact, aside from the odd small detour that will tempt you with ability upgrade orbs, this is about as linear as it gets. But that’s not a bad thing, as it ushers the player down corridors, set pieces and pathways, always nearly ending in standalone arenas that are absolutely full of opposition.
It could be said that some may find this restrictive nature a bit of a tie, but Shadow Warrior 3 has been so well put together by Flying Wild Hog, combining cutscenes with action orientated elements, that it’s never a chore to play. Instead you’ll be urged on, excited to discover what madness is ready to unfold.
The character movement is super smooth, very precise and extremely well placed. Wang is a bit of a dab hand at jumping from pillar to post, utilising touchpoints found in the variety of environments well. For the most part, you’re guided on your way by splashes of green, highlighted in an otherwise beautiful oriental world (at least until the latter stages), ensuring that at all times you’ll know where to go, and when. Perfecting the timing in Shadow Warrior 3 is a must.
Jumping, double jumping, dashing and utilising a grapplehook (you know, because all video game characters need a grapplehook) will see you right at all times, and should you find you out that you’ve put a foot wrong, with Wang falling to his death, well placed checkpoints will mean there is little backtracking. Honestly, the checkpoints are really well done here, keeping interest levels high at all times.
The platforming is really neat, letting you jump and swing like the king of the jungle. But it’s when Lo Wang lands in an arena, where Shadow Warrior 3 really comes into its own.
Armed with an arsenal of wicked weaponry, from your everyday standard pistol, through a shotgun, dual-wielded machine guns, rocket launchers, rifles and even disk firing catapults, taking down those ahead of you is huge fun. Weapon selection is a cinch via a weapon wheel, but combining these ranged weapons with your deadly melee katana is where this game comes into its own; coming on and off the attack, switching things up as you need to is where this really excels.
Slicing, dicing, shooting and causing utter chaos is the name of the game here, mixing in some chi-based powers as well, allowing you to push back oncomers before assessing the situation and going back in, all guns blazing. Without a word of a lie, we’ve found Shadow Warrior 3 to deliver one of the most engaging combat situations we’ve played through for ages.
There’s a bit of strategy and tactical calling to this combat too, as each and every foe comes with their own unique abilities and attacks. Yes, mostly you’ll just be able to pummel any of the seriously freaky hordes into submission – especially those made up of standard grunt hordes of Kugutsu and Shogai – but as the game progresses and the sheer number of enemies at any one time increases, you’ll have to start thinking about exactly how you’re going to take opponents out. It gets trickier once the more complex characters of the brute-like Oni Hanma, the laser-firing Shoguns and especially the destructive Mogura Twins rock up on the scene. Thankfully, orbs are dropped for every kill, with health and ammo options dictated by your final kill type; melee or ranged.
Finisher moments also build on this and once you’ve been able to build out your special meter, getting up close and pulling off some Gore moves is great fun. These never get old either, with each one providing a specific special weapon on the back of it; timed so they don’t become too overpowering. Some will freeze enemies, others will increase your health, more will allow you to deliver some serious firepower.
Clearing an arena normally leads to another linear pathway, letting you and Wang rinse and repeat as the story progresses. Throw in the occasional bigger boss that come with their own health bar and unique way of working, and this easily plays out as a first person shooter’s dream. It’s very much like the rebooted DOOM in fact, but in our eyes feels more rounded and open to fun. It helps that it all sounds and looks so good too – we’ve been especially taken in by the cutscenes and their well directed way of purveying the situations ahead.
Character and weapon upgrades are plentiful, as are in-game challenges which are easy to keep track of. Complete these – you know, X kills with a weapon, utilising environmental objects a set number of times – and filling out Wang’s skill set and weapon types, making him an absolute badass (more so than even he knows) takes things in Shadow Warrior 3 to an even higher level. And whilst it may seem a little thing, well laid out menu systems help complement the action, ensuring you’re never out of the madness for too long.
We’ve got little but praise for what Flying Wild Hog have created here and aside from the fact that it’s an extremely linear playthrough, the occasional glitch through scenary and the fact that we’re not sure there’s much reason to want to play it again once the credits roll, it’s hard to find fault. Being picky, we could include a few slowdowns in the visuals during a couple of cutscenes, but it’s hardly anything to worry about.
Shadow Warrior 3 is a gorgeous looking, extremely fun, hugely sweary, first person platforming shooter which nails nearly everything asked of it. Perhaps you’ll want to have played the games which preceded it in order to get a grasp on the life and times of Lo Wang, but ultimately this is one of the best modern ninja takes yet.
Shadow Warrior 3 is available to download from the Xbox Store