Shadow Warrior 3, the latest in Flying Wild Hog’s revived series, is mixing things up for the third installment. There is a lot of talk about the new movement system (more on that later), but after watching 17 minutes of gameplay, the real standout is the new take on Shadow Warrior 3 finishing moves.
Shadow Warrior 3 picks up where the previous game left off. Our quick-witted hero, Lo Wang, made a big oopsie and released an ancient dragon, and now he has to fix it. It’s a perfect setup for an action game. Go in, shoot some demons, slash some demons, and save the day. However, there are more ways to skin the demon in the latest installment.
Use your enemies (literally)
In Shadow Warrior 3, expect fast-paced, kinetic gameplay in the style you’ve come to expect from the series. However, Lo Wang has a few new moves (and some updated ones.) For example, his Chi Blast ability is more powerful than in the previous game. It’s basically a force push and can send enemies flying off of cliffs or into a nasty set of spikes.
The katana takes care of close encounters, but the real fun is when Lo Wang performs a finishing move on an enemy. On one particular enemy, Lo Wang rips out part of its face and holds it in his hand, the eyeball still looking around. Gruesome, right? But it’s now a weapon. A grenade, in fact. Throw it at your other enemies, and a frozen explosion flash freezes everything around it.
While facing another enemy—think a demonic jack-in-the-box—Lo Wang rips out the mechanical guts and nets himself an absolutely badass fireworks cannon. Chinese fireworks fly out and begin to explode all around the player’s field of view, decimating the horde of enemies around Lo Wang. Not only are the visuals awesome, but the sound effects are great too, and it’s usually accompanied by a one-liner or two from Lo Wang.
The new finishing moves aren’t just a way to finish off a wounded enemy or get some more ammo. It adds an entirely new tactical element to the game. With a multitude of enemies, each one offering a utility, grenade, or weapon, players will have plenty of choices on how they want to approach combat. I’ll probably always go for the firework cannon, though.
I believe I can fly… or swing
Shadow Warrior 3 is built around a classic FPS formula: traversal areas that contain some enemies here and there, followed by combat arenas that throw every demon and their demon mothers at you.
While speaking about the game, Flying Wild Hog lead designer Pawel Kowalewski told me that the studio was interested in making the traversal elements more appealing. Enter the grappling hook. Lo Wang can swing across the map. He can wall-run, too. The movement is slick and fluid, and it can also come in handy during combat. The new traversal abilities also make the level design more complex.
“There will be more vertical movement,” says Kowalewski. “The new movement features can make combat arenas more complex, more vertical, and players will have more [choices.]”
To accommodate the new movement abilities, the majority of Shadow Warrior 3’s maps take place in a large, mountainous region; essentially, a fantasy version of Eastern Asia that draws inspiration from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folklore. It’s a gorgeous game world, with bright, vivid colors that contrast sharply with all of the dismemberment going on.
According to Kowalewski, each combat arena will also feature a gimmick. In the preview I watched, the first arena had a gigantic bell that Lo Wang shot. It plummeted to the nearby ledge, sending several enemies flying off to their deaths. In another arena, he activated a gigantic saw trap that chewed through several enemies. They won’t win the fight for you, but they ought to make things easier. Plus, you usually get a well-timed comment from Lo Wang.
Shadow Warrior 3 appears to be shaping up nicely. Flying Wild Hog has done a great job of reviving the old IP, especially considering the less-than-tasteful humor of the 1997 original. The team is well aware of that reputation, and throughout the new series, they have turned Lo Wang into a lovable caricature of an action hero. His humor is based on pop culture, comic books, and action movies, creating a better version of Lo Wang that is a joy to play, and I can’t wait to hear his new jokes in Shadow Warrior 3.
And I can’t wait to use that firework cannon.