Shadow Warrior: Classic Redux

It’s generally accepted, at least in some circles, that many modern first-person-shooters are in a bit of a quality rut.

Of course there’s some exceptions to that conclusion- Wolfenstein: The New Order and Counter Strike: Global Offensive being prime examples that the genre can still be fresh and satisfying.

Tight and interesting mechanics, varied level designs, and exciting stories are all things sorely lacking from FPS games nowadays. What we’re accustomed to in the genre now is the repackaging of ‘gameplay innovations’ from one game to the next, painfully linear single-player campaigns, and cluttered and uninspired multiplayer progression systems.

Even Claptrap has a jetpack

Titanfall charged us $60 for jet-packs and mechs and got away with it, so Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare followed suit with parkour mechanics and thrust-jumps, and it seems Halo 5 is going to be showcasing it’s own take on ‘dynamic arena traversal’. Personally, I can’t tell if these movement mechanics are plainly an advancement of the genre, or if developers are blatantly just copying each other.

Either way- the trend of tired FPS games isn’t really a new one. And just to be clear- this post isn’t to condemn modern shooters and to praise old ones. Clearly my opinion is that older shooters were generally better, but what I’d like to do with this post is to highlight the differences between the two. And I’ll do that by talking about a game that was gifted to me a while ago that I’m having a lot of fun with, Shadow Warrior: Classic Redux (shortened to SW from now on).


In SW you play as a cheeky, badass samurai. I think. It doesn’t really matter who he is, actually. What matters is there’s zombies with guns, 2015-04-26_00001ghosts that breath fire, and explosive demons all trying to kill you.

That’s all well and good- but now I’ll elaborate on some of the bigger aspects of the game that make it awesome.

Wide Open Levels Filled with Secrets

SW originally came out back in 1997, which was kind of a golden-age for 3D graphics technology on PC. These were the Doom 1, 2, and 3 years. A time when game developers were learning what it was like to explore systems in 3D space.

A product of this new creative frontier, I think (and this is 100% not researched,) is the wide open, secret-packed levels in SW. It was the same in the Doom games, where there’d be fake windows you can walk through, hidden buttons on walls, and underwater passages all filled with secret goodies.

2015-04-26_00003What are these goodies, you ask? Well, anything, really. And that’s great. On the first level of SW you can find a missile launcher. Why the fuck not? If you’re diligent enough to find these things, you get to have a blast killing weaker enemies with big, shiny guns. Other secrets include fortune cookies with silly jokes in them, showering NPCs, and killer rabbits. It’s a silly game, we’ll get to that later.

And since the game is actually pretty tough, you’ll want to find as many secrets as you can. Which is cool, because these levels are actually very open-ended. There’s very few corridors and absolutely no on-rails sections in these games. You’re encouraged to blow up walls and take a look around the debris in SW.

Not to mention this introduces a replayability element to the game. At the end of each stage you get a figure denoting how many secrets you missed in the level. Generally after finishing a game (especially in recent years) I’m kind of exhausted from the whole ordeal. Instead with SW, I’m genuinely compelled to play through each level again right after I complete it. It’s great.

A Sense of Humor

God FORBID somebody has a laugh during your serious pre-rendered motion-captured cutscenes, huh game devs?

SW knows it’s a game and that it’s purpose is to entertain you. One of the ways it entertains is by not taking itself seriously, at all. Your character speaks in an over-the-top samurai-type accent and comments on the things you do in the most ridiculous ways. Pull out your shurikens- he’s got a line for that. Come across bunnies procreating- he’s got a line for that. Fall down a comically deep pit- he’s got a line for that.

Beyond the one-liners- the game makes you laugh in other ways, too. If you come across a fortune cookie, it will usually have a silly, exaggerated ‘ancient Chinese secret’ to enlighten you with. If you attack seemingly peaceful showering NPC’s, they’ll pull SMGs from somewhere and try to kill you. It’s all very silly and in good fun.


And for somebody who’s been playing a lot of modern games recently, that’s really welcome. Games take themselves so seriously nowadays, like they’re made for the Oscars or something. Professional voice-acting, drab colors, and ethically charged storylines are shoehorning themselves into games that they have no business in. In FPS games you’re usually some super-human gun machine that actually kills for fun. So I love it when SW acts like it should- with comical amounts of gore, silly dialogue, and fantastical plots.
And just a quick disclaimer for that last point, I don’t want it misinterpreted. I’m in no way trying to say I don’t want different kinds of games. Having a variety of games that do different things is a good thing (most of the time). What I’m saying is that the market is getting saturated with the same kinds of games. Aren’t we tired of the morally challenged protagonist and the brown and gray environments they live in? Can’t we just mow down demons with a katana?
Well yeah, actually, SW exists. I’m kind of just bitching at this point.
Fun Things
2015-04-26_00002Not sure of a better way to bunch together the rest of the things I want to talk about than to just title this bit ‘Fun Things’.
You know how in most games nowadays you only get to hold two, maybe three weapons? I get why that is from a design perspective- you get to balance multiplayer gameplay more tightly that way and it makes sense that a person can’t carry a handful of heavy weapons.
But in SW you have ten slots for weapons, and it’s great. It offers you options, so you get more varied gameplay. Plus, it’s cool to run out of shotgun shells and then pull out a nuclear warhead to finish off who’s left, instead of a pistol.
Keys! Another thing that’s fun about SW is keys. It was a big thing in the Doom games, you’d need to find different colored keycards to open different colored doors. Well it’s present in SW, too and it’s also great.
Collecting keys feeds the whole exploration-based gameplay thing. Linearity can be good in games but (once again) not when you’re tired of it. You have to play through huge labyrinths of levels to find keys, backtrack to the right doors, explore the next labyrinth and do the same thing over again a few times.2015-04-26_00006
Another thing that’s fun about SW is the graphics. Personally I think they’ve aged pretty well. But besides that- I think they’re charming and the animations are silly and exaggerated (in a good way). Lots of blood splatter, silly enemy sprites, and distinctive environment textures go a long way to making SW feel like a campy game.
Also, on a different note regarding the graphics- the color palettes they define for each level are smartly built. Each level carries it’s own tone in large part thanks to the colors present in them. It’s hard to describe concretely in words, but thanks to the color choices made a level set in a pagoda environment feels very different than a level in a fiery hell pit.
We’re done here
Kind of rambled on for a while there. It’s not perfect, but it’s fun. Y’all should try it. It runs on pretty much any machine out there, I regularly even play it on my MacBook (but plug in a mouse). Go on Steam and download it, it’s cheap. Or not, whatever. Who caaaaaaaaaaares.

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