Shadow Warrior is one of my favorite video game franchises and when developer Flying Wild Hog announced a sequel to Shadow Warrior 2, I was over the moon. The game not only promised faster-paced action, but also a more bombastic story than its predecessors. While Shadow Warrior 3 is a noticeable improvement in terms of graphics and combat, it falters from a replayability perspective.
Just like the past few games, the story still plays out like a hilarious B movie, so don’t expect wonders on that front. Your job, as contract killer Lo Wang, is to stop the dragon you unwittingly unleashed in the last game. However, you’ll have to team up with some nefarious characters to do so.
Combat and traversal
Shadow Warrior 2 featured randomized enemy placements, wide-open levels, and plenty of secrets to discover. Shadow Warrior 3 takes a more focused approach where you go from one area to the next, fighting enemies in Doom Eternal-fashion. The game takes heavy inspiration from Microsoft’s title, even when it comes to using body parts of enemies against them. For example, you can rip out one of the monster’s eyes and use it to freeze nearby enemies.
As much as Shadow Warrior 3 is about combat, traversal also plays an important role in the game. You have a number of skills at your disposal like a double jump, wall run, and dash. Combining these allows you to reach new areas and engage enemies in a variety of ways, especially if they're below you. However, that's not all.
Shadow Warrior 3 also features a grappling hook that allows you to access even more areas. Just look for the jade circles dotted around levels. While the grappling hook feels more scripted, it’s still interesting to use when you’re fighting monsters in closed environments. Shadow Warrior 3 plays a lot like an arena brawler and you’ll need all the help you can get when playing at higher difficulty settings.
Visuals and performance
Shadow Warrior 3 does an amazing job with colors. It’s much more vibrant than past entries, and takes the aesthetic of the original in a bold new direction. Shadow Warrior 2 was a little dreary for my taste, but the sequel is bathed in bright red and green materials. It’s a sight to behold and looks spectacular on a modern display.
Enemy variety has also seen a substantial boost in Shadow Warrior 3. While past entries had your standard enemies and some mythological creatures, this game really cranks it up to 11. Every beast is unique and requires some skill to overcome. My favorite has to be the katana-wielding ninja.
Shadow Warrior 3 looks great on Xbox Series X and features console-specific enhancements. There was some confusion about whether that would be the case because Flying Wild Hog didn’t discuss them prior to launch. The game appears to be running at a high resolution — around 1440p from my count — and hits 60 frames per second (FPS) most of the time. The title doesn’t give you the option to choose between Quality or Performance modes.
Given the fact that Shadow Warrior 3 requires split-second decisions and a lot of jumping around to avoid enemy attacks, a high frame rate is necessary. Unfortunately, performance on Xbox Series X isn’t ideal. The game frequently drops down to around 45 FPS. This can be jarring to witness because frantic first-person shooters need stable frame rates. Hopefully, the developer will issue a patch to fix this soon.
Another problem I encountered was that certain weapons were hard to aim. I’m not talking about just being inaccurate, but the game actively didn’t allow me to move, for example, my shotgun, freely. Aiming was restricted to a small square where the enemy was. I’m not sure if this is aggressive help from Shadow Warrior 3 or a bug, but when this happens it becomes almost impossible to play the game. You can’t even turn around without swapping weapons. Hopefully, Flying Wild Hog is aware of this problem and this too will be fixed by a patch soon.
Another gripe of mine that goes back to replayability is how Shadow Warrior 3 can be completed in under 10 hours. Friends of mine who have more skill than I have managed to finish it in 6. Given the fact that the title costs $49.99 on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox, this doesn’t represent good value in my opinion. I had little reason to go back.
Shadow Warrior 2 had a lot of mechanics that would encourage you to keep replaying levels to earn better loot, materials, or just test your skills with randomly-placed enemies. I’m not sure why Shadow Warrior 3 did away with them. Due to this, the sequel feels more regressive.
If you’re a fan of Doom-like shooters, be sure to check out Shadow Warrior 3. However, I’d recommend playing Shadow Warrior 2 instead because, in my opinion, it’s a much better game and represents amazing value. The only downside is that it runs at 900p and 30 FPS even on Xbox Series X because it was never patched for Xbox One X. Luckily, Shadow Warrior 2 is part of Xbox Game Pass so you won’t spend much at all, aside from the subscription cost if you haven’t redeemed one of the countless free trials.
Flying Wild Hog nailed the visuals and combat in Shadow Warrior 3, I just wish the team expanded on the gameplay of Shadow Warrior 2 instead of going back to a traditional, very linear experience.
The publisher provided us with a review code for Shadow Warrior 3. The game was played on an Xbox Series X console.