Shadow Warrior 3 Review

Richard Walker

Shadow Warrior, as a title, is a misnomer. Protagonist Lo Wang is supposedly a shogun assassin for hire, a ninja well versed in stealthy operations, but, in reality, he's never plied his trade from the shadows. Instead, Lo Wang is utterly brazen, flashing an ornate, gold-trimmed 'Dragontail' katana with serrated teeth, in a flurry of blood and dismembered limbs, and switching seamlessly to huge guns that take thumping great chunks out of demon flesh. Subtlety is not a word you'd ever associate with developer Flying Wild Hog's Shadow Warrior series, and you can count that doubly so for Shadow Warrior 3. It's positively unhinged, in the best possible way.

Wang and Zilla are working together in this one.

Picking up where the previous game left off, with a dragon on the loose, Wang forms an uneasy alliance with former villainous nemesis, Zilla, before setting off on a mission to find his missing mojo, and slay the scaly beast in the process. What follows is a retina-scorching, searingly colourful cavalcade of gun-toting ultra-violence that makes DOOM look like a paragon of restraint and nuance. “I'm more of a shoot first and ask questions later kind of guy. I'm not into puzzles...” Wang remarks at one point, and he's not wrong – a torrent of monsters almost dutifully queue up to be blasted to pieces, and it's deliriously uncomplicated fun. You won't find any puzzles here, that’s for sure.

A back to basics, resolutely old-school affair that does away with Shadow Warrior 2's relatively open structure and needless fripperies, Shadow Warriors 3 retains the series’ spirit with gleefully silly and juvenile one-liners, a mission in which you chase a raccoon, fart jokes, innuendoes galore, and deliciously fluid first-person combat. And it's in this last department that Shadow Warrior 3 really delivers during its 8-10 hour duration. Starting out with a hefty revolver that would make Dirty Harry green with envy, you'll gradually acquire a varied arsenal of hardware, from dual-wielded submachine guns to a weighty shotgun, a crossbow that spews ricocheting shurikens, and a rather tasty grenade launcher.

The real secret sauce comes in Shadow Warrior 3's flexible set of upgradable weaponry and skills, the quick swapping between blade and gun, as well as Wang's chi blast (ideal for clearing space and knocking back enemies), making for slicing and blasting that never fails to entertain. Marry that to the scope on offer for spectacular environmental kills, and mayhem is all but guaranteed. And while Shadow Warrior 3 follows a fairly formulaic level design format, breaking up combat arenas - teeming with exploding barrels, spikes to chi blast demons into, and grapple points to swing from - with the occasional bit of platforming. Wang is now furnished with a grappling hook (“every video game has one now”), so he can launch himself from fluorescent green rings, wall-run along verdant patches of green vines, double jump, and dash through the air.

Save for a couple of slightly sketchy platforming bits, when it's not entirely clear where you're supposed to go, traversal in SW3 is pretty slick, but not as slick as the combat. But then, bothering to go off the beaten track for a spot of exploration might yield a hidden weapon or character upgrade – glowing orbs that can be exchanged for a useful weapon attribute or enhancement to Wang's abilities. A list of challenges also provides milestones to tackle, rewarding you with further upgrade orbs, which is a nice touch, encouraging you to mix things up. Upgrading everything means beating every one of these challenges (not that tall an order), and tracking down orbs hidden in each level (a little tricky without a guide).

By the time you've reached the game's latter portions, you'll likely be rocking a sword imbued with elemental effects, a shotgun sporting full-auto capabilities, grenades that bounce about then explode with a massive area of effect, and a shuriken launcher with spinning blades that zip all over the place, leaving shredded limbs and severed heads in their wake. Shadow Warrior 3's campaign is well paced, too, introducing new weapons and demonic foes to keep things constantly fresh, and the action whizzing along at breakneck speed. By the time you've reached the end, and a showdown with an inevitably rubbish boss, you'll wonder where the time went – it positively flies by.

The Dragontail: it slices, it dices, it removes intestines.

Which makes it all the more galling that Shadow Warrior 3 has practically no replay value whatsoever. Once you've dispensed with the story, you've no level select for going back and mopping up missed collectibles, no New Game+ option to encourage a second playthrough – zilch. Given how insanely enjoyable the game's shoot and slice action is, it's a genuine shame that there's nothing more to Flying Wild Hog's threequel beyond the solo campaign. It's an exceptionally bizarre oversight that makes for a package that can't help but feel rather slight and incomplete.

Really, this is the only major criticism you can level at Shadow Warrior 3. What's here is sheer, unapologetic fun that has no pretence beyond providing ludicrously overblown monster-dismembering violence, with delightfully gory finishing moves, devastating limited-use 'Gore Weapons' that will have you grinning from ear-to-ear, and just enough variation present in its upgrades and platforming segments to keep the action chugging along at a dizzying pace. Relentlessly old-school in its execution and a blast from beginning to end, it's telling that we ended up wanting more of Shadow Warrior 3. It's too bad there isn't just something a little extra on offer in Lo Wang's latest outing.

Shadow Warrior 3

If it's unadulterated, gore-soaked fun you seek, then look no further. Just be aware that once Shadow Warrior 3's campaign is done and dusted, there's no replay value to be had. If you're okay with that, then there's no reason not to chow down on some more Wang.

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Mike Moh is excellent as Lo Wang, spouting wisecracks with glee. Music is decent enough without assaulting your eardrums, while the action itself is loud and proud.


Shadow Warrior 3 runs at a fair lick, keeping things consistently smooth and stable. Certain textures don't stand up to close scrutiny, though, and, as such, there are some rare rough patches here and there.


Pure and undiluted shooting and slashing fun that's fast, immediate and relentlessly entertaining. There's something enticing about a game that's so unashamedly old-school, recalling a time when first-person shooters were punchy, violent, and exciting.


A polished 8-10 hour solo campaign that's great while it lasts, but there's nothing in the way of post-game replay value, unfortunately. This is really the only thing that lets the side down, and only goes to show how much I wanted more of what Shadow Warrior 3 has to offer.


A nice, easy completion, that, like the game itself, skews towards enjoyment. There are missables, the most annoying of which are the hidden upgrade orbs. A level select or New Game+ would have made so much sense.

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