Review: “Wanton Destruction” (Expansion For “Shadow Warrior” [1997])

Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“Resident Evil: Nemesis” by S. D. Perry), I thought that I’d take a look at an official expansion for the original “Shadow Warrior” that was developed by Sunstorm in 1997 but wasn’t released at the time and, instead, was released as freeware later.

I got this expansion as part of the “Shadow Warrior Classic Complete” game that, at the time of writing, has officially been made available for free on GOG. Unlike the enhanced commercial re-release, this free edition is a fairly barebones version of the original game, plus two expansions, that runs via a built-in DOSBox launcher.

And, after playing the modern remake of “Shadow Warrior” recently and then re-playing the original game for the sake of childhood nostalgia, I decided to check out “Wanton Destruction”.

So, let’s take a look at it:

One of the first things that I will say about this expansion is that, although it has some slight enemy design flaws, some moments that haven’t aged well and less stuff than I’d expected, it was actually more fun to play than the original “Shadow Warrior” was. This is because…

The level design in “Wanton Destruction” is, in a word, superb. Not only are the ten or so levels the kind of non-linear 1990s style levels that you’d expect, but they are also just the right size too. In other words, they are usually large enough to require you to explore, but small and focused enough that you won’t get stuck that often either. Not only that, there is a much greater level of creativity in the level design here than in the original game too.

Seriously, at one point you actually get to walk on top of a plane whilst it is in mid-air!

And check out this cool location as well 🙂

Not only does the expansion start with a vaguely story-based segment (involving escaping from a flat), but the levels also include a variety of cool locations including a couple of really cool “Die Hard”-inspired skyscraper levels, a Chinatown-themed level, a secret military base, a level set on a plane, a couple of train station-based levels (including a brief train segment) etc… and most of the levels each follow on from the previous level too (basically the beginning of each level looks like the end of the previous one) which gives the player a real sense of progression.

Seriously, with the possible exception of a generic “factory” level later in the game, none of the levels really feel dull or monotonous 🙂

In addition to looking cool, the wider variety of settings also allows for better gameplay too, with a really good blend of claustrophobic corridors, wide-open spaces, a few awesome set pieces (like walking on top of a plane) and even some fairly decent (and reasonably forgiving) first-person platforming. Needless to say, this results in the kind of thrillingly epic gameplay that would put many other FPS games to shame.

A sudden random mini-boss encounter on the second level? YES 🙂 This is a FPS game!

The expansion’s combat is as satisfyingly challenging as you would expect from a Build Engine game although, and it might be because I’m an experienced player or because the expansion is a little more generous with health and ammo, but it felt marginally easier than the original game did. Even so, the combat is still the kind of tough-as-nails fun that you’d expect from “Shadow Warrior” 🙂 However, there are some unintentional forms of cheap difficulty which let it down very slightly. And, this brings me on to the enemy design.

These guys especially…

Unlike many 1990s expansion packs, “Wanton Destruction” doesn’t really seem to add much in the way of new enemies. Instead, it mostly does the classic mod thing of changing the sprites of a few standard enemies but not changing their programming.

Although this helps to set it apart from the original game and the sprites look fairly decent, the “ninja” enemies no longer have different trousers to tell you what weapons they are carrying. Instead, they have smaller hats that tell you this – which makes it more difficult to tell what you’re up against at a glance, especially in gloomier areas.

However, the replacements for the Guardian monsters do come in two different varieties (one has a blue coat and one has a red coat). But, saying this, I didn’t really notice any functional difference between them during gameplay.

The sound effects in this mod aren’t that good. The new voice effects for the ninja enemies are very annoying, to put it mildly. Not to mention that, instead of a terrifying roar, the sprite replacements for the Guardian monsters now just say “Souls!” in a deep voice. This is kind of cool the first time you hear it, but it seems a little random and underwhelming on subsequent encounters.

These guys sound cool when you hear them once, but on the fifth time, they just sound a little random.

Still, the game also includes some new dialogue – which makes it seem like more than just a level collection. Whether you like this new dialogue or not will depend a lot on your sense of humour, although at least some of the new dialogue really hasn’t aged that well (eg: the segment involving Zilla’s secretary) and may be a bit cringe-worthy when heard today.

All in all, whilst this expansion has some flaws with the enemy design/ voice-acting and is more like a mod than an expansion, it is still a hell of a lot of fun 🙂 Thanks to the excellent level design, this expansion actually feels more thrilling and just generally epic than the original game did. Seriously, if you love ’90s FPS games, then this expansion is well worth checking out. Especially since you can (legally) get it for free too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “Shadow Warrior (2013 Remake)” (Computer Game)

Well, since I’m still reading the next book that I plan to review (“The Sinner” By Tess Gerritsen), I thought that I’d review a computer game I’ve been waiting quite a few years to play. I am, of course talking about the 2013 remake of the classic 1997 first-person shooter game “Shadow Warriror” 🙂

When I first heard about this remake back in 2013, I was really amazed. After all, growing up in the 1990s/early-mid 2000s and being a fan of FPS games, the original 1997 “Shadow Warrior” game evokes a lot of nostalgia for me (even if, by modern standards, some elements of that game haven’t aged well). However, back in 2013, I had a very old and low-end computer and I was uncertain about whether it could run the modern remake of “Shadow Warrior”.

Of course, about three or four weeks before I prepared this review, I got a modern refurbished computer and, since “Shadow Warrior (2013)” was on special offer on GOG at the time, I had to get a copy. To my delight, it still ran fairly well and also looked good on medium to low graphics settings with my computer’s integrated Intel HD 2500 graphics.

However, I had problems taking gameplay screenshots using my usual method (eg: using “print screen” and pasting the image into MS Paint didn’t work [Edit: And, no, I didn’t know what the Windows 10 “Game Bar” was when I prepared this review]). So, apologies about the lack of screenshots in this review.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Shadow Warrior (2013)”.

The game begins with a mysterious animated cutscene about demonic creatures in another world. Then we see Lo Wang, a top assassin for a powerful man called Zilla, rocking out to some classic ’80s hair metal whilst he drives through the forest to meet a man called Mizayaki.

Mizayaki has an ancient sword called the Nobitsura Kage and Zilla wants it. So, Lo Wang makes Mizayaki an offer, two million in cash or death. Mizayaki, of course, chooses the third option – commanding his henchmen to kill Lo Wang. Needless to say, this doesn’t end well for the henchmen. But, when Lo Wang confronts Mizayaki, he is captured after Mizayaki summons a mysterious supernatural creature.

After escaping, Lo Wang decides to get revenge on Mizayaki and his henchmen. However, there is just one problem, the henchmen are already dead and the surrounding area is filled with hideous demonic monsters….

One of the first things that I will say about this game is that, even though it’s a bit different to the 1997 classic, it is still a hell of a lot of fun 🙂 In essence, this game is like a “Shadow Warrior”-themed version of something like “Painkiller” or “Serious Sam” – with much more of an emphasis on fast-paced combat than on exploration or puzzle-solving. Even so, this game still keeps a lot of what made the original game enjoyable, whilst also adding some more modern features and drastically improving both the story and characters too.

As mentioned earlier, the gameplay focuses heavily on fast-paced combat – with Lo Wang having to clear arena-like portions of each level before he can progress. This combat is a really cool mixture of the original game’s combat (eg: you can carry lots of different weapons, battles are ludicrously gory, you can use some monster body parts as weapons etc..) and some more modern innovations.

In addition to being able to upgrade your weapons (eg: alternate fire modes etc..) and/or melee attacks with bonuses/coins you find in-game (no micro-transactions here 🙂 ), there is also a lot more emphasis on melee combat than in the original game. Lo Wang’s katana becomes more powerful throughout the game and remains a surprisingly useful weapon in even the later levels – plus, you get a higher score after each battle if you use it.

In addition to this, there are a few “standard” FPS game weapons (eg: shotgun, machine gun, rocket launcher etc..) and some creative 1990s-style weapons like a crossbow, throwing stars, magical abilities (that require button combos), a flamethrower and a couple of monster body parts. Plus, the basic pistol reminded me a little bit of Deckard’s revolver from “Blade Runner” too 🙂

Given the more combat-focused nature of the game, a lot of effort has been put into this part of the game. Many battles will be frenetic, crunchy and blood-drenched things where you’ll be dodging, healing and fighting in equal measure. Not only does the game help you out with generous ammo caches (and the option to “buy” ammo with coins you find in-game), but it also has a really cool health system too.

In addition to finding 1990s-style health kits lying around and being able to take health from some defeated monsters, you can also replenish health at any time using a special ability. However, to avoid the unfair boredom of *ugh* regenerating health, this ability actually requires skill to use.

In other words, you have to tap a button combination and hold the right mouse button to heal. Doing this quickly in the middle of a fast-paced battle can be a challenge in it’s own right and is made a little bit more forgiving by the fact that Lo Wang can still fight (with reduced accuracy etc..) whilst healing. Likewise, Lo Wang’s attacks also become more powerful when he drops below a certain health percentage. It’s a really good middle-ground between the mercilessly unforgiving health systems of old and ludicrously over-protective modern ones.

The game also keeps the constant combat interesting via a fairly decent difficulty curve and – more crucially- excellent monster variety too 🙂 In classic 1990s style, there are several types of low-level monsters with different attacks, there are teleporting and shield-bearing mid-level monsters and there are also about three types of larger monsters that pose a serious challenge to the player. The toughest of these are stone creatures that can only be harmed by shooting a weak spot on their back. They only appear in about four or five moments in the game, but each one of these moments is practically a boss battle in it’s own right.

And, yes, there are boss battles too. In the style of a game like “Painkiller”, the bosses are absolutely gigantic – and, in true 1990s fashion, they have to be defeated in a very specific way too 🙂 Yes, the game tells you what to do and keeps feeding you a steady supply of ammo, but it’s still really cool to see this style of boss battle in a modern FPS 🙂

As for the level design, it is very linear – to the point where most of the “secret areas” are practically in plain sight. After each battle, the game will quite literally tell you where to go next via glowing doors/gates. Although it’s sad to see a remake of something like “Shadow Warrior” succumbing to this dreary modern trend, this is mitigated quite a bit by the “Serious Sam”-inspired gameplay.

In other words, the game uses linear level design as a way of placing the player in lots of fun fast-paced arena battles. Not only that, the levels all look really beautiful and have a decent variety between urban, rural, industrial, snow and hell-like areas to keep things interesting too. Seriously, it’s so nice to see 1990s-style visual variety in this game 🙂

Following on with my comments about how this game balances 1990s and modern features, the saving system is a really strange mixture of the dreaded checkpoint saving and the proper “save anywhere” system that should be mandatory in FPS games on the PC. Although you only have one save file per profile and the game will auto-save after every level segment, the game’s menu includes a “save” button that functions a lot like the quicksave feature in many older games.

Best of all, in true 1990s FPS fashion, this game actually has personality and a sense of humour 🙂 Unlike the 1997 original, the game’s humour is a lot more sarcastic and, although some of the things that Lo Wang will shout during battle seem a bit generic, there are still quite a few funny lines, a few pop culture references (eg: I’m sure I heard Eddie Izzard’s “cake or death?” referenced at one point 🙂 ), easter eggs and loads of comedic dialogue exchanges.

And, in true modern fashion, this game actually has a story and characterisation. Although Lo Wang’s character arc is the classic “a badass becomes even more of a badass” one, he is more of a “realistic” character than he was in the 1997 game. He also spends most of the game accompanied by a supernatural character called Hoji – who has a much more complex and interesting backstory that is slowly revealed throughout the game. Not only does this make Hoji a more complex character, but it also means that the events of the game end up taking on a truly epic level of drama and significance too 🙂

The voice-acting is really good and fits in well with the characters, giving them personality whilst also being much more “realistic” than the cartoonish/stereotypical voice-acting in the 1997 game. However, the game’s background music is the kind of ambient instrumental music that you’d expect from a modern game. It adds atmosphere to the levels, but isn’t really as memorable as the more distinctive tunes (eg: Doom’s E1M1 music, Duke 3D’s “Grabbag” theme etc..) that used to be a mainstay of the FPS genre in the 1990s.

As for length, this is a full-length game consisting of about seventeen or eighteen levels. And, in terms of actual gameplay time, it didn’t differ that much from a re-play of the original 1997 game. Of course, your mileage may vary, but this is still a decent medium to long game. Plus, things like a survival mode and an unlockable “Ex mode” (where you can start the game with everything you ended it with) also add some replay value to the game too.

All in all, even though there are some major gameplay differences, this is a really great mixture of the old and the new 🙂 Plus, it’s great to see a modern FPS that has been designed primarily for PC gamers rather than ported over from a console. Yes, it has more in common with something like “Serious Sam” or “Painkiller” than the original “Shadow Warrior”, but if you want a modern FPS game that contains things that used to be standard in the 1990s (eg: personality, creativity, fun, humour, ludicrous gibs etc..) then this one is well-worth playing 🙂

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it might just get a five.

Review: “Shadow Warrior (1997)” (Computer Game)

Well, since I recently learnt that “Shadow Warrior” has been re-made with amazing graphics, improved combat mechanics and a better storyline, I decided to re-visit the original game (mainly on account of the fact that my computer is too old to play the remake).

I have a lot of fond memories of playing this game as a teenager, especially after I worked out how to circumvent the “kid mode” feature (which removes all the blood, crude humour and nudity from the game) and after I learnt how to remove the stupid BBFC “darts” censorship too (more on that later).

Anyway, “Shadow Warrior” is a FPS game made by 3D Realms which uses an improved version of the “Build Engine” that they used for “Duke Nukem 3D”. It doesn’t really have too much of a plot. Basically, you are a ninja called Lo Wang who has to defeat a villain called Zilla and his army of zombies, ninjas, demons and monsters.

Unlike many FPS games, “Shadow Warrior” doesn’t really take itself seriously and it contains a lot of (fairly twisted) humour. It also features a rather distorted and stylised mixture of both Chinese and Japanese culture, history and mythology which gives the game a rather unique style when compared to other 1990s FPS games.

One thing I will say is that this game was made to be controversial and the controversy surrounding the original game seems to have flared up again now that the remake has been released.

However, whilst “Shadow Warrior” was probably originally controversial due to it’s cartoonishly high level of blood and guts and the fact that there are a few nude characters in it, most of the modern controversy surrounding it seems to be due to it’s rather stereotype-filled conflation of Chinese and Japanese culture and the fact that it isn’t exactly the most feminist game ever made. Although I think that there was also some criticism about these aspects of the game when it was originally released.

So, yes, this is an intentionally controversial game which you may or may not find offensive.

“Shadow Warrior” features a few new things which weren’t in “Duke Nukem 3D” such as functional vehicles, alternate fire modes for some weapons and 3D item sprites. But, in terms of gameplay, it’s fairly similar to “Duke Nukem 3D” – you explore each level, find keys, shoot anything that moves and find the exit button to progress to the next level. Like many FPS games from the 90s, the level design is absolutely superb and it rewards exploration and strategy.

However, “Shadow Warrior” is significantly more difficult than “Duke Nukem 3D” was and it is a good idea to save as often as you can whilst you are playing it because, even on normal difficulty, you’ll end up dying a lot. There are a lot of enemies and one type of enemy will explode when it gets close to you (not only that, it will sometimes return as a ghost to attack you again). So, yes, “Shadow Warrior” isn’t really a game for people who are new to FPS games.

You’ll either love or hate the twisted and puerile humour in “Shadow Warrior”, but it can still be hilarious when Lo Wang slices an enemy in half with his katana for the hundredth time and says something like “you aren’t half the man you used to be”. There is also a fair amount of spoken dialogue in this game too and the voice acting is intentionally over-the-top and cheesy. The music in this game is surprisingly dramatic too and it sometimes adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game.

The weapons in “Shadow Warrior” are wonderfully creative and, as well as a rather powerful katana (that can slice some enemies in half), you will also get a variety of interesting guns including a railgun and dual uzis. In addition to this, there are a couple of ninja weapons you can use such as throwing stars (shiruken) and caltrops.

Plus, body parts from two of the more powerful enemies also double up as weapons later in the game too. I doubt that you’d see this level of innovation in many modern games.

However, if you buy a 2nd hand UK version of this game, it won’t include the throwing stars. This is because, back in the 80s and 90s, the British censors had this bizarre policy which banned the depiction of certain weapons (nunchucks, throwing stars, flick knives and butterfly/balisong knives) in films, videos and videogames. This meant that, when “Shadow Warrior” was released in the UK, the throwing stars were replaced with darts. These darts are thrown in exactly the same way as the throwing stars are, which looks very surreal.

However, shortly after the game was released over here, 3D Realms released a patch on their website which converts the UK version back to the version of the game which the rest of the world enjoys. So, if you want to stick two fingers up at the BBFC, then you can download the patch here.

Graphically, “Shadow Warrior” has a slightly cartoonish kind of look to it. Whilst this cartoonishness isn’t as prominent as in older FPS games like “Doom” or “Wolfenstein 3D”, this game certainly looks fairly stylised and it will probably fill you with nostalgia when you compare it to the coldly realistic style of most modern FPS games.

Honestly, I miss good old fashioned sprite-based graphics in FPS games.

If you want to get hold of a copy of “Shadow Warrior”, then I would recommend downloading a (legal) free copy of it on Steam. Due to a screw-up with a promotion for the modern remake, the company who owns the rights to the original game allowed it to be released for free on Steam.

The version you can download and play on Steam is also a lot more reliable than the source ports which exist for older copies of the game (every time I tried to use of these source ports, it wasn’t more than a few minutes before either the program and/or my computer ended up crashing).

All in all, “Shadow Warrior” is a fairly solid 90s FPS game with challenging, but rewarding gameplay. As 1990s games go, I slightly prefer “Doom II”, but “Shadow Warrior” still stands on it’s own merits.

Visually, it is fairly unique and it’s certainly fairly original. But, as I said earlier, you may or may not be offended by this game. You have been warned. Still, since you can legally get it for free, download it and make up your own mind.

If I had to give “Shadow Warrior” a rating out of five, then it would get four.