Shadow Warrior, Better the Second Time

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As with movies, games that were remade from an older title fall into two categories: epic or fail.  Shadow Warrior takes the material from the unrepentantly indecent original and sculpts it into an experience that adds to and surpasses the original.  And the way they did it is what makes this so awesome; Shadow Warrior uses the same corny sense of humor, but tempers it with a snarky, demonic sidekick. Devolver Digital has recreating an old washed-up title down to a process as simple as “give it to Flying Wild Hog.”

When SW kicks off, you main character is driving down the street listening to The Touch by Stan Bush.  People seem to like those songs from the 80’s, but not everything out of that era is worthy of remembrance.  Shit, not much out of the 80’s and even some of the 90’s is worth remembering, so this guy listening to some shitty 80’s music in a badass car on the way to a deal is a little off-putting.  Honestly, at first I was like, “God, please don’t tell me that’s the main character.”  But this game is filled with demons, so despite my pleas of “don’t make me play this guy”, I was forced to play as Lo Wang. I let out a nervous giggle and soldiered on.  Of course, this was the only thing that I, as a gamer, found distasteful about the game.  Its humor, on the other hand, is another story entirely.  If I were asian, I might be pretty deeply insulted by most parts of this game, but the way the game also makes fun of the original seems an attempt to apologize for it.

SW_powah

Huh, they misspelled “POWAAH!”

 

As with most games, the first level gives you an idea of what to expect, and it is fucking awesome.  It’s about an hour worth of slicing enemies to tiny pieces with a katana as they shriek and gush blood all over the carpet.  Your katana behaves like a magical limb-detaching wand, and at first I was really surprised by how horrible and gory the game is.  That lasted about 10 seconds before I was laughing my ass off at how ridiculous it really was.  2 parts Tarantino, 2 parts Jet Li and all Wang, baby.  It also displays how good at hiding shit in plain sight FWH really is.  At one point there is a statue behind glass in one of the main corridors, and I walked past it wondering why it was the only glowing statue in the whole place.  This statue is one of several types of collectibles that the game hides from you: money statues, bowls of blood, Ki Crystals and fortune cookies.

The statues give you money, but are not the only source of funds.  The other source is an ancient chinese method called “finding that shit lying around.”  As you collect money, the game totals it and lets you use it to buy ammo and upgrades for your weapons.  There are 3 different upgrades per weapon with 6 upgradable weapons: a pistol, machinegun, shotgun, crossbow, flamethrower, rpg.  One of the things I love about this game is a logical conundrum that I call the “Dimensional Sphincter Improbability”.  Essentially, unless you have a magical asshole that also links to an alternate dimension where you store all your weapons, it’s highly fucking improbable that you can carry an arsenal this vast.  Hard Reset, FWH’s inaugural title, solved this issue by making these weapons varying configurations of the same two weapons.  Shadow Warrior just stores these weapons in an off-screen pocket dimension that follows Lo Wang around at all times.  Of course, this game makes no apologies, and why should it?  It is a remake of an old, less-than-classic game.  Fuck logic.  Your first weapon, though, is the best.  The katana is an awesome part of this game, and you start the game dicing people up and flinging shuriken.  There is one problem with all of this.  The money has the square hole, which is distinctly Chinese, but the katana and shuriken were weapons of Japanese origin.  This game is a bizarre cultural amalgamation of two cultures.  Maybe the enemies in the next game will come from Korean lore?

The next big K-pop group, "Puppets of a Delusional Overlord"

Massacring these blood puppets was more fun than my ethics should have been able to tolerate.

Next, you have the bowls of blood.  This part makes me a little uneasy, and I filed it under “shit I won’t think about too much.”  Every once in a while, you will come across a secretly ensconced bowl of blood suspended by demonic power on a spiked shrine built of the corpses of your enemies victims.  So, naturally the first thing you do is drink it.  At least, I assume you do, and I am pretty sure it is never outwardly stated exactly what Wang does with it, but what else is there to do with it?  Rub it all over your body?  Either way, you get these bowls and they grant you Karma, which, in turn, is used to upgrade yourself with all kinds of abilities.  I spent the most of my first karma points on Ki attacks with my sword, which are badass attacks that allow you to cut through demons like lightly-chilled tofu.  These attacks are rewarding as fuck, too.  Get off a good divider of the heavens attack and your enemies basically explode while is great for taking off legs.  Your enemies will crawl off a bit, which makes it easy to deal with their friends then come back for the karma of beheading them, too.

Ki crystals are giant crystals that glow with ki power, something that fuels the demons’ magic.  Luckily, it also allows you to use Ki powers like self-healing or making a defensive bubble.  While not overtly useful, if used properly the powers become as deadly as the attacks.  Each of these collectibles allow you to buy new weapons, powers and abilities that make gameplay deeper and more entertaining.  The best part is that the abilities flow perfectly from gameplay, and the controls are beautifully intuitive.  As soon as I had the abilities mapped to my brain and the controls, I was ripping through enemies.  When I was finished, their army was measured in liters rather than kilograms.

After a battle, every arena tends to look like this.

After a battle, every arena tends to look like this.

Finally, there are these fortune cookies. Each of them gives you 5 health, which is nice, and then slips you a Confucius-style joke that will make you face-palm so many times your head will turn black-and-blue.  Generally, the humor of this game is pretty terrible, and it would even get to a point that is indecent, but the demon in your head makes it a little better.  He is an ancient, which is some kind of immortal asian demon.  The one you befriend is named Hoji, and he was banished from the shadow realm.  His story is one of Romeo and Juliet turned Pygmalion and Galatea, but with a dark twist.  He provides some comedic levity to balance your character’s ego a little.  With Hoji by your side, there is someone to keep Lo Wang from being the same person he was in the first game.  At one point he even says “Sorry, I used to be a prick.”  In the context of the game, he could be referring to his recent personal catharsis, but it also feels like a reference to that previous life.  Given the fact that this game also has more Easter eggs than grocery stores in late March, it’s not too much of a stretch.

Your enemies are also a throwback to that old time, when Nukem was the duke and consoles were for kiddies.  Many times, this game just throws you into fights where you are like “o shit I’m gonna die” and the entire time I was having flashbacks to plays of Descent and Doom.  Your first enemies are humans, but the game is fast to switch them out for an army of demons.  And those old games seemed to have a habit of throwing demons in as a foe for shooters.  I mean, look at Quake.  I had no fucking clue what the fuck I was even fighting, and the recent(ish) Quake 4 changed over to aliens instead of demonic foes.  Honestly, whatever.  Shadow Warrior made it cool to kill demons again and gave me as much of a thrill as Bioshock did.  Then there are these massive bosses that the game throws at you.  I played a little Duke Nukem Forever, and the giant-boss battles were just a little too… Duke.  They seemed so focused on the fact that the boss was massive and it played well enough, but it was just uninteresting.  Just felt like I was firing bullets into a river to dam in an attempt to damn it shut.  I didn’t feel  badass, just felt like damage control.  Boss battles in this game follow a sort of rhythm and you can measure your progress visually.  You also feel badass at the end for taking down this giant enemy.  It doesn’t feel one bit frustrating and is well done.  The battles are the same method as those found in Hard Reset, and I greatly enjoyed them.

Alongside the enemies, the game takes numerous flares from old-style games, like the card-key search.  Back in the days of Doom, it was standard procedure to be sent out after a set of keys to the complex you were running and gunning through.  Lo Wang finds himself running through arenas of foes searching for colored shrines to destroy in order to get past mystical demon seals.  It really brought me home, and I feel like this is an experience that new gamers will enjoy while old gamers can get all nostalgic.  On top of all this, Shadow Warrior had a spin-off game with Viscera Clean-up Detail: Shadow Warrior.  That is another indie gold mine and a lot of fun, so check it out.

Obligatory scenic screenshot

Obligatory scenic screenshot

Every ounce of this game screams with a righteous fire that burns through every expectation that I had.  It is a vein-bursting experience with fun gameplay, amazing music and a storyline that plays an artful, melodramatic chord against the game’s wang-fueled humor.  The game is ridiculous and over-the-top in a way that made old kung-fu movies so popular.  It doesn’t matter that this game is goofy and ridiculous, it is still a lot of fun, and in a lot of ways it is a shrine to the old generations of PC games and a fist-bump to their players.  It almost feels like I just sat down with the developers, had a few beers and talked about the “good old days of PC gaming” and how gamers nowadays wouldn’t understand.  This they would understand.  And it is really something special, even though it is so, so ridiculous.  Not to mention, the game leaves one of its main enemies wide open for a sequel.  Zilla, your former employer and demonically-enhanced lunatic, escapes in a helicopter.  You slice the other guy’s throat, though, so you get that satisfaction.  This game is 39.99$ on Steam, and I whole-heartedly endorse paying this money.  I got the game when it was on sale, so I lucked out, but it is a title you are guaranteed to enjoy.

With all that being said, the thing that boils my blood over this game is its developers.  Seriously!  How dare they make something so good!  This sets fucking standards!  They literally have made 3 fucking games.  FUCKING 3!  A game where you shred through hordes of demonic minions with righteous blazing fury, one where you blow your way through level after level of robotic minions that are spliced with human bodies and … a game starring a pink panda and a yellow lizard.  Ok, so that last one is still in development, but I am totally fucking serious.  These guys should be given some other old-school titles to revive, like SiN or Blake Stone!  I feel like the only fucking guy that even remembers Blake and his battles with Aliens of Gold!  Shit!  Oh well, I am sure all that is just around the corner, Devolver Digital just needs more money for properties acquisition.  I wish I could just give them money.  LoL!  Be so much easier than waiting for games to come out.

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Hard Rest: Blood, Fire, Twisted Metal

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This is not something that should be stated lightly, so I understand to what I am committing myself.  This is the best game ever made.  It is at least the best game I have played since Half-Life 2, and almost certainly before it.  People need to know about it, and moreover, why I feel I can say that.

Take Bladerunner, add Half-Life 2, toss in a dash of Mass Effect and drop of Bioshock, and you are only part of the way there.  First, the game takes place in the cyberpunk city of Bezoar where the people live in fear of robots lurking just outside their walls.  These robots are sentient AIs that have a profound disdain for anything squishy and full of blood.  The only other people you see in this game, aside from a diabolical villains, are civilians getting ripped apart and thrown through the air.  When the machines invade the city, your character is sitting at a nondescript, roadside drinking stand sucking down some strong drinks.  It rains all the time in Bezoar, which is in Germany, and the streets are filled with explosive objects and devices.  Bezoar is apparently in Germany, but I thought the climate there was more akin to Pennsylvania’s.  You work for ‘THE’ corporation, though they never really say which one.  Seems as important as the name of the numerous slaughtered civilians, though.  You are a CLN Officer and you exist to protect the people of Bezoar, but mostly to destroy anything threatening them.  Now, I might add here that there is some seriously fucking dark snippets of humor to be had if you look for it.  There are sales consoles that try to sell you things and plead like a jilted ex-girlfriend about ‘how good you could have had it’ when you walk away.  They vend things like clones that will work for you until you want to go back to your job.  Then they will have the clone eradicated for you when you come back.  I feel bad for the cl0ne right before bursting into laughter at the thought of a being created to work for me, whose sole existence is filled with droll work that I don’t want to do and is then released of its duty only in its own summary execution.  Dark. Terrible. Unethical. Hilarious.

Now, the fun doesn’t even start there, technically.  The fun starts with the weaponry.  Imagine you are a GameDev and you want to put in an ass-load of weapons to use. Your team creates an array of cool guns, but you can only get, maybe, 10 of them in there. Not to mention, there is the frustration of having to switch between all those fucking things.  What did they do for the weapons? They took them and sorted them into two groups: matter weapons and energy weapons. As a result, you technically only carry two “guns”, but each gun morphs into five separate fire modes.  Watching the guns warp from rifle to shotgun to grenade launcher to RPG is a lot of fun, too.  Honestly, the graphics are very pretty, so you won’t be at a lack of eye candy.  So, you only have to worry about collecting 2 ammo types: blue and red. Blue for energy, red for mass.  Now, that’s not all, folks.  Getting bored with all the bassline weapons?  Go to an Upgrade Terminal and Spec those babies out! With some money system called NANO you are able to upgrade, no clue what it stands for other than making my shit cooler. You can get guidance mode for the RPG, x-ray view for the Railgun (which shoots through cover), make your rilfe fire more ammo etc.  There are 3 upgrades per weapon.  I loved the gravity field for the Grenade Launcher.  Sometimes you can suck two guys together and they smash into one another and explode.  AH! Fucking fun.

plasma

Yo, dog. I heard you liked lasers..

Ok, so, something that bears noting.  See the GUI? Yea, that circular thing in the lower left-hand screen.  That is it.  No unnecessary visual clutter through the screen.  Just that sleek little reticule down there.  Occasionally, a face might appear telling you something about where to go or who to kill, and they’ll appear as holographic chat boxes. But it’s mostly just this.  The rest of the screen is used for watching your many enemies swarm at you by the thousands. And boy do they swarm!

The enemies come at you hard and fast.  The little fuckers have sawblades on the front of them or little helicopter bots and look like something a preschooler cobbled together.  Either that or they are exploding little balls.  They come at you in goddamn droves of whirring, clinking jumping metallic rage.  And they dodge your shots, too!  And even from the get-go they are pouring out of ventilation shafts.  Hitting these suckers with the shotgun induces an intoxicating bloodlust, too, where you storm around blasting through enemies with force.  But the bigger guys take serious firepower, and the mortar and the grenade launcher are your bestfriends for quite a while here.  The upgrade for the mortar makes a field surround anything caught in it, so you can launch electrifying shock ammo and singe their shoddy paint-jobs right off.  Or hit them with the aforementioned gravity shot and the large charging enemies are held in place as you launch round after round at them.  Later on you fight cops in flying cars that look almost spot on for Deckard’s squad car.  They can be a bitch to fight as they also come in swarms, but they are SO MUCH FUN to blow up.  There is even an achievement for blowing them up. There are many other types of bots to battle and they explode themselves sending scrap and screws ricocheting off of surface.  My best moment was when I launched a rocket (just after getting the RPG) into a crowd of the little guys down a narrow catwalk.  The whole group exploded and one came sliding out and stopped at my feet, dilapidated, then proceeded to explode.  I was in love.  Bosses in this are beastly, too, typically towering over you and reaching for you like a tiny, sociopathic CLN doll.

He followed me home, mom! Can I keep it?

He followed me home, mom! Can I keep it?

Also, explosions.  You will blow up more enemies than you will ever realize and bathe in the shower of their remains.  Cars, tanks, electronic fistures, lights, signs, cameras.. I mean, even things that shouldn’t be blown up were automated so you could blow them up.  Typically, enemies near explosions fucking die ( duh ) so there is usually never a short supply of shit to destroy. After periods of explosive dry spells, however, they typically make it up by filling a room with explosive objects and filling it with tiny, murderous robots.  These Devs must be spectacular lovers, cause they know how to give you just what you were thinking you wanted.  After the original game itself there are also MORE types of explosives added to give you a little diversity, too!

Now, the main character talks, so if you were expecting a silent-hero that you could fantasize about being, wake the fuck up, assholes!  Wake up and smell the cinders.  I love his dialogue because it reminds me of my all-time favorite character, Garrett from the ORIGINAL Thief series, not that watered-down Stephen-Russell-wannabe cocksucker they put in that monstrous pile of horseshit that came out a couple months or whatever ago.  I mean the crotchety, dry, sarcastic, antisocial prick that avoids the Keepers and all responsibility as best as humanly fucking possible. A guy just trying to pay his rent.  Well, Major Fletcher is a guy just trying to get back to his hard liquor.  The artistic cut scenes portray this well, too.  Each loading screen plays out across an animated comic strip that tells what is going on. Sure, the story is pretty piecemeal and at times a little uncertain, but Half-Life 2 made you have to read tiny scraps of paper on a board in a cluttered lab in order to ascertain a fucking inkling of what Gordon’s motivation for the wholesale slaughter of asthmatic aliens actually was.  For all we know, they might have actually been trying to save us from a polluted atmosphere and unlivable conditions. Either way, this main character talks during the game and gets you thinking that maybe you are just another voice in his head, which is a possibility since he straight up downloads people to his brain.  No big deal.

All told, this game is an adrenaline thrill ride that had me shouting, panting and wiping the sweat from my eyes.  I have never screamed fuck as much as when I was playing this game, but it drew me in. Deep.  It places a gun in your hand and points you at a seemingly endless stream of mechanical monstrosities.  Granted, you do kill flying cop cars at some points, but you never see the cops leading you to assume that they could just be symbols of authority with mechanized voices.  The lack of flesh in the rubble supports this theory.  At the start menu I found myself debating whether or not I should play since this game startles the fuck out of you and makes you feel the effort of blasting through a horde of terror-bots.  And at the conclusion of each playthrough, you stand victorious over the demolished remains of your foes, wiping a gritty mixture of their grease and your blood from your unshaven face.  Metacritic on Steam gave this game a 73 out of 100 for this title. I bought it thinking it would be some ‘ok’ level meh-coaster I would eventually wade through.  You assholes on the Metacritic are bastards who want all fucking FPS’s to be Call of Cuty or Halo.  You can all eat shit and die in a gutter.

There is always the one fucking thing that chaps my ass about a game, and this piece of gaming greatness is no exception. So what made it that much easier to mash robots into silly putty? Fletcher. Major Fucking Fletcher.  Whose goddamn idea was it to name this guy after Jim Carrey in Liar Liar?!  All I could think about was that guy with an RPG each time the corporate nanny-lady shouted at me.  I know, Fletcher is the last name, Fletcher Reed was the character in the movie. Well it all ends up being about the fucking same Mr. Logical Shitstain!  You’re running around with some big-brother-esque nanny lady in your ear screaming Fletcher stop talking to yourself!  Fletcher go kill the mad scientist!  Fletcher go order us take out! I mean, the least satisfying thing about this is that I don’t get to put my boot down her throat, but I fucking suppose they had to slide this one past some level of societal decency.  Unlike good ole’ Sin back in the day. I’ll just chuckle to myself psychotically now. Heh heh heh…

Personally, I preferred the red gun. More explosives.

Personally, I preferred the red gun. More explosives.