Growing up a PC gamer in the heyday of Duke Nukem 3D and a host of other classics was like living in a utopia– you had so many wild and varied options, most of which experimented with different types of humor and narratives to keep audiences engaged. Rise of the Triad was one, and Duke Nukem 3D was rooted in the more humorous end of things, but what came next was both quirky and offensive to some– Shadow Warrior, the follow-up by 3D Realms to Duke Nukem 3D. It’s been quite some time since the game has been in the public eye, but now it’s been given the iOS treatment. If nothing else, it brings back the campy old-school shooter attitude.
Shadow Warrior is very much like its predecessor, although it follows the tale of a very different protagonist: Lo Wang and the rest of the Warriors, all hitmen of sorts from major corporations all over the globe. Lo Wang must eventually bite the hand that feeds him, as he happens upon damning evidence that his handlers are actually bringing forth vicious demons, summoning them to smash through Japan and destroying civilization as he knows it. Lo Wang isn’t down with that, so Zilla Corporation must be destroyed. As you might expect, Zilla isn’t exactly pleased with their star hitman’s discovery, so retaliatory actions must be taken. This leads to Lo Wang being forced to confront demons of his own, sent to silence him. Shadow Warrior ensues.
Please enjoy this grenade.
Silly one-liners and quirky, bizarre sights abound as you slash your way through the city streets slaughtering the 2D ghouls who’d like nothing better than to taste your flesh. As you send the hellspawn crying to their mothers or reduce them to piles of sniveling flesh, you’ll be treated to distinctly and stereotypically “Asian” decor and motifs, from the yin-yang health status gauge to Lo Wang’s weapons store. Hack, slash, and shoot-‘em-up, then move on to do it again. It’s decidedly familiar stuff, especially if you grew up with these types of shooters, and it’s comforting in a way knowing you can have games like this now in the palm of your hand rather than resorting to online distribution services to return to those good old uncomplicated days.
Except there’s one very large misstep here: the port is nowhere near as easy to control with a touch screen layout. Like Duke Nukem 3D and many shooters on the platform before it, the touch controls are simply not up to the task. There are two ways you can play: using the thumbstick on the left side of the screen and aim with the right side of the screen, or choose two thumbsticks for both moving Lo Wang and aiming. Neither are particularly delectable options, as both make it difficult to control the camera and other buttons get in the way of the more important ones. For example, running and aiming at enemies is nowhere near as smooth as it should be, and for a game like this, that’s ridiculously important.
Someone call PETA.
That’s not to say it’s not playable– it is, with some practice, but it simply won’t feel the same. If you feel good enough controlling Wang, however, you’ll be able to nab the first four levels for free (unlocking the rest costs $1.99). There are some deliciously violent scenes and plenty of enemy viscera flying back and forth, and plenty of quotables to come back to, but ultimately you’re going to want to play this game on another platform if you’ve got the choice simply to regain more control over your hitman– throughout those 16 main levels, you’ll be smacked with tougher and tougher enemies, and these layouts aren’t going to be kind to you.
Shadow Warrior is still fundamentally a passable shooter, though obviously dated, but it suffers from the same issues many similar endeavors do, especially when ported to iOS devices. It’s chock-full of the same run-and-gun action you’re looking for if you’re used to this era of gaming, but it’s not worth the extra $1.99 if you test the waters and struggle with the stiff, nonviable controls. There are more polished offerings on the App Store if you need a shooter. If you want to relive your Shadow Warrior memories, check out a PC version instead.