Hands-on: ‘Shadow Warrior 2’

'Shadow Warrior 2' is Like 'Doom' with friends -- and swords

This year, game fans got a trip back to 1993 with Id Software’s Doom, which aimed to resurrect the fast-paced, demon-slaying shooter franchise by marrying old-school design with modern improvements and sensibilities.

There’s another franchise that has had the same idea, though: Shadow Warrior. At E3 2016, developer Flying Wild Hog debuted its follow-up to the 2013 reboot of the 1997 franchise, and probably the easiest (and most reductive) way to describe it is “like Doom.” This year’s Doom was pretty damn good. In Shadow Warrior 2, you get a sword.

The art of demon-slaying

Much like Doom, there are huge monstrous creatures that need killing in Shadow Warrior 2, and the gameplay is as quick and free-form as in Id’s title. Instead of the dusty red landscapes and industrial interiors of a Mars base, though, Shadow Warrior 2’s demo is all lushly colored villages.

The delight in the game, much like in Doom, is using everything in your arsenal to your perfect advantage.

In the demo at E3, players could quickly flip between more standard types of weapons — machine guns, chain guns, shotguns — and protagonist’s Lo Wang’s katana, which was handy for close kills and pulling off a number of different awesome moves. Which way you swing the sword affects how it’s used, and Wang can do spiffy things like spin-cuts to slash through multiple baddies at once.

What’s striking about Shadow Warrior 2 is how fast everything moves. Being good at the game is about chaining cool things together. As demons storm toward you, you might dash to the left to avoid their attacks, laying into them with your shotgun before switching to the sword to dart in and land some killing blows. As pieces of the demons fall off in extremely satisfying heaps of gore, you can summon magical spikes to impale reinforcements as they rush forward, before pulling out your bigger guns to cut the immobilized monsters down.

The delight in the game, much like in Doom, is using everything in your arsenal to your perfect advantage. Shadow Warrior 2 carries a lot of interesting RPG-like elements, such as items you can add to your weapons to change their effects, so players can spend a lot of time getting their arsenal just right. Bullets that freeze enemies or poison them let you deck out your guns for different situations or just to add a little edge to your demon-ravaging capabilities.

E3 2016: Digital Trends Top Games of E3 2016

And then there are magic abilities for healing and other buffs, as well as the many weapons that you can customize for all seasons. All of it gives you the ability to go nuts with specialization — especially when you play with friends.

Friends that slice together

The big focus at E3 was in trying Shadow Warrior 2 with other players, turning the fast-paced, demon-shredding gameplay into a concert affair. The game supports as many as four players working together, which can often lead to some absolute chaos in the best way possible. As players zip around the battlefield, spiking enemies and slicing away, it’s possible to work together to become a super-efficient four-person killing machine.

Shadow Warrior 2’s levels are surprisingly open, which also plays well into bringing three extra fighters with you to decimate the opposition. Flying Wild Hog has added a lot to players’ traversal abilities too, which means you can cut through levels and over buildings to get to objectives, but — even better — to change up how you deal with enemies. Traversal means you can kick through a window into a building, climb a staircase to the second floor, and rain havoc down on enemies outside from an elevated position. Or you can just jump your way to a wall and climb to the rooftops, supporting teammates as they run around on the ground.

And the combination of those elements is really where Shadow Warrior 2 shines. Each level is procedurally generated — meaning it’s built by the game on the fly from a series of pieces, randomizing things like building placement and enemy encounters. That means that every run through Shadow Warrior 2 should be different, at least outside of moments that matter to the plot, requiring players to react, and adapt, to whatever they encounter.

The upshot is that you have plenty of tools to ravage your way through unholy terrors.

Chainsaws and catchphrases

The latter part of Shadow Warrior 2’s E3 demo ratchets up the mayhem to another level. As our group wrecked demon horde after demon horde, we came across a new weapon: a big, ridiculous chainsaw.

It pretty much became the go-to weapon for the remainder of the level. Players can swing the chainsaw like a blade, or just level it, wading through enemies and cutting them apart. It’s a devastating weapon that leaves demons in chunks, and it’s very much in line with Shadow Warrior 2’s tone.

You spend the game ravaging bad guys into their component parts, and you can expect the low-brow humor and glee that comes from cutting off demon limbs to extend to the story. Shadow Warrior 2’s writing is full of jokes, chief among them some about male genitalia, starting with Wang’s name. It’s the kind of childish humor that works perfectly with the game’s subject matter, and gives the whole game a giddy bit of levity to go with all the chopping, exploding, and slashing.

The E3 demo ends with a boss fight, as one might expect. Encounters throughout the game scale up with the number of players you bring with you, to help keep the challenge up. That means baiting and dodging the big boss creature to cover each other and avoid getting wrecked by him in the meantime. Shadow Warrior 2 seems to handle all this upscaling pretty deftly, and working together and complementing the team (at least as much as possible in a demo of a game some of the participants had never played before) makes for an exciting and deep experience.

With Doom receiving acclaim from both critics and players, it’s clear shooter fans are excited for games that trade the modern, ubiquitous trappings of things like taking cover and carefully picking targets for faster, more intense action. Shadow Warrior 2 hits the same kind of notes and carries the same kind of speed, but with a deeper approach. Fans of Id Software’s franchise revival will find a lot they’ll enjoy in Shadow Warrior 2 when it’s released later this year on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Click-to-brew beer, comfy headlamps, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.

These are the best Xbox One games out right now

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.

Here’s every Xbox One X Enhanced game that supports 4K resolution

Microsoft boasts that its Xbox One X will be the most powerful console ever released, with increased frame rates, quicker load times, and 4K resolution. These are the games that can take advantage.

How Razer forged the Blade 15, the slim gaming laptop nobody else could build

With the recent launch of the Blade 15, Razer ushered in a new design language that's cleaner and more angular. We recently visited Razer's San Francisco, California design studio to learn more about Razer's approach to design.

Detangle your desk with these mighty wireless mice

If you're looking for the best wireless mouse on the market, we've got the list for you!. Here are six models that will give everyone what they need, whether they're hardcore gamers or looking to ward off carpal tunnel.

The real demons in ‘Devil May Cry 5’ are its microtransactions

Devil May Cry 5 will include microtransactions for players wanting to upgrade their abilities more quickly, Capcom has confirmed. They will be used to purchase the in-game Red Orbs currency.

Cancer-fighting 12-year-old Bethesda fan gets chance to play ‘Fallout 76’ early

Game publisher Bethesda recently gave a 12-year-old fan with cancer the chance to try out Fallout 76 early, as well as some cool signed merchandise. The game isn't schedule to officially release until November.

Here's everything you missed during week one of the 'Fortnite' Fall Skirmish

The Fortnite Fall Skirmish has begun and in order to stay informed on all the latest news, here's everything you need to know including each week's events, current standings, and the best places to watch.

Esports protest sees soccer fans hurling controllers and consoles onto field

Soccer fans in Switzerland annoyed at the game's growing involvement in esports staged a protest on Sunday that saw them throw controllers, consoles, and tennis balls onto the field during a game, forcing the ref to stop play.

It looks like ‘Fortnite’ wants to party with a new Season 6 DJ llama skin

Epic Games has begun teasing the skins you'll be able to acquire in Fortnite's sixth season. They include an adorable DJ Llama, complete with a custom mask, as well as an outlaw character.

After layoffs, Telltale says it may finish The Walking Dead with outside help

The Walking Dead developer Telltale Games abruptly laid off the majority of its employees last week, but the studio now says the game's final season could still be finished with another partner.