My hands-on time with Shadow Warrior 2 started innocently enough: a quick run-through of the controls from Flying Wild Hog’s, Tadeusz Zielinski before an introduction to the sequel’s brand new level structure.
“The first Shadow Warrior was a linear corridor shooter.” Tadeusz explained, “Now when you load into a level it’s randomised, so each time you load it’s a different layout of the level and also there is a different time of day and weather.” OK, sounds like there’s been some great steps made with this sequel. So far, so normal then.
Five minutes into the demo though, Tadeusz turned to me with a sly smile on his face. “Look at the sky” he said, before leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. I’m not sure I expected what came next – the magnificent sight of a gigantic cock and balls etched into the night’s sky by 20 or 30 bright stars. “There, you see it? Dickus Major!”
“That’s not the only Wang joke that you can expect,” Tadeusz chuckled, and he wasn’t wrong. I counted at least three more references to male genitalia during the 25 minute demo, including a quest item called the Demonic Rod – a gigantic wooden relic shaped like a throbbing love wand, complete with thick veins and golden piercings that ran from tip to base. This game looks like a real class act.
Beyond the schoolyard humour, though, there’s a rather decent game, one that’s better than its predecessor in almost every way. Along with the new randomised level structure, Shadow Warrior 2 has introduced a bunch of new features that have evolved the series from a standard shooter into something that could be rather special.
There’s a procedural loot system that encourages repeat playthroughs of levels. The fiddly special moves of the first game have been simplified to a button press and the new dash and clambering mechanics enable fast and fluid movement around maps that are built with verticality in mind.
Also new to the mix is co-op play for up to four players with enemies scaling in number and difficulty depending on the player count. I went around the demo with one other player and that was crazy enough so I can imagine a full lobby being absolute gore-drenched mayhem.
After his hands on with the same demo at PAX, Eurogamer’s Jeffrey Matulef likened Shadow Warrior 2 to Borderlands, and by the developers own admission they’ve actually taken a lot of inspiration from fellow loot-lover Diablo.
“In our office everybody plays a lot of Diablo,” Tadeusz told me as our session came to a close. “This is already kind of a Diablo Shadow Warrior because it takes on the things that make Diablo, like random level generation, and loot.”
While this brand new direction might seem as tad ambitious for a relatively small team, after getting to grips with Shadow Warrior 2 at E3, I’m confident that Wild Flying Hog has got what it takes to pull it off.
If want to see the game in action for yourself, I recorded my entire hands-on demo (including an uncomfortably long look at a digital dong) and you can watch it, commentary free in the gameplay video below.