Shadow Warrior 2 nails many important aspects of being a first-person action experience. It allows you to move quickly and precisely as you shoot a wide variety of enemies with powerful guns and slice them up with piercing blades. But as a game that puts such a large focus on comedy, it stumbles and falls with jokes that are more lame than they are funny.
Of course, dick jokes–which are the basis for a lot of the humor here–aren’t automatically bad, but Shadow Warrior 2 delivers entry-level one-liners that don’t strive for more than reading thesaurus entries for male genitalia. You play as Lo Wang, a foul-mouthed assassin who makes constant dick jokes and works for whoever pays him the most. This time around, he’s hired to save a girl named Kamiko from an insidious corporation. The premise sounds simple, but it quickly takes a turn for the absurd. Kamiko’s body becomes possessed and her soul ends up inside Wang’s head via an act of mysticism to protect her. She can’t stand him or his terrible jokes, and they both want her back in her own body, so you set out on a quest to do exactly that.
Shadow Warrior 2 infuses quests, skill trees, and loot into its first-person action. You level up, upgrade your skills, and find new and stronger weapons you equip through the game’s vast, clunky menus. These menus are overwhelming with the amount of information they present, but once you get accustomed to the clumsy UI, you get to the main focus of the game: killing a substantial number of baddies with guns, blades, and chainsaws.
Enemies run the gamut from gargantuan demons to small, levitating drones. Many of Shadow Warrior 2’s enemies rush straight at you, forcing you to act quickly. There are a number of movement options, such as dashes and double jumps, that allow for quick movement around environments. And instead of just contributing to fleeing tricky situations, these dashes add to the combat in thrilling ways. Dipping in and out, then sticking a foe with your blade when they leave themselves open makes you feel like you’re faster and more skilled than your enemies. Some enemies attack you from afar, and simply shooting them with a rifle is an effective-yet-unsatisfying method to deal with them. A more exciting approach? Dashing from side to side to dodge an enemy’s ranged assault as you close the gap and punish them with your katana.
The more you put into Shadow Warrior 2’s combat, the more you get back. Spending the entire game relying solely on one sword will make its numerous combat scenarios wear thin fast. Trading the strike of a katana for a devastating shotgun blast, on the other hand, will keep things fresh, and the game provides plenty of tools in your arsenal with which to experiment. Just about every weapon feels good to use, too, whether it’s the fast flurry of the glaive-like blade or the slow-but-destructive path of the railgun. The chainsaw is equal parts grotesque and awesome; pulling the motorized weapon through an enemy delivers just enough resistance to make this slower, more damaging melee option exciting to use.
Shadow Warrior 2 is at its best at higher difficulties, when death is more likely to be an arm’s length away. Adding a friend in co-op mode delivers a similar experience to what you get in solo play, but it allows you to bump up the difficulty even higher, which makes the game more exciting (especially when you’re up against bosses and tougher enemies). Playing quests that the game warns might be too hard is also a gripping experience, not one littered with overwhelming annoyances.
Once you beat the game, you start over with all the skills and upgrades you’ve collected, and you can play whatever sidequests you may have missed out on during your initial run. The game’s movement and combat is a lot of fun to play around with, but the story ends much more quickly than expected, with a boss fight that’s uncharacteristically tedious and frustrating, requiring you to run around in circles while you shoot a stationary target.
Shadow Warrior 2 is peppered with lame one-liners and awful jokes that almost always revolve around a penis. The jokey dialogue delivered by an obnoxious cast can veer off into other vulgar topics, but it always comes back to a pun on the word “wang.” Some of the one-liners you’ll hear frequently in combat include, “Mess with the bull, you get the wang” and “This is my rifle, this is my wang.” More jokes await you in the cutscenes, and the pause for them in every conversation makes the already interminable sequences feel like they take twice as long.
It’s the lack of creativity–and the fact that every character is unlikable–that hurts this game the most. Thankfully for Shadow Warrior 2, it’s still a great game to play. Picking off enemies one-by-one with a railgun, demolishing them point-blank with a shotgun, and ripping through them with a chainsaw are just a few of the exciting moments that make it hard to put down. However, if you want to experience its action-packed highs, then disregard its groan-inducing lows and skip the cutscenes.