The Shadow Warrior reboot was one heck of a fascinating endeavour, bringing together Lo Wang’s love for janky references and fighting demons that, in the end, culminated in a fairly enjoyable game. I guess, all things considered, it was a bit surprising to hear that a sequel was on its way. However, in saying that, Flying Wild Hog’s follow up to the rebooted 3D Realms classic seems to be much more than just new Wang references and gore – it’s a showcase of iteration and tackling Wang’s endeavours in a bit of a different way.

Having jumped into the game, I was immediately greeted with what appeared to be a hub area, the first major change in Shadow Warrior 2. Around the beautifully detailed Japanese location were a handful of shops that, I would assume, you can go and visit in between main missions to upgrade and buy new weaponry. Similarly, this is also where you choose and set your quests.SW2_3

After exploring the hub area for a couple of minutes, it was time to get into the actual meat of the preview. The mission, titled Hot Blooded, is the first in Shadow Warrior 2, and it throws you straight into the thick of things as you’re tasked to collect ingredients in order to help Kamiko – who’s unfortunately trapped inside of Wang’s mind – begin the process of separation.

From the moment you start trotting around in the mission’s forested area, it quickly becomes apparent that Shadow Warrior 2 is rather different from its predecessor. The linearity Lo Wang had onced faced is now gone in favour of a wide open map that allows you to traverse the locale however you see fit. This, of course, is complimented by the fact that the mission’s objectives here (at least) are more or less of a fetch quest variety. You’re only after ingredients, after all, so you don’t need to necessarily hit point a, point b, and so on in a typical linear fashion. Flying Wild Hog have elected to allow you to traverse the location however you see fit, and it makes the game feel all the more open for you to enjoy at your leisure, slicing and dicing as you go.

Wang’s efforts at the end of the last Shadow Warrior meant that, while he saved the world so to speak, the demonic realm has merged with earth, meaning demons now live alongside humans. It’s not so great, all things considered, but as a positive it means that Wang’s palette of destruction now rolls with him wherever he goes. And when it does come time to fight, Shadow Warrior 2 becomes an absolute delight.

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The first noticeable change is Wang’s movement. His stamina bar has been thrown aside in favour of a movement system that allows you to dodge, jump, and traverse areas quickly and effortlessly. Enemies will charge you constantly, so having a system that feels more reminiscent of the Exo Suits in Call of Duty rather than your average means of movement makes combat feel extremely fast paced and satisfying.

This combines extremely well with the game’s weapons, which vary widely from your trusty katanas to an ice-powered grenade launcher. I found that the weapons are all useful in differing circumstances, even when taking into consideration that I only really tried my hand at eight or so of the 70 that are apparently in the game. As well as this, elemental damage and resistance seems to play a big role in Shadow Warrior 2, with some weapons – like that ice-powered grenade launcher – being more effective at taking out enemies who are, quite obviously, prone to ice damage. That’s not to say every weapon will have a certain elemental effect on enemies, as some, like the shotgun, for example, was a fairly stock standard weapon that just dealt average damage. I think, if anything, it’ll be important to keep a good balance of elemental weapons throughout the course of the game, and it’s definitely an interesting inclusion.

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Having traversed the map and grabbed most of the ingredients required to help out Kamiko – who, at this point in the level, had been having quite a comical conversation with Wang – it was time to duke it out with a boss and finish things off. One of my favourite parts of the last Shadow Warrior were the boss encounters, and while I found this particular boss a fun one to take on, it was all over a little too easily. Elemental damage played a huge role here, but the intensity and health conservation seen in the previous game seemed to be lacking. All things considered, this was the first mission of the game, so I’ll be interested to see how things shape up over its duration.

Shadow Warrior 2 is exactly what you’d want from a sequel – refinement in every direction possible. Everything here feels like it’s been dialled up to 100, and in turn makes for a really damn enjoyable experience. The humour is still there, the combat is as fun as ever, and the new movement system is extremely promising. While the original reboot was arguably what a Shadow Warrior fan probably would have wanted it to be back in 2013, Shadow Warrior 2 is a progression of that, making use of new tech, a new engine, and new ideas that make the experience a ball to endeavour through.

Shadow Warrior 2 is scheduled to release sometime later this year, and will launch on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.