Devolver Digital

Shadow Warrior reboot keeps setting and katana, ditches sexism, racism, and MP

Shadow Warrior reboot keeps setting and katana, ditches sexism, racism, and MP

Everyone involved with the upcoming reboot of the PC classic Shadow Warriors wants to make one thing absolutely clear: This is a reimagined version of the game. None of the original assets were used, although the main character, setting, and some aspects of the story and combat were retained. The interesting bit, however, is what will be missing.

Getting the team together

“At Devolver we had this idea of completely rebooting Shadow Warrior. It’s not an HD remake,” Devolver’s Nigel Lowrie told me over the phone. “At the time we were doing Serious Sam 3, I was playing Hard Reset, and I was like, ‘Holy shit, I love this.’ When we were talking about who could do an arcade-style FPS like this, the obvious answer to us was to reach out to Flying Wild Hog.”

Devolver actually called Scott Miller at 3D Realms to ask about rebooting the game with Flying Wild Hog… before they had talked to Flying Wild Hog. After 3D Realms expressed interest, Lowrie talked about the challenges of getting the Warsaw-based developer on the phone, but the enthusiasm was immediate once the two groups began to talk.

“Our previous game [Hard Reset] went along with the old school design. It was a no-cover shooter, a fast-paced shooter,” Jan Bartkowicz, the lead writer at Flying Wild Hog, explained. “You could get attacked by a mass of enemies. The game play loop was more focused on finding the right tool for a particular job, rather than just going from Point A to Point B to Point C.”


Shadow Warrior is also being designed in that way; it’s not revolutionary as much as it’s a look back at how shooters used to be. You’ll be able to carry all the weapons in the game at the same time, you’ll be attacked by a large number of enemies, and they don’t care about cover.

That’s not to say the combat won’t be interesting. “We’re experimenting with some mystical powers, upgrading your sword. The katana sword, from the original Shadow Warrior, you could slice people to pieces,” Bartkowicz said. “It was done with two to three animations for it. When you experienced that in the original Shadow Warrior it was something new… we took that katana game play and worked on it very hard so you can blend shooting with swinging your sword in the combat. I think it’s going to be something very different than what happens in shooters these days.”

They didn’t want the katana to be a weapon you only used when you ran out of ammo, the goal was to make it an integral part of the game play. Also, the setting will help the game stand out; you’ll be walking among cherry blossoms in a bright and beautiful environment, surrounded by terrible things happening. This isn’t a broken down, dystopian future. The palette won’t be limited to browns and grays.

Leaving the racist and sexist humor behind

The other aspect that will help the game stand out is its sense of humor, although much of what made Shadow Warrior interesting at the time wouldn’t work in the modern market.

“There’s a light-hearted humor element to it. The first one had some wise-cracking, and it also had things we avoided, like the racial stereotyping and misogyny and things like that,” Lowrie said. “The writing team did a very good job of re-inventing Lo Wang, he’s still a smartass… but it’s a much more clever sense of humor and wit, rather than relying on the old Duke Nukem or Shadow Warrior tropes, falling back on jokes about women and racial stereotyping.”

Still, aren’t fans going to be pissed? Part of the appeal was the utter lack of regard for good taste and political correctness.

“We discussed that, and that’s just a decision that had to be made. Before we even talked to Flying Wild Hog, that was the decision,” Lowrie said.

“We said look, there is some baggage with the original game, but we thought the elements that I described were worth it. It did some neat things, and had a very rich setting, and we were going to discard [the racial and sexist humor] elements of the original game. If some fans don’t like it, that’s unfortunate, and we think we can win them over with the other parts of the game,” he continued. “In fact, those things were, in our minds, detrimental to the original. We’re reinventing it how we think it needs to be done. If they miss that, we’re not going to be sorry, or anything like that.”

This is sure to be a controversial decision, but hopefully the game itself is enough to get people interested. Shadow Warrior is coming to the PC and other unannounced consoles this fall, and the team at Flying Wild Hog is focusing on single-player exclusively; there are currently no plans for a multiplayer section of the game. Hopefully we'll be able to see more of at E3.