Shadow Warrior is 3D Realms' latest (and reportedly last) first-person shooter to utilize the patented Build engine that made Duke Nukem a household name. In the game, you play Lo Wang (pronounced "wong" in the real world and "wang" in the world of Shadow Warrior), an Asian assassin whose exact cultural background is obscured in a morass of toilet humor, exaggerated broken English, and bad Asian jokes. Behind this embarrassing display of ignorance on the part of Wang's creators, however, there lurks a late entry into the realm of sprite-based action games that's pretty fun despite its dated qualities.
Throughout the 22 single-player levels in the game, Mr. Wang picks up a variety of devastating weapons to take care of unwanted company. Starting with a katana, a close-range sword that deals death in a single blow, Wang moves on to grab more lethal arms when it's really time to clean house - such as a pair of Uzis, or a grenade-launcher. There's even an enemy whose head can be retrieved and used as a flamethrower. Overall, while the game's arsenal seems to mimic that of Duke Nukem 3D in most respects, the weapons are still inventive enough to keep things interesting.
Like Duke Nukem 3D, most of Shadow Warrior's levels are fairly expansive, containing plenty of typical find-the-key puzzles that must be solved in order to advance. The levels are creative, leading you through abandoned warehouses, to a submarine repository, and to a haunted forest village. There you will have to dispense with killer apes, grenade-lobbing henchmen, TNT-toting suicide soldiers, and the ghosts that arise from their fresh corpses. Along with the strong language that the game unabashedly employs, the violence witnessed on your monitor will definitely qualify Shadow Warrior for an R rating.
In addition to the single-player levels, Shadow Warrior includes four levels designed specifically for deathmatch. In one of these, the players vie to control a tank in the middle of an arena-like environment. In another, players are sped along a track and must fire at each other with split-second accuracy. Each deathmatch level contains something a little different.
In the end however, Shadow Warrior's only merits are its gameplay. The game's sprite-based art is well executed, but seems out of date in the contemporary milieu of polygonal Quake-killers. Players who still appreciate the older style of sprites in 3D action and who can look past the bad Asian jokes will probably thank their lucky throwing-stars for the arrival of Shadow Warrior.