If you have been regular here, you may have caught our feature on the glory days of the Build engine based games. We had covered classics like Duke Nukem 3D and Blood in our first installment of the series, followed by Redneck Rampage in the second. We conclude the series with the most ambitious and over-the-top spawn from the iconic era of gaming. The last of the mighty four Build engine games - Shadow Warrior.
Shadow Warrior is a spiritual successor to Duke Nukem, albeit one that was even more politically incorrect with a generous sprinkling of racial humor. It incorporates the same brand of twisted sense of humor, nudity and violence found in the original, though with an oriental theme replete with Ninjas and Katanas wielding demons. In a nutshell, it is Duke Nukem on steroids, taking almost every single awesome feature of Duke several notches higher.
The name of the protagonist - Lo Wang - itself is a tongue-in-cheek take on the very obvious part of the male anatomy. So you know that the developers decided at the outset to offend every single prudish demographic there is. This is rather kickass, because true unabashed creativity thrives when you have developers who have the pluck and the gumption to tell ESRB to shove it. Yes, that's how badass gaming in the '90s was; no pacifist bullshit there at all.
The plot, or the thinly veiled excuse for one, harks back to the cheesy Kung Fu staple. You are Lo Wang, a Shadow Warrior and the finest killing machine to walk the mortal realm, yet incredulously employed as the personal bodyguard for Master Zilla, president of Zilla Enterprises. Think of Zilla as the Japanese version of Lex Luthor. The difference being, instead of recruiting superheroes from outer space like Luthor, Zilla goes about his quest for world domination with a little help from the nether realm and its demonic minions. It is indeed sucks as a story, but it makes for a very entertaining excuse to beat the unliving crap out of Zilla's undead minions.
Released in 1997, this was the last in the series of 3D Realms' games to utilise the Build 3D engine (although Redneck Rampage released later, it was a rework of Duke Nukem 3D code). 3D Realms went about the game with full gusto, improving upon every bit of interactivity found in Duke Nukem 3D and making it even more complex in the bargain. The attention to detail was staggering in Shadow Warrior. It carries the trademark 3D Realms level design, with a level of complexity that is phenomenal when compared to the games of its time.
Shadow Warrior is deep enough to let you go off on a tangent, toying around with the numerous Pachinko machines littering the game world for bonus items. You also have a fun house in one of the levels with real working RC car course, which you have to successfully complete to retrieve a key. 3D Realm's fastidious approach was evident in features that the games pioneered; things that wouldn't be seen in future games until several years later.
It featured working ladders and a very early and effective use of alpha blending in the form of transparent water. Heck, even Quake 2 with its OpenGL engine had trouble implementing the feature (and hence stipple alpha) in most graphics cards. The game was the first to bring tactical weapons like sticky bombs and caltrops, which then went on to inspire modern classics like Halo.