Enter a residential area for instance and Wang has quite a few choices. He can sprint into the fray guns flashing/sword blazing, just like the first game. Or he can clamber onto the rooftops and avoid a few enemies. Or he can turn temporarily invisible and dash past entire armies of demons.
I'm curious to see how balanced the stealth approach feels at release--during our E3 build it was a bit disconcerting to watch how easily the developers were able to cut out large portions of the level.
It does make co-op more appealing, though. Four players in the original game's tiny corridors would've been a nightmare, but four players in levels geared towards exploration seems like a more reasonable proposition.
All of the levels are also procedurally built. There are areas that will, of course, remain the same to accommodate boss fights and the like. Generally, though, a level will change each time you play it--and you might be playing them a lot, thanks to the new loot system.
More guns (and blades)
I'm less of a fan of the new loot system, but that's because I'm not a fan of loot systems in general. I'm worried we're entering Darksiders/Darksiders 2 territory--I much preferred the original's Zelda-esque approach to gadgets, whereas the sequel's loot-grind felt tedious by comparison.
It's a personal bias: I tend to like when games mete out weapons in a logical manner, and Shadow Warrior was a perfect example of this--starting out with just a katana and a pistol, you eventually filled out the weapon wheel with everything from a four-barreled shotgun to a nuke launcher. And each weapon felt unique.
Shadow Warrior 2 boasts seventy weapons. It's not an inherently bad idea--I can't fault them for adding variety. I mainly wonder whether it's actual variety or mainly a bunch of weapons that look different but function the same way--e.g. when Flying Wild Hog shows off katanas, short swords, crescent blades, and hand claws does it feel different to play with those weapons or is it just an aesthetic choice?
The upgrade path for weapons is also more fluid, with three gem slots per weapon. Again, I wonder if it'll have the same uniqueness I loved about the original Shadow Warrior's arsenal--every weapon in that game had a reason to push for the last upgrade, which isn't really a feature of loot-driven games.
And then there's the question of re-running levels. I...don't play games that way. I just don't. I don't like running levels. I don't like loot-grinding. If you're into that, great. However, I'm hoping it feels just as valid to simply play through the game start-to-finish if I want, without feeling like my gear is underpowered.
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