Shadow Warrior has always been a controversial franchise. When it was released way back in 1997, critics lambasted it for its politically incorrect humor. One of the game’s creators, Scott Miller, lamented: “I’m afraid that we live in such a politically correct society nowadays that it’s almost impossible to make a piece of entertainment that doesn’t step on at least one group’s toes.”
The reboot in 2013 didn’t receive quite as much hate, and many critics, including Ben Kuchera, even praised it for leaving some of the crass humor behind. But the year is now 2016, and political correctness is far worse than it was back in the series’ heyday.
Even though readers might find it hard to trust Polygon with an FPS review after their laughable Doom playthrough, the publication has seen fit to weigh in on the newly released Shadow Warrior 2. A write-up by Carli Velocci calls it a “relic from another time,” focusing almost entirely on criticizing the game’s brand of irreverent humor.
The author docks points from the overall score, giving it a 5 out of 10 — a stark contrast to dozens of favorable reviews from other publications and gamers in general. At the time of writing, the Polygon review holds the lowest score among all listed games publications on OpenCritic. Shadow Warrior 2 currently holds a 92% favorability rating on Steam with over 3,000 user reviews praising it for its innovative gameplay, visuals, and especially the dialogue from its hilariously asshole-ish protagonist, Lo Wang.
She takes particular issue with the way women are depicted in the game, which range from ninja assassins in skin-tight outfits that “highlight outrageous curves” and killer robots called D.O.L.L.S., which she described as “walking sex objects that moan.”
The game also comes under fire for its humor. The author doesn’t like the jokes, or how often Lo Wang makes them. She calls the writing “horrible” due to its “racist stereotyping,” and argues that it makes it impossible for her to connect with Lo Wang as a player.
As someone who’s actually played Shadow Warrior 2, there’s little in the game that could be described as “racist.” The game includes fortune cookies, references to Asian cuisine, and draws its much of its look and story from Chinese and Japanese cultures, but it’s certainly not racist. It’s no more offensive than Big Trouble in Little China. But of course, everything is racist if you try hard enough.
The article comes to a climax as the author uses the sad “It’s 2016” argument that’s been overused to the point of becoming the butt of jokes on social media.
“There might be a place for a 1997-style game in 2016 — something simple with a narrow focus that plays on many of the boring, sexist, and lazy traditions that gaming has left behind — but Shadow Warrior 2 isn’t nearly enough,” writes Velocci, as if the year should have any bearing on her lack of having any sense of humor.
Shadow Warrior 2 is fully aware of its silliness. It discards realism for fun, fully embracing its absurdity through its funny one-liners and gratuitous violence. If you take issue with that, then I’m afraid the game isn’t the one with the problem.