Released last year, Shadow Warrior 2 on the PC remains one of the best-looking first person shooters on the platform. With its gorgeous HDR-enabled visuals and lightning fast performance, Shadow Warrior 2 represents the best of the PC platform. And now, you can play it on consoles, but the question is - should you?
We were especially looking forward to this one, because developer Flying Wild Hog did a good job with its prior consoles ports on the first Shadow Warrior, way back in 2014. It had its quirks, such as screen-tearing during heavy combat, but it managed to deliver PC quality visuals at a moderately stable 60 frames per second. We were hoping for the next step up from the sequel, but three years on, Shadow Warrior 2 feels like a retrograde step in some ways.
We should stress that it's still a beautiful game, perhaps even one of the best-looking shooters on the market today, but it has several issues that keep it from reaching its full potential. The most obvious loss compared to the previous game is frame-rate. With visuals this sumptuous, it's not entirely surprising that 60fps gameplay is off the table but after seeing impressive results in games like Doom or Battlefield 1, we still had hope- especially when the developer expressed the intention of hitting 60fps on consoles when I met them back in Gamescom 2015.
The reality is that the final shipping version of Shadow Warrior 2 on consoles runs at 30fps. While this is certainly disappointing bearing in mind how good it feels on PC at twice the frame-rate, it should be noted that the 30fps implementation is sound. Frame-rate drops are virtually non-existent on both PS4 and Xbox One (though there is some minor tearing on this platform), while frame-pacing is adhered to scrupulously. When combined with the excellent motion blur, the game still manages to feel smooth, but with the high speed of the action, it's certainly a step down from the blazing fast PC release. For performance reasons alone, if PC is an option, we'd recommend sticking with that version.
Other omissions in the console version are somewhat puzzling. For one thing, Shadow Warrior 2 was one of the very first PC games to offer support for high dynamic range output. It was gorgeous - one of the best implementations of last year. This seems like a no-brainer for the console releases, but alas, it is completely absent. Considering that all available consoles aside from the original Xbox One support HDR, this is a disappointing oversight.
Then there is the PS4 Pro support - or rather, the complete lack of it. You get the same exactly experience on PlayStation 4 Pro as you do on a standard PS4. With the Pro having been on the market for the better part of six months now, it seems ridiculous that high profile titles like this and Bethesda's Prey should ship with no Pro features whatsoever.
Other issues aren't so fundamental to the experience, but definitely feel a little rough around the edges considering the developer's proven technical prowess. Disparity in the quality of the texture work is an obvious example.
While we can't expect the entirety of the PC version's highest quality textures to make their way across to the consoles, we're still left with some wildly variable texture quality. In one area, you might run across some intricate ground textures with gorgeous brickwork using parallax occlusion mapping. Then you turn around and get much lower quality ground textures that stick out like a sore thumb - something you simply don't see on the original PC release.
That's not to say texture work is bad for the most part but the weird mix of high and low quality textures appears jarring. We also noted a problem with ambient occlusion on consoles too - it's so thick that it often looks more like there's a black cloud around your hands. It's a strange choice here, for sure.
Flying Wild Hog has demonstrated in the past that it's mastery of PC and console technology is impressive, and we do recommend checking out the video on this page to see how close the general look of the game is to the PC original. Lush forested areas are rich with blowing foliage and intricate detail while the rain soaked cityscapes are filled with screen-space reflections and vibrant neon lights galore. Animation work is generally excellent and the weapon models are fantastic. The subtle blur applied to the edge of the weapon is always a nice touch. There's little doubt that Shadow Warrior 2 remains a big step up from the previous game in terms of its core visual feature set.
It may not quite match the PC version when looking closely at the details but the overall sense here is that it looks close enough during gameplay. The sacrifices made to the visuals, aside from texture quality and ambient occlusion, are relatively minimal. In terms of the basics like resolution, it's the usual 1080p/900p divide between PS4 and Xbox One - the same resolutions used in the previous Shadow Warrior. It's also good to see that anisotropic filtering is set to a reasonable level on both machines.
Another positive feature worth mentioning is the options menu. The previous game was one of the first console titles to offer full field of view adjustment and Shadow Warrior 2 continues the trend. On top of that, you can toggle various other graphical effects such as chromatic aberration and motion blur - aspects of the rendering pipeline that some users simply prefer to disable. These are great, forward-looking options in a console release and it's very nice to see them here.
In the end, how good this port is depends on your expectations - and your hardware. If you're running a standard Xbox One or PlayStation 4 console on a 1080p display, the largest complaint is the frame-rate which despite being lower than we'd like, is at least consistent and properly implemented. The lower resolution textures and ambient occlusion issues are visible but they aren't deal-breakers either.
However, if you have an HDR-capable 4K screen or a PS4 Pro, Shadow Warrior 2 feels like a missed opportunity. Coming from the HDR-enabled PC version running at a higher resolution and frame-rate, it feels like a huge step back. Coming from a studio known for its technical prowess, it's genuinely surprising that these features are absent.
PS4 Pro's additional horsepower could perhaps have been deployed on restoring the higher frame-rate, but the complete lack of support is baffling. None of this is to suggest that Shadow Warrior 2 isn't a good game, it's just that the experience is simply so much better on PC - and for now at least, that remains the definitive way to play the game.