The True Battle Begins!
Written by: Emil
The lightning crackled fiercely overhead, illuminating the two solemn figures. "I knew you would come. Truly you are a man of honor." said the mysterious Japanese man as he drew his katana from its sheath. Caleb smiled grimly, his eyes glowing yellow beneath the shadows of his cowboy hat. "Enough chit-chat, Wang. Let's get this over with." The inky rainwater rinsing the blood from his menacing pitchfork, the dark gunslinger charged. For theirs was an inevitable showdown, the battle that would decide once and for all who would rule the Build engine battleground.
Well, the shareware versions of Blood and Shadow Warrior have both been released, and the lines have been drawn. Even here at the Adrenaline Vault, sides have been taken as to which is the better game. Naturally, it was left up to yours truly to sort through the mess of empty shell casings and decapitated heads and give you the low-down on why both games are destined for greatness.
When it was first released, the Blood shareware certainly had its share of problems -- activating the gargoyle statues would boot you to DOS, playing from certain saved locations would lock up the game, and so on. But Monolith Productions has shown considerable dedication to Blood, and the shareware has already been patched more than once, with another update on the way. In its current state, the Blood shareware is top-notch, filled with all the horror and violence you'd want -- and this is without the enhancements of the full version, like squirting blood that actually stains floors, and screaming, pathetic innocents that are there solely for the pleasure of killing. Weighing in at around 17 megs, the Blood shareware might seem like a painful download . . . but remember, you get the whole first episode -- 8 killer maps, like a moving train and a twisted carnival. For frightening, bloody fun, you can't beat Blood.
Even though it was just released, the Shadow Warrior shareware has already caused quite a stir. Its been almost impossible to download, due to ridiculous traffic (I'm speaking from experience!), and when you do finally get it up and running, you'll be faced with a message that has already gotten many gamers in an uproar. The opening screen of the Shadow Warrior shareware informs the user that for evaluation purposes, the game can only be played fifty times, and a clock counts down the number of uses. The newsgroups have practically caught fire because of the warning, but loyal 3D Realms fans need to relax. The message is just that: a message. It is a reminder that what you are playing is only a demo, and if you want more ninja action you'll have to purchase the full game when it becomes available. And no, contrary to popular belief, the shareware will not stop functioning after the timer has expired.
When you do get into Shadow Warrior, you'll soon learn that it's an action game through-and-through. The kung-fu fighting is fast and furious, and consistent throughout the levels. What really makes Shadow Warrior a great game is its incredible use of the Build engine. If you think Blood has cool features, just wait til you see what you can do in Shadow Warrior -- drive tanks, control gun turrets, race remote control cars, play Pachinko and win valuable prizes . . . the list goes on and on. As far as 3D game characters go, Lo Wang is the best by far. He's wittier than even Duke Nukem, and is never at a loss for words. He's the main reason Shadow Warrior is so much fun. The shareware is smaller than Blood, and weighs in at about 12 megs. Unfortunately, that's because you only get four levels to wander around in. I don't think I'm the only one out there that had hoped for a little more.
Let's be honest here. Level design is important, and a cool character can really add to a game's fun factor, but we all know what really makes a 3D game worth playing -- the weapons. If there's one thing we like to do in a 3D shooter, it's kill lots of people with lots of different weapons. Fortunately, Shadow Warrior and Blood both offer new and exciting ways to eviscerate someone. Both games offer weapons with more than one firing mode, which is a welcome addition to anyone's arsenal. As a new-age ninja, Lo Wang comes equipped with the ancient as well as the modern. The ridiculously powerful nuclear warhead can obliterate an entire screen of enemies, while the vicious katana can cleave an enemy ninja in two. Caleb, Blood's undead gunslinger, has weaponry that's more grounded in early 20th century America. The flare gun can set raving fanatics aflame, and the double-fashioned shotgun is the perfect all-around weapon -- the best incarnation of the boomstick since Doom 2.
Both games also come with a number of secondary items that are placed in an inventory and used at will. As can be expected, Lo Wang comes equipped with a belt-full of fun ninja stuff, like spiked caltrops and smoke bombs. They are exactly what you would expect a modern-day assassin to have. Caleb, on the other hand, uses items more rooted in the supernatural. A magical cloak turns him invisible, and the crystal ball can locate your opponents during multiplay. Overall, I'd say both games offer enough great new items and weapons to keep just about anyone satisfied. Lo Wang definitely has more gadgets to play with, but you just can't beat the brutality of Caleb's incendiary arsenal.
Ok . . . we've got great characters, great levels, and great weapons. So, which demo has better gameplay? Well, we've got to take into account that Blood and Shadow Warrior both offer multi-play and single-play. I've played both games both ways, and here's my verdict. In multiplayer, it's never enough to just run up to your opponent and blow his head off. You want to be able to kill him with style, with flair, and most importantly, with creativity. Shadow Warrior's great use of vehicles and gun turrets adds a whole new dimension to multiplayer. Just about all the maps are the perfect size for multiplayer. In fact, the first level of Shadow Warrior looks to become just as infamous in WangBang as the first level of Duke Nukem 3D did in Dukematch so long ago. If there's one thing that 3D Realms knows, it's that the Internet is the place for games, and players are always looking for a great deathmatch. Shadow Warrior was definitely designed with this audience in mind, and delivers 100%.
The reason I love Blood so much is that it has the best single-player gameplay in any 3D game I've played since Doom2 -- yes, better than Duke Nukem 3D and even Shadow Warrior. The game's pace is deliberate and well-planned, and the intriguing storyline actually gives you a reason (however dark) for progressing through the shareware's eight levels. It's easy for a 3D game to be exciting, but to capture the feelings of fear and horror is not an easy thing. I haven't been this freaked out playing a computer game since I went head to head with a Baron of Hell. Any game that can bring back that type of single-player gameplay, like Blood, is an instant classic.
So, all around, which shareware is better? Well, it depends on what you're looking for. If you're on the hunt for the fastest 3D gameplay available, Shadow Warrior is your best bet. The demo is virtually bug-free, and lightning fast. The computer opponents are fast and intelligent, and will prove to be quite a challenge. Multiplayer has unlimited options, and the vehicles and weapons are perfect for WangBang. One thing's for sure -- 3D realms took a close look at Duke 3D, saw what worked and what didn't, and made Shadow Warrior the ultimate multiplayer Build experience.
If single-player action is what you want, you can't go wrong with the Blood shareware. The storyline, level design, great monsters, and creepy atmosphere make it the best game of it's kind in years. Turn out the lights, crank up the retail shareware's CD audio music, and you're likely scare yourself silly. Multiplayer games of Blood are just as exciting as those of Shadow Warrior, but without all the extras like vehicles and climbable ladders. I have had the opportunity to play the full version of Blood however, and the extra weapons like the Voodoo Doll look to even out this balance.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. There is certainly room on your hard drive for both Blood and Shadow Warrior, for various reasons. Until the games are released, and the sales figures come in, we'll just have to wait and see. Me, I'm going to do what I've been doing all along -- turn out the lights, pop a couple of shells into the double-barrel, and paint the town red!
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This article may not be copied or used, in whole or in part,