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Shadow Warrior 2 Review

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Graphics:

The graphics leave me in an unusual position. For the most part I want to say they are good, and really just leave it at that, as I have with some games, but there are some issues, so I cannot do that. These issues are either minor or likely bugs that will be fixed, but are still present so I should not ignore them.

Detail to characters, enemies, and environments is all good, but not so much when getting up close in a number of cutscenes. Some NPCs Lo Wang has conversations with look quite bad for one reason or another, in some cases making them look like molded plastic instead of people with flesh and skin. Most of the time other characters will not be getting nearer than a sword length, so it is not that bad. Animations, including facial animations during these conversations can also be issues, such as with certain parts clipping through others. (In one instance I saw a leg enter a chair while the character was re-positioning.) With the mess of enemies you make messes of, the animations they use are fine, unless you want to complain that bodies would not be cut apart like that. It might be a fair point, but the game is not meant to be realistically gory, but over-the-top, fun gory.

 

 

Before moving on from the animations, the audio during conversations occasionally started skipping like a broken record. I really have no idea why, but it never broke the timing. The facial animations would be in sync after the audio recovered and the subtitles too followed the right timing, but the body animations were not stopping during the loop. It was very odd and I cannot say I have encountered something like it before in any other game. Luckily it was not particularly common.

 

The lighting, for the most part, was as good as I would expect in most modern games. I am sure I could find and name games with even better lighting, but those would tend to be games with exceptional graphics. The issue with this game's lighting is that the shadows had some frustrating were not always behaving. Basically the range being checked for occluding objects and possibly the rendering distance for shadows was sometimes too short. I encountered caverns where sunlight was illuminating the enclosed path a certain distance in front of me, and sunlight coming through a wall and ceiling despite it being solid rock. This last example I have a screenshot of.

I have one more strictly graphics issue to mention, but it concerns performance, so my specs first:

  • Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
  • Cooling: Corsair H110
  • Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 1080 8 GB
  • PhysX: NVIDIA GTX 1070 8 GB
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
  • PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

At times the game would come to a crawl, with just 1 FPS or lower. In one instance it just froze for so long I was really expecting Windows to throw up a box saying the video driver had crashed, but after a long while, the game started moving again and everything continued. I do not know what was causing this, and I really wish I did. At times I felt like it could have been the physics engine falling over and dragging the framerate with it, but it was too inconsistent for this. If that were the case I would have expected a lot more slow-downs like this than did happen, though there did seem to always be explosions of bodies involved, along with the associated puff of guts. Such explosions are really common with how I have been playing, which is why I am unsure that is the answer. So for now I am sharing that it happened, but personally chalking it up to something potentially specific to me, like an errant driver setting.

The in game settings are almost all at their maximums. The only options not enabled are those I typically turn off, such as depth of field and motion blur, and one option not turned up all the way is the super-sampling option. This is the option to internally render the game at a higher resolution than selected and downsample it, which, in theory, increases detail by how it renders background objects and removing aliasing. The slider can go between 0.20 and 2.00, and I found that 1.65 lets it run at a fairly stable 60 FPS, while 1.70 kept it a few frames below that. (That 60 was being capped by having V-sync enabled, so you know. I tried disabling it in case it would help with capturing video, but that actually made it worse.) There were definitely times the framerate would drop down into the 40s, besides that issue I mentioned above, but it was always smooth so I have no complaints there.

 

One option I kept off was the Multi-Res Shading option, which is something NVIDIA GeForce GTX 900 and newer series GPU can do. What it does is reduce the detail around the periphery of the screen for improved performance, with the thinking being that because the player is only rarely going to be looking at the edges, most people will not notice it. While I completely understand the psychovisual concept here, I also know a few things that make me want to keep the option off. One is I have a GTX 1080, so I should not be wanting for graphics performance. Two is I am going to be capturing video and images to show off the game and my preference is for this media to most truthfully represent my experience and favorably represent the game, so a setting that reduces detail is not exactly something I want to turn on. Third, I do look around my screen as I play a game, not just focusing on the center, so I will be seeing that reduction in detail. (I also probably sit too close to my monitor, which is not going to help either.) At some point I do want to experiment with this setting, but I have not done so yet.

The last thing I want to mention here is the Photo Mode the game has. With it you can pause the action and maneuver the camera where you want it, to frame the best image, and even go through a variety of options. All I really touched was the super-sampling option, which allowed me to take 8192x4608 images, instead of 2048x1152. There are two other things I messed with that I hope are improved upon at some point

 

One of the options you have is to lock the first person camera, which means the camera will be placed in the photo mode wherever it is in the live game. The thing is, this is also the only way to have Lo Wang captured, so while I can catch an enemy exploding into pieces from any angle, I cannot see my sword dealing the final blow. I am not sure why it is not possible to include your character in these images, but that is the situation.

I should be standing next to the exploding enemies, where the other enemies are facing.

 

The other thing I messed with is the ability to play the action slowly, so if I just charged up an awesome attack, I can enter Photo Mode, freezing it, and then slowly play it out for the perfect shot. The problem here is that there is no way to rewind. Even a buffer of a few seconds would be nice, for when you just miss the perfect image, or if you went too far forward while in the photo mode. (A means to take short videos or animated GIFs would also have been nice, but now I am just making a wishlist.)

In summary, the graphics and the performance are good, but there are issues with both. Nothing is too serious though, even the game seeming to crash only to recover after a long wait, if only because it is not common enough to be a serious problem.




  1. Shadow Warrior 2 Review - Introduction
  2. Shadow Warrior 2 Review - Graphics
  3. Shadow Warrior 2 Review - Story
  4. Shadow Warrior 2 Review - Gameplay
  5. Shadow Warrior 2 Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Shadow Warrior 2 Review - Conclusion
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