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Samurai Warriors 4

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Genre: Action
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2014 (US), Oct. 24, 2014 (EU)


PS4 Review - 'Samurai Warriors 4'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 1, 2014 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Samurai Warriors 4 is a new chapter in the saga with more than 55 playable warriors to choose from, devastating new attacks and exciting new modes creating an entirely new Samurai Warriors experience in HD resolutions.

Buy Samurai Warriors 4

It's very easy to look at the Dynasty Warriors franchise and see a nearly identical lineup of games. This has been a busy year for Warriors titles, with no fewer than four being released for Sony systems alone, not to mention those for other systems, like Hyrule Warriors. It's pretty understandable to look at Samurai Warriors 4 and wonder what it offers beyond a different location. Surprisingly, Samurai Warriors 4 complements Dynasty Warriors 8 and Warriors Orochi 3 quite well. While DW8 was more slow-paced and Warriors Orochi was bulging with content, Samurai Warriors 4 focuses on speed. It may not be the specific game a Warriors fan is looking for, but it stands as a strong title.

Samurai Warriors continues most of the usual Dynasty Warriors gameplay. You choose from a healthy selection of Japanese heroes and go on a rampage through various areas, slaughtering hundreds of enemies on the way to another showdown. The combat is exactly what you'd expect from Dynasty Warriors games. There are weak and strong attacks that you can combo together in various ways. Much like Warriors Orochi, every character has a special move that ranges from self-buffs to special attacks. You can perform special Musou attacks by building up your super bar and pressing a button. Rage mode allows you to enter a temporary super-powered mode and deal a ton of damage. The Rage mode is powered by a spirit gauge, which you can also spend to break enemy guards or escape an enemy combo, so it's a matter of balancing offense and defense.

The biggest variation in the usual gameplay in SW4 is the addition of Hyper Attacks, which are extremely fast-paced attacks that tend to be weak but hit a number of enemies at once. Hitting enemies with Hyper Attacks can knock them down even if you don't kill them, so they're excellent for crowd clearing. Hyper Attacks do additional damage to unnamed enemies, but they can be blocked by any named officer, knocking you out of the attack. In comparison, Power attacks now aren't very good for crowd clearing, but in exchange, they do additional damage to officer enemies. While they can be blocked, they can't be interrupted by blocking, so you can string together further combos.

One particularly cool feature of SW4 is how it handles your player character. You select multiple characters for your team, but there is no team mechanic. Your primary and secondary characters are on the battlefield at the same time, and both function as their own fighters. One is controlled by the player, and the other is AI-controlled and can be issued certain basic commands. At any time, you can swap between the two characters. You can win most fights easily by sticking to just one character, but a number of the optional objectives require you to have a significant amount of map coverage. Being able to swap between a character on one side of the map to another allows you to handle them easier. Alternately, you can bring in your second character to help fight a boss or save an ally — or countless other minor features. In Warriors Orochi, I frequently used one character, but I found myself frequently swapping characters in SW4.

One core problem with SW4's gameplay is that the Hyper Attack gameplay makes it feel more button-mashy than the usual button-mashy Dynasty Warriors gameplay. For any area that doesn't involve officers, I often mashed the attack button until everything around me died. Dynasty Warriors games are not usually high-skill titles, but there's some fun and thought into when and where to use specific moves, working to juggle combos, and so on. Hyper Attack reminds me of Dynasty Warriors Gundam: Reborn's low-effort combat. It isn't anywhere as bad as that, but it feels like it turns certain parts of the game into mindless button-mashing until a meaningful opponent appears.

On the positive side, SW4 is fast. It's probably the single fastest Dynasty Warriors game to date. The swapping between Normal, Power and Hyper attacks means the game has a breakneck pace, especially when taken in conjunction with the smaller map sizes. There is little to no downtime in the game compared to other modern Dynasty Warriors. You're almost always fighting and attacking. Even if you clear out every enemy from a certain area, you can swap over to your other character, and they'll pretty much always be in the thick of a battle. On top of this, combat is extremely fast-paced. You have a lot of options for breaking guards, your meters charge quickly, and combat is incredibly frantic. It lacks some of the deliberation of games like Hyrule Warriors, but it makes up for it in sheer nonstop action.

The level design is more compact than any of the other recent games. It isn't small, but there are more enemies and less open space. Combat flow is largely about controlling enemy moral and completing objectives. You're given objectives, some required and some optional, which pop up around the map. Completing those will lessen enemy morale and allow you to venture deeper into enemy territory. Morale is extremely important in SW4. If enemies have a morale advantage or a standard bearer nearby, they are incredibly powerful and difficult to fight. Mindless button-mashing can get you killed if you're not careful. Focusing on objectives and defeating enemy bosses and standard bearers is key to success. If enemies don't have a morale advantage, you can tear through them like a hot knife through butter.

Combat is pretty easy. You can bring reusable buffs into battle to tremendously increase your damage and attack speed. Stacking them makes even the toughest bosses fall in no time flat. Winning battles is largely about proper resource and morale conservation. It makes it quite fun to play for short periods at a time, but it lacks the sense of battlefield control in Hyrule Warriors. This is the game that most lives up to the franchise's button-mashy reputation, although not in a bad way. It's extremely fun to play but rather simplistic. The option to swap between characters and play with another player online also does a lot to prevent the game from becoming tedious.

In addition to the robust character selection, SW4 also has a surprisingly in-depth Create-A-Character feature. It's not quite Saint's Row, but it's quite versatile, down to allowing you to give your character two different-colored eyes. Created characters have move sets based off the growth type (Power, Special, etc.) and weapon. You begin with a few weapons and pieces of equipment and can unlock more by playing through the game. Characters can be recustomized, and you can change almost every attribute of your character at any time, including his or her chosen weapon.

Created characters can be used in the Chronicle mode, which tasks you with being the biographer for the heroes of the era. You're given a large map of Japan and have to travel from place to place, performing missions to build up the friendship of the various members of the cast. This is probably the place where most players will spend the bulk of their time. You can unlock new costumes and outfits, see special cut scenes with the various cast members, find rare equipment, and play a lot of simple and fun missions. It's better paced than the similar mode in Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends, and earning friendship is much less of a grind. You also have special "Life Goals," or objectives. Completing these objectives makes it easier to befriend various characters and can unlock special features.

SW4 is a good-looking game. It feels like it takes better advantage of the PlayStation 4 than Dynasty Warriors 8 or Warriors Orochi 3. The frame rate is a bit smoother, although it still jumps here and there. The characters have nice animations, and some of the cut scenes are quite nice. It's still a cross-generation game and looks like it, but it feels like Omega Force has a slightly better handle on how to take advantage of the extra power. As is becoming increasingly common for the franchise, SW4 only supports Japanese voice-overs. The translation is a bit better than some of Tecmo-Koei's recent efforts, and the voice acting is quite good, but it may disappoint those who are used to the English voice-overs in prior games.

Samurai Warriors 4 continues Omega Force's long streak of high-quality Warriors titles. It isn't as exceptionally good as Hyrule Warriors and veers a bit too heavily into button-mashing for its own good, but it remains a fun game to play. The combat is fast, frantic and fun, and the variety of combat and characters helps the game stay fresh. The Chronicle mode is one of my favorite bonus modes in a Warriors game and is a lot of fun to play. If you found Dynasty Warriors 8 too slow or Warriors Orochi 3 too crowded, Samurai Warriors 4 is the game for you.

Score: 8.0/10

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