Omega Force
Koei
Action
1-2
09.04.03

Dynasty Warriors 4


Ancient Chinese battles. History. That is what Dynasty Warriors is all about. I'm not going too in-depth explaining what the details are, but DW4 is an epic beat-em-up style game where it is you versus huge armies of ancient China. The Dynasty Warriors series returns for its second Xbox outing, and it's a welcomed one.

Gameplay

The main modes of play are Musou, Free, Versus, Challenge, and Edit mode. Creating your own character (officer and/or bodyguards) in Edit Mode adds to the customization of this game, but it could use some more work in the aspect that you can't really work with the officer's attributes. You can really only alter his or her appearance.

The main Musou mode is broken down into kingdoms. Dynasty Warriors 3 was also broken down into 3 kingdoms, but part 4 really makes it simple. The selection screen is set up nicely, and there is no more confusion as to whom you're playing as. Once you select which to play as, Wu, Shu, or Wei, you then pick your officer. Each force starts you out with 3 officers each, and as you play more become unlocked. This time you can actually select what stage you want to play first in the particular act your in. If your familiar with the series, once you get to the next screen you be on the set-up screen. "Conditions" are now called "Objectives". For newbies, the objectives are what must occur for you to be victorious or be defeated. The unit info shows your forces in blue, and the opposing forces in red. From the "Unit Info" screen you can get information on any unit, including morale and the amount of troops available.

Not a whole lot has changed from DW3 to DW4. One thing that changed: You can't just press the white button to see health bars (mainly to identify enemies). Now you have to pause the game, and press Y. If you leave the life display off, your going to have a tough time distinguishing who the enemy is. In a game like this, it is wise to always have that feature on. The white button now serves as the way to control your bodyguard's actions (attack, guard, or wait).

During the action, it may feel like a hack and slash fest. Well that's pretty much what you will be doing the entire game, with the exception of using a bow and arrow. The action is mainly based on performing combos. Other attacks you can do are Musou and charge attack. The way to get higher combos is by pressing the correct button sequence. Most of the time you won't remember all of them, and a combo will just happen. You also aquire special items that effect the way you attack. The controls are the same as before, except you can now perform a taunt. The camera still could use work, as your only option is to re-center it with the L button.

If you don't feel like running around anymore, you can always hop on a horse or an elephant. The in-game messages that pop up are much more neatly placed, and you are now able to recognize who's talking. The amount of bodyguards you can have will also grow with progress. Each of the officers to choose from have there own unique skills. Some are faster than others, while some have greater attacking abilities. During battle with another general you have the option to an all-new feature: to fight in a one-on-one duel. The gameplay is very deep, and there is a lot going on in the game at once.

Once you complete an act, there is a summary of what happened, and how much time it took you. After that, it goes through all the new items you obtained and shows your rankings and other stats. After you defeat an enemy officer you usually get a power-up item. As you progress, your character only gets better and better. The 50 total stages, along with the 3 new officers only further enhance the depth of this game.

Graphics

As far as the graphics go, they don't seem to be much different from the last port of Dynasty Warriors 3 on Xbox. Here's what's the same from DW3 to DW4: you can't see from a far distance, draw-in appears, and some textures pop up still. Enemies still appear out of nowhere. The graphics are slightly better then DW3, as the textures show. There is a large amount of slow down when a lot of character models are on the screen at once, making some even disappear momentarily. When you do your Musou attack, it slows down sometimes to almost not moving at all. Sometimes this is good so you can aim your most powerful attack at a general, but it's so slow. The environments seem to be a little plain, but this is also due to the fact that you can't always seem them in the fog. If there was ever another Dynasty Warriors game released for Xbox, the only thing that needs updating is the graphics.

Sound

The voice acting is much improved from previous version; this is no longer a weak point for the Dynasty Warriors series. The generals sound a lot more serious this time around. The music is packed with guitar solos and hard bass, with a death metal beat. It's not bad, really. In fact, the in-game soundtrack is one of the best I have ever heard in a video game. Koei gave us Xbox gamers an update on the sound to Dolby Digital 5.1. The surround sound is really sweet in a game like this.

Replay

Dynasty Warriors 4 gives you that feeling of working together, and being part of a team. Having allies working together co-operatively gives this game more playing time. If it were just you, and no allies, then this game wouldn't be half as good as it is. After you play this game through in Musou, you might be hesitant to play it again. Although there are some other modes to play in, like free mode and challenge mode, the multiplayer mode is still the best option. With the 2-player action in Musou mode, you and a buddy can take on the enemy together.

Bottom Line:

If you are confused about anything in this complex game, the manual is well put together and will help a newcomer tremendously. If you ever wanted a game that would last a long time, has deep gameplay, and has a real history behind it, then Dynasty Warriors is your game. The Dynasty Warriors series has come a long way, and with this latest edition, it's the best we have seen yet.

-Steve Melanson




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