Way of the Samurai 4 Review

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Developer(s): Acquire
Publisher(s): Spike, XSEED Games, NIS America
Platforms: Playstation 3
Review Platform: PS3
Release Date: August 21, 2012

Lots of people have dreamed of being a samurai. Defending honor, sticking up for the little guy, and awesome sword fights are all in a day’s work. It’s not a bad life to have lived. Way of the Samurai 4 allows players to play as a samurai, avoiding their usual lives of stale Cheetos and not nearly enough sword fights. Instead of giving a beautiful glimpse into a life we’ll never live, this game shows that being a samurai isn't always awesome.
  • Open ended story
  • Complete free roaming capabilities
  • The acting is horrible
  • Combat is sluggish and unrewarding
  • NPCs are shells of people
The opening cutscenes and gameplay of a game are crucial. They need to introduce players to the world, give a quick tutorial, and excite us enough to keep playing. The beginning of Way of the Samurai 4 is the perfect example of what not to do. We first see a cutscene. This is followed by a loading screen, then a cutscene. The player then gets to walk forward five feet to be rewarded by two more loading screens and another cutscene. The first fight follows this, and it is an incredibly short fight. Another batch of loading screens and cutscenes, then a fight with multiple enemies. Not to give players too much fun, Samuria 4 treats us to another cutscene and loading screen partnership. After this was another fight and another bunch of cutscenes. To any readers wondering why the loading screens are mentioned, the loading screens happen before and after every cutscene. This shouldn’t be a big issue as it will only take thirty seconds to load, but the formula is loading screen, cutscene, loading screen, cutscene, loading screen. Why can’t the game load up the consecutive cutscenes at once, as if it were one big scene? That would be a lot less rage inducing, though a loading screen followed by a dull cutscene is rage inducing on its own.


While watching these cut scenes, a big question came to mind: is the acting terrible on purpose? The voice acting carries no emotion, there are unnaturally long pauses after each line, and characters move like robots made in the 1980’s. There are two possible reasons for this. First option: this is homage to the samurai films of the 1970’s, such as Lady Snowblood and Lone Wolf and Cub. Watching the cutscenes from Samurai 4 feel like watching an old samurai film for a number of reasons. The main reason is the acting. Line delivery feels incredibly stilted, and the editing of dialog is lackluster, specifically people waiting five seconds after someone else spoke regardless of the urgent nature of the subject. The second option is that Way of the Samuria 4 just has terrible cutscenes. I’m much more inclined to pick the second option, as the first option feels like something said after the fact to cover up mistakes. The most glaring mistake is the way the characters moved. Characters move as if they are trying to stop the onset of rigor mortis, and that is a glaring mistake that in no way can be called an homage. It’s just shoddy game design, which really leads option two to be the best explanation for the game’s cut scenes.


People aren’t playing a samurai game for the acting or story. The sword fighting is the main draw with this kind of game. It’s a shame that for this particular title, the sword fighting will probably push you away. Players are given the opportunity to fight anyone at anytime. Just whip out the sword and hack away. That woman enjoying a walk? Ruin it. That old man selling enough to support his family and medical bills? Make his kids orphans. The best part of being a samurai, as Way of the Samuria 4 taught me, is being an ass. The most fun to be had in this game is finding an NPC doing their own thing and repeatedly bumping into them. The body of the NPC will jiggle like Jello and they will try to walk away. It’s hilarious to watch these mannequin-esque people not respond to being physically touched in anyway other than having a full body seizure. Players are given the chance to speak to these citizens, and there are two dialog options available. The only one worth picking is “I can kill you, you know.” This causes the NPC to run away. As far as I can tell, there is no repercussion for telling this to everyone in the city and causing mass hysteria.

In a fight with a rival samurai, or someone not taking kindly to you killing merchants, the game shows off its true colors: mediocrity. There are a few different moves to utilize, but having a wide arsenal doesn’t make a big difference. Players are able to succeed in any fight by following an easy pattern: block, grab, heavy attack. The fights also show off the glitchy nature of this game. While sparring, combatants will phase through objects on the ground as if they weren’t there, and the hit detection will spaz out occasionally, causing what should have been a detrimental blow to affect the enemy no more than a jab with a finger. However, the best glitch in the game happened a few times after killing an enemy. If you’re having trouble figuring out what’s happening in that definitely-not-a-cell-phone-video, that would be a slain enemy seizing up with their head partially stuck under a fence. Inaudible in the video is the awful grinding noise that accompanied the glitch, which sounded like rusty gears attempting to spin smoothly.


There is one large positive aspect of this game. The dialog choice mentioned two paragraphs above isn’t the only time such an option is given. Most cutscenes feature multiple chances to speak your mind. This is one of the best concepts of the game, as it allows for multiple outcomes of not only the entire game, but of each little scene along the way. The first big choice players have is to either let a group of thugs kidnap a British girl. The choice can be made to either fight and rescue her or to give up. I made the choice to jump off the dock, which apparently means I chose to fight for her rescue. Once the fight begins, the icon for dialog options pops up. Opening the menu allows players to either taunt or surrender. Surrendering shows the samurai lay down his weapons and get put on train tracks. This is the first time there is a choice; the game is littered with them. The open-ended nature of the game is the high point.

Way of the Samurai 4 is now available for Playstation 3. If learning that being a samurai is a boring, glitchy experience sounds exciting, then this is the game for you. If the open world and open-ended endings sound interesting, there are better games that do the same thing.

Final Score “Shows us samurais aren’t always cool” 5.0
Graphics
The visuals of Way of the Samurai 4 are very impressive for 2007. In modern times, we look at games with textures that don’t appear out of focus and clothing that moves somewhat realistically. When a group of people is watching a samurai fight, the group would probably follow the fight, not stare at one spot and not blink.
4.5
Gameplay
The most fun in this game is stuff that was not intended to be fun. That’s never a good sign. The fights almost always feel the same. Walking around the world isn’t interesting, as it doesn’t feel alive. Interacting with NPCs is reminiscent of talking to stuffed animals.
4.0
Value
There is a decent amount of content put into the game. The story is up to the player and lends itself to be played a few times to get every outcome. If the player doesn’t get bogged down in the lame mechanics of the gameplay, then there is a fair amount to this game.
5.5
Sound
The voice acting is on par with student films. This will make the cutscenes you are forced to watch that much worse. The sound effects, while not bad, are entirely unimpressive. The music fit the game, but again, won’t wow most people.
5.0

Review by Chris Lohr
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Chris Lohr is a freelance writer currently in film school. If you’re looking for him to write for your website, manifesto, or Russian bride catalogue, send an email to puddinginasock@gmail.com. Put today’s date as the subject line and include a picture of yourself. Must be DDD free and willing to host. All Articles by Chris.



1 comment:

  1. I love the Way of the Samurai series, but I certainly can't argue any low scores. It's very much for a devout niche and they're not well made games.

    The original games in the series (I have not played 4) had a really unique take on multiple endings, with different paths ending the game at different times. At one point in WotS 1 I decided to not go into town, and that ended my game right there, because the story took place in town. Each ending also gave you a new character skin and/or sword. With the different swords being completely different fighting styles, a new blade basically meant a new character. Pretty cool system, I hope it carried over into the fourth installment.

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