Samurai Warriors 4 Review

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There’s never been a better time for Warriors fans. From last year’s fantastic Dynasty Warriors 8 to the recent Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate and the brilliant Hyrule Warriors, developer Omega Force has tackled the new console generation with great enthusiasm and creative vigor. Dynasty Warriors’ Three Kingdoms premise attracted a vast following after DW2 refined its predecessor’s mechanics back in 2000, and only a handful of Tecmo’s many spin-offs reached similar success. While Dynasty Warriors lingered in the spotlight over the years, their sister series, Samurai Warriors, struggled to attain equal recognition and gameplay finesse. But much like the recently revamped Orochi franchise, Samurai Warriors is finally stepping out of the shadows. With drastically improved visuals and tighter combat, Samurai Warriors 4 has earned the title as Tecmo’s best hack n’ slash to date.

"With drastically improved visuals and tighter combat, Samurai Warriors 4 has earned the title as Tecmo’s best hack n’ slash to date."

Like previous Samurai Warriors titles, the story takes place during feudal Japan where iconic warlords duke it out on the battlefield. The story mode is split into several small campaigns, each representing different viewpoints. Instead of choosing two weapon sets like in Dynasty Warriors, players choose two heroes to dominate the front lines. Both fighters are switchable during gameplay, making the scattered objectives easier to reach. Samurai Warriors 4 boasts a whopping 55 playable heroes, including a substantial character creator in Chronicle Mode, an RPG-like crusade where players take on missions with their custom avatar. All characters from previous releases return with twelve new warriors making their debut. No warrior plays the same, so it’s impossible to grow tired of a particular fighting style.

It’s difficult to talk about gameplay in these games without sounding like a broken record. Fundamentally, they’re all similar with small variants differentiating each series. It ultimately boils down to mashing attack buttons and obliterating thousands of enemy soldiers. Missions consist of immense open maps with various objectives constantly popping up in every corner. Samurai Warriors 4 sets itself apart with fast-paced Hyper Attacks and powerful Rage Attacks. Hyper Attacks are useful for clearing large enemy hordes, but are usually ineffective against generals and bosses, and Rage Mode empowers Musou attacks by draining the spirit gauge. Musou attacks are unique over-the-top special moves highlighted by flashy cinematics that show the warrior annihilating everyone in sight. 

"Textures, lighting, character models, everything has been meticulously reworked and perfected."

Once the spirit gauge is full, players can enter an invulnerability state via R3, at which point they can perform Ultimate Musou, a chaotic special attack that can take down even the toughest bosses. Generals can be hard to beat as they oftentimes come in packs and have absurdly high health. But once weakened, players can perform finishing moves (similar to Warriors: Legends of Troy), which are quick-animations triggered by an on-screen prompt.

Instead of mid-game power-ups like in Dynasty Warriors, players choose collected items pre-battle to heal or bolster their hero. This makes fights more strategic, encouraging vigilant brawling and more cautious item management. Between battles, players can enter shops where weapons can be upgraded, as well as melted down for gems. Depending on the equipment, gems can add various attributes to each available weapon slot to aid warriors during combat. This spices up battles even further by giving combos impressive elemental powers.

SW 4 can be played solo or via two-player multiplayer. Being able to tackle different sections of the battlefield with a buddy makes missions more dynamic, allowing players to complete bonus objectives much easier. Couch co-op is a blast, but the archaic online structure makes finding teammates unnecessarily difficult. Players have to select a stage first, then wait and hope someone is playing the same area and seeking cooperative assistance. Instead, why not add a quick-match system so that players who don’t care about the field they’re playing on can quickly find matches.

"The audience tends to be split on these type of games...people either love them or hate them, but Samurai Warriors 4 may break that trend."

Samurai Warriors 4 is beautiful. That’s not a term commonly used to describe Warriors games. Sure, they always have a ton of on-screen chaos, but there’s never been this much attention paid to the details. Textures, lighting, character models, everything has been meticulously reworked and perfected. Characters move with fluidity and grace through environments filled beautiful architecture and lush vegetation. Even the throwaway enemy soldiers are more diverse compared to previous entries. 

The music is equally impressive, although it doesn’t have the same charm as Dynasty Warriors’ guitar riffs. The only downside is the exclusion of English voice-overs. While I typically prefer authentic dialogue in import titles, reading endless lines of text while fighting breaks the immersion, making it difficult to follow the narrative. Nevertheless, Samurai Warriors 4 looks and sounds fantastic and is undoubtedly the most technically impressive Warriors entry yet. 

Why choose Samurai Warriors 4 over other Tecmo hack n’ slash entries? Well, it’s a combination of accessibility and polish. The narrative is easier to follow, even for newcomers, and each gameplay mechanic has been tweaked to perfection. The frame rate remains a locked 60 fps, no matter how many enemies fill the screen and the fighting feels more fluid and precise. The audience tends to be split on these type of games...people either love them or hate them, but Samurai Warriors 4 may break that trend. It’s stupendously enjoyable and offers more value than most recent AAA releases. Longtime fan or not, Samurai Warriors 4 is a must buy for anyone craving classic beat em’ up action with a new coat of paint. 

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4



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