playstation 4

Review: Horizon: Zero Dawn


There is an old adage in entertainment media that products with female leads will simply not sell well enough to be worth the effort to develop them. This seems to go double for games, were only a select few have done anything close to ‘ok’ in terms of sales, and fewer still have gone on to spawn an entire franchise, with Tomb Raider and Metroid being the only real contenders and Metroid being a stretch as for almost all the games you are barely identifiable encased in Samus’ powered armour.

Looking up the list of female characters in games, distressingly few of them are women and even fewer not portrayed as either sidekicks or over sexualized. While I will freely admit that those characters who are a bit scantily clad tickle my hetero white male sensibilities (yes I am part of the problem), I also find the ability to play as a women enticing, especially if the character is written well.

Enter Aloy, star of Guerrilla Games Horizon: Zero Dawn. She is a arrow shooting, spear wielding bad ass who can tear through packs of robotic animals with ease, genuinely develops over the course of the game's story, and is never once portrayed as a damsel in distress. Aloy is, frankly, a next generation hero, someone who is already gaining popularity as cosplay and a game character Guerilla should be proud of.

Aloy’s world is a strange one. Set hundreds of years in the future, nature has reclaimed much of the planet and only ruins of our once great civilization remain. Humanity leaves in various tribes, but are united in a common enemy: the machines.

These robotic beasts have been shown in all of Horizon’s promo material and range from relatively small, to towering monsters bristling with advanced weaponry. They represent things like horses, rhino’s, birds of prey and crocodiles and each one is deadly in its own way. Aloy is dropped into this world with a...bow, not exactly the most advanced weapon ever made, but it is amazingly effective. Her mission is to figure out where she comes from, and what is going on with these machines.

The story is actually pretty great, it twists in some interesting ways and features some memorable characters, but all of them pale in comparison to Aloy herself. The voice acting is top notch throughout with each character a believable person in the context of the world, everyone tinged with mistakes or character flaws and some outright assholes.

After a start as a small, rebellious child, outcast from her tribe to live with her adoptive father, Aloy is eventually allowed to travel the wider world.The open world is huge, with draw distances to match, a play space that is truly stunning and a place that just existing in, not even completing missions or side quests, is worth doing. Climbing up to the top of a ridge or mountain and staring out over the landscape is something made for the photo sharing features of the PS4, and made my jaw drop on several occasions, even without the grunt of the PS4 Pro and a 4K TV.


There is plenty to do and see, but, and this is crucial to an open world game, nothing ever gets overwhelming. The map does contain hundreds of icons once you discover enough or earn the shards to buy the maps to reveal things, but most of those are simply the locations of various types of machines. The collectibles aren’t into the hundreds and I was able to collect them all pretty easily. The last game I did that on was Assassin's Creed II, so Horizon is in good company.

Improving Aloy’s skills and weapons rarely feels like a chore, with most of the materials required gained through the excellent battles against machines. The combat system is expertly crafted, and never gets old even when fighting human enemies, though admittedly these battles are never as interesting as battling even the smallest robots.

Each fight can be approached in different ways, but I found sneaking around and picking my shots the most effective. For example, I came upon a pack of Striders (robot horses essentially), so I snuck up through long grass to conceal my movements. These machines have ‘blaze’ canisters on their backs, so I shot one with a fire arrow. This caused the canister to ignite, resulting in an explosion that killed the target and severely damaged nearby Striders allowing me to pick them off one by one.

That tactic is so satisfying to pull off, though it comes with a downside. Because I destroyed the canister, I couldn’t loot that corpse for it, and this risk/reward mechanic comes into play often. With many machines I can do a similar thing, but I get less back than if I attacked them in a more conventional way. This extends to making ammo for the various weapons, as this takes resources such as those blaze canisters and wood, but also metal shards.

Shards are also the game's currency, so until you get to a point where you have the weapons and armour you are comfortable with, making ammo depletes your ability to purchase items. Killing enemies and machines will net you more and selling things to ample merchants dotted around solves this, but it is an interesting way to get people to think about the combat.

Each weapon also comes with tutorial missions, such as ‘trip three medium sized enemies’ for the trip caster, a weapon that fires wires that might explode or be charged with electricity. These are great experience earners but more than that get you to experiment with other weapons, even if it is just to complete them for the experience. Personally I found a good load out that allowed me to take on even the biggest machines with relative ease, but I also played on default difficulty.


Everything about playing the game is absolutely spot on, combat, missions, side quests. The biggest problem, and Horizon’s only major weakness is animation. I am not talking about animation out the world either, every human, every machine or animal moves perfectly even during combat. I am talking about during cut scenes, and it is absolutely atrocious at times.

Aloy just won’t stay still during scenes, her head is always moving, whether she is talking or not. This goes for the character she is talking to too, but she is the worst culprit. It would be better if this movement was in anyway smooth or natural but it’s not, it is a twitchy bouncy mess, giving Aloy a look of perpetual confusion and the disposition of someone suffering from Parkinson's disease than the naive outcast girl they paint her as in the writing.

It’s frustrating because every other part of the game is of such high quality that this one problem brings the package down, and does so unfairly. Playing the game is so much fun it never gets old, but these broken animations wear out very quickly and pull you out of the experience almost instantly after a while. It can be overlooked, but that then means losing out on an interesting story if you were to skip them or look at your phone.

After 50+ hours with it, I can tell you that Horizon: Zero Dawn is a fantastic game, well worth your time. The problems around the animation are not so bad that they spoil the act of playing, and you can certainly have plenty of fun running about the world without even doing the missions or side quests. The combat is stellar and the designs of the machines are awesome in some cases, providing genuinely intimidating foes to conquer.

The missions are generally great, providing a cool story with some twists and turns and take Aloy on a journey to discover her place in the world. It’s just those damn cut scenes, the game deserves better and while it is a small thing, it ultimately brings the whole thing down from ‘classic’ to ‘great’.Still, shooting robotic dinosaurs in the eyes with arrows is so much fun you would be silly not to give it a go.

Review: Titanfall 2

When the original Titanfall was released, it was, to be fair, a stripped down game. With no single player and a smaller budget than the team at Respawn Entertainment were used to, having come from Call of Duty creators Infinity Ward, they never the less created arguably 2014’s best multiplayer shooter.

Fast forward two years and Respawn return with Titanfall 2. The budget been increased, single player is in and the multiplayer has been refined to near perfection. In short, they did it again, and even more surprisingly the single player is awesome.

That mode focuses on rifleman Jack Cooper, who after a disastrous drop onto a planet is paired with Titan BT-7274, a vanguard class titan. The tutorial before this show’s BT’s former pilot taking Jack through training exercises so he can take his pilot's exam, showing you how to jump, wall run and shoot, it setting up the story in a way that invokes the opening of the original Halo. Once BT becomes Jack’s titan, the story really takes off.


BT is probably one of the best new characters in recent memory. The AI that makes up his personality gives advice to Cooper, along with world building exposition and the odd funny comment, born of a machine's inherent inability to understand sarcasm. It makes him believable, a character you can root for. The team of Cooper and BT take you through the story with a relationship that just feels right.

This adds to the universe Respawn started in the original game, which had very little world building. In contrast, even the levels in the sequel flesh things out, let alone all the actual exposition that is done with cutscenes etc. The only problem with the story is the fact that the bad guys are painted as ‘the bad guys’.

What I mean by this is that no time is devoted to why the IMC are actually battling the Militia forces in a galaxy spanning conflict, you are just given a gun, a titan and pointed in their general direction. Normally, this wouldn’t be much of an issue, but the rest of the campaign sets up such an interesting universe that it does it a disservice to have to go to a wiki to figure out quite what is going on in the greater war.

This extends to the ‘bosses’ of the campaign, a series of mercenaries known as the Apex Predator’s. There is no reason given for their employment, and are actually a bit of an overused trope as they say things like “I haven’t been paid to kill you”, pretty standard dialog when combined with all the comments that most other games use for their mercs.

On the plus side, a couple of these bosses are pretty cool. I especially like Viper, who pilots a airborne titan and spouts almost IP infringing dialog ripped straight out of Top Gun, and I appreciate the goofiness it brings to an already slightly goofy tale. This does feel a little random and out of place, but the boss fights don’t overstay their welcome, so it's a small niggle.

Every so often, BT gains a new loadout, taken from the Titan presets in the multiplayer mode. It is a great addition because it stops the sections where you stay in the cockpit becoming boring, giving you new toys to play with. Not all of them are perfect, but that is very much a player preference thing, and with that said, there was something about each that was kinda cool, such as the Ronin loadouts electrified sword that can be used to deflect bullets.

There are some great levels in the campaign, with Effect and Cause being one of the most cleverly designed shooter levels in recent memory. It is cohesive and fun, and doesn’t take the gimmick of it too far. I am trying not to spoil things, as it really is part of what makes the campaign so good. One of the final missions is a blast as well, again not overstaying its welcome with its gimmick.

Overall the campaign is a brilliant, a real surprise to an already great package, assuming that they didn’t mess with the gameplay in the first one. They in fact did, but the changes made streamline aspects of the core feel, and this makes Titanfall 2 one of the best multiplayer shooters in years.

All the usual unlocks, merits and modes are there, but changing your character gives you a primary ‘Tactical’ ability. So if you want to use the STIM pack, that is a different character model than the one with the grapple hook, with every weapon available for all models.

As you unlock more, secondary abilities can be swapped, giving you personal cloaks among other things. The original game suffered from what felt like a very small amount of unlockables, but Titanfall 2 strikes a good balance. Is it as many as in say Call of Duty? No, but it doesn’t need to be, there is enough to unlock without feeling like you got everything super quick.

The nebulous ‘feel’ of the game is pitch perfect, I have rarely played matches where no matter how bad I did, it felt great to play. I wasn’t killed almost upon spawn, battles escalate nicely, I never felt hopelessly outclassed and felt like with some deft exploitation of the environments I could get the drop on opponents. I managed to get a three skill streak in more than a few matches with this and it felt great.

Titanfall 2 is a great package. It has a surprisingly great single player campaign, with some memorable characters, outstanding levels and badass moments. The multiplayer is the perfect way to battle real players, escalating to pitched battles with Titan vs Titan and pilot vs pilot action. If you want a lasting shooter experience, you can do no better.

Review: Doom (2016)

Ah DOOM. It is the game that changed so much. ID software’s seminal shooter, while not the first FPS on the market, was responsible for many’s first foray into modding, online multiplayer, hyper violence and the first person viewpoint. I remember playing it as a kid, and it remains one of my favourite games of all time, and the series has earned its place in gaming’s hall of fame.


The first two games are classics in the truest sense, games that at the time were revolutionary, gaining a following that endures to this day. The third game, DOOM 3, which came out ten years after the original, doesn’t hold quite as much reverence, with many citing it as the end times for the series.

So when ID announced a new game in the venerable series, at the time called Doom 4, then later retitled to just DOOM, people were a little worried. Added to this was the fact that a multiplayer beta received much criticism and no review copies were sent out to reviewers before hand, generally a dark sign for the quality of a game.

Those worries, thankfully, were completely unfounded. The rebooted DOOM is the classic games through and through, but with updated mechanics, graphics and design that does everything required to bring what you remember about the original hurtling into the 21st century. In short, DOOM 2016 has no right to be this good.


The game's campaign opens with you awakening inside an ancient crypt, brutally killing a demon and escaping to find the ‘Praetor Suit’, the armour that will provide you protection from the forces of hell. Brilliantly, ID software have continued the tradition of not really naming the protagonist, instead the logs etc that you find simply refer to you as ‘The Doom Marine’.

From there, it's all about the killing. Like the first games, this new take focuses on brutal, bloody death with unabashed glee. It is everything that made you smile when you were younger, except now you can actually legally play it (being over 18 that is). As you travel about Mars and then Hell itself, you are given the tools to take down whatever is thrown at you.

These tools range from classic DOOM weapons like the super shotgun, plasma rifle and chain gun, to new brutal melee kills that aren’t there just for show, but one of the best ways to regain health. As you shoot enemies, they eventually stagger and glow blue. Get closer and that glow turns orange and you can hit a button to perform a ‘glory kill’ which rewards you with important health and after some upgrades, Armour.

This brutality extends to another classic weapon, the chainsaw. The iconic device makes a triumphant return, and it is just as satisfying as ever to rip through demons. However, changes have been made. It now requires fuel, which is in short supply. On the plus side, taking down enemies with it rewards you with a spray of ammo pick ups for your other weapons.

The result is a glorious ballet of shooting, melee and ammo replenishment via the chainsaw, with everything covered in so much blood that you could refloat the Titanic twice over. It is a game that will offend anyone still concerned with the violence in the medium, but to those who remember, those who know, this is what DOOM has and always will be.


Levels are massive, with lots of area’s to explore, and explore you should. Dotted around the environment are various upgrades and secrets and help with all the destruction, and the game doesn’t make finding these a chore. The DOOM marine can mantle up to surfaces, jump and eventually double jump, and even gain an upgrade that shows all the collectible locations on the map.

It makes it a pleasure to go through the levels, though some of these upgrades are a bit pointless and it can be difficult, even with the upgrades, to truly find everything. Some power ups though, are awesome. Take for example, the machine guns micro missile upgrade. This allows you to alt fire using small explosive missiles, couple that with an late game upgrade that allows you to have infinite ammo while your Armour is above 100, and you can’t help to laugh maniacally as you rain explosions on a room full of bad guys.

The story is there mainly to give some context to your actions, and as can probably be seen from how late it is in this review, isn’t the reason to play the campaign. Gameplay rules supreme here, and while the universe is fleshed out with cut scenes and the logs found strewn throughout the levels, ultimately I just wanted to get back to the killing of hell-spawn.

By the end of the game, which will take a good chunk of time, the destructive itch will have been scratched several times over. The ripping apart of classic DOOM enemies - Imps, Cacodemons, Revenants, Pinky demons and Hell Knights to name but a few - never gets old, and combat remains fun throughout.

ID Software have included a multiplayer component, and level design section ala Halo’s Forge mode, and these are fine inclusions for the most part, but once I was finished with the campaign, I had more than my share of DOOM.

I feel like the campaign of DOOM 2016 is something I could go back to time and again. The combination of updated mechanics and classic feel make it something special, and as I said before, it never gets old.

This new take on the classic franchise is everything anyone wanted out of the latest in the series and then some, as I said at the start of this review, it has no right to be this good, and it is more than worth your time.

Review: Dark Souls III

*this was originally posted on thisismyjoystick

What’s the first thing you do after being away for a few days? If I was to take a guess, you’re like me and crawl into the warm comfort of your very own bed, pull the covers up and drift off into a nice slumber – safe in the knowledge that this is the bed that had been calling to you all weekend.

Dark Souls III is much like that bed after a few days away. It provides the safe, warm comfort of pitch-perfect gameplay and challenge the series is known for. This time round there are a few changes thrown into the mix, as well as it being a breathtaking visual feast.

Set in the kingdom of Lothric, Dark Souls III represents a somewhat faster pace than previous entries, especially in terms of moving and fighting. This was no doubt informed by From Software’s previous game, Bloodborne. I missed that game, but did play Dark Souls II on PS4, and some of the changes from that are… strange.

For example, the mechanic where enemies stop showing up after a few deaths is completely gone. No matter how many times you run through an area after dying (and yes, you will do that a lot – this is a Souls game), enemies never stop respawning.

Whilst I can see both sides of the argument here, I have to follow my gut: this is a bad thing. While yes, more things to fight in a game with such pitch-perfect combat is not a bad idea, it does mean you can get stuck into sections, just running round doing the same thing over and over again.

The nature of the combat means that this is fun every time, but it does not provide any incentive to move on. It also means that at least one large section per area is ripe for farming souls. I got stuck in an early area for well over five hours just fighting the same enemies, not moving on to see new bosses.

Dark Souls III does provide the freedom to go about your business in that way and really learn an area before you do in fact force yourself to move on, but you’re the one that has do it. The Souls games have never been about hand-holding; you are given a set of nebulous rules and told to work everything else out. Nevertheless, this feels like a wasted opportunity to tempt exploration and get the player to discover more secrets first time through.

Besides the pace and lack of reasons to persist, not much else has changed. The only difference from Dark Souls II is how the hollowing mechanic has been implemented. In that game, being hollowed slowly lowered your maximum health each time you met your end, down to a maximum of half. This gave some real consequence to each death, making things that little bit harder each time.

While hollowing is still a mechanic in Dark Souls III, it has very little effect on gameplay, save for opening/closing certain quest lines. Some might welcome the change and others hate it, but for me it was just one more thing to keep track of and try to find a solution to in the previous game – one that was pretty easily solved too. Its absence here just makes everything that little bit more focused.

So aside from the setting, pacing and not having your health lowered upon death, what has changed? Not much, to be honest. If you loved the previous games, then Dark Souls III is that all over again, and this is no bad thing. What’s more, if you haven’t partaken before then now is the perfect time to jump in.

It is a master-work of gameplay that forces you to, quite simply, pay attention. There is no such thing as cannon fodder enemies here. Each and every one, no matter how small they might look, is actively trying to kill you – and will, given half a chance.

Dark Souls III always provides you with the ability to prevent this, though; you just have to figure out how to do it. A well-timed dodge or roll and quick counter will dispatch many quickly, with harder enemies requiring the use of other weapons/magic in your arsenal to take down.

Various merchants will appear to help you with acquiring new weapons and powers, while those massive, powerful bosses provide large souls that will net you even better gear if your character is built to use it. These look seriously cool and vary each time with some real stand-outs (which I won’t spoil here) in terms of visual design.

I played as a pyromancer and had an absolute blast (pun intended) throwing fireballs and playing around with the other magic at my disposal, while shredding dudes with – for a surprising amount of time – my starting axe. Of course, I found a new weapon, but I kinda loved the fact that I could compete so well for so long with that humble thing.

It took me all of about five minutes to get back into the Souls mindset, even after not playing Dark Souls II for several months. It just felt right, and I knew where to be cautious and how to figure out my opponent’s attacks. I ran through those starting areas for hours and every time I felt like I had it down, I made one silly mistake and lost thousands of souls (the currency, for the uninitiated), because I was still underestimating basic enemies.

Dark Souls III looks and sounds brilliant, with every noise potentially signalling a death-dealing foe or trap around the next corner. Spectacular views as you emerge from seemingly mundane doorways show the visual bump the series has had even since its current-generation debut last year. The animation is just as smooth as in previous games too, helping you to determine when is best to hit the attack button and when to dodge incoming attacks.


All of the elements of a true Dark Souls game are here: ambient storytelling, powerful enemies, cool bosses, a real sense of world-building and of course, fantastic gameplay.

My only issues are niggles at best that do nothing to distract from playing a brilliant game. As always with Souls games it’s not too hard, just demanding and fair, providing hours of enjoyment even without moving to a new area.

It’s a great starting point for series newcomers as the story is pretty self-contained in each entry, and the lessons learned over four previous games have been refined to a T here. If you don’t like the Dark Souls games then it likely won’t change your mind, but everyone else will be in their element.

Review: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4

*this was originally posted on thisismyjoystick

What’s the antithesis to the idea that modern games are devoid of colour? Put simply, CyberConnect2’s latest Naruto game, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4. This is a game that will bathe you in bright lights and pretty colours for as long as you chose to spend playing it.

If you like Anime, love Naruto, or just want a surprisingly solid fighting game, then this is the game you want to play. It’s not without flaws, but I was genuinely surprised by the way it drew me in, even if I had my fill without extensive play of the other modes.

Ultimate Ninja Storm 4’s story is, to be frank, nuts. I have no idea what really went on, there was something about ninja clans, tailed beasts, a world-ending bad guy, and a moral about friendship and working together to beat anything.

I was actually surprised by how this completely insane story drew me in, and it made me want to see the lengthy mode through, even though I actually spent only maybe an hour or two playing the actual game. This being anime, we are talking about Metal Gear Solid levels of putting the controller down to watch cut-scenes.

I haven’t watched much of the Naruto show, but I have seen a few minutes here and there, and Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 does a very good job of looking the same, with the out of engine cut-scenes seemingly taken straight from the cartoon. Aside from the problems with lip-sync, everything sounds great, and the battle effects took me back to my youth watching anime for the first time.

Not all these scenes are that well animated, some are in-engine and some aren’t, with the ones that aren’t featuring characters that have either poor lip-sync or a mask to cover the problem. The in-engine ones have characters talking, but the lip-sync is even worse there, with mouths moving before any dialogue even comes out.

It is enough to pull you out of the experience, but the story kicks in and pulls you back with the craziness that comes with a full-on anime experience. I didn’t play the first few games in this series, but if they are anything like this one it would be worthy trip back in time.

The actual gameplay is pure fighting game and it’s solid, with a surprisingly deep combat system that I didn’t even come close to scratching the surface of. I played on PS4, so hitting circle will do basic combat, but adding in other buttons creates some real spectacle.

By hitting triangle, your character will load ‘chakra’, which basically means they’ll power up for a few seconds. If you time it right, tapping circle will unleash a ninjutsu attack which, depending on the character, can do a few different things. For the most part, it involves launching massive energy balls at opponents causing large explosions. Like I said, anime.

The ultimate version of this is the secret technique, and when I say this looks cool you best believe me. Hitting with one of those will blast enemies with attacks so powerful that the camera heads to a birds eye view to catch the full size of the explosion, and there is nothingmore satisfying. You can even do a team-up version, which is even more spectacular, as some fights grant you allies that you can call on by tapping L1 or R1.

I was never able to fully utilize these allies though. At the start of each battle in the story, you are given a task-list to complete. They might range from performing a twenty-five hit combo, to hitting with a ninjutsu attack three times, to knocking an opponent off a wall. When you have allies, these include ‘connect with X persons support attack’, the problem is that I could never figure out how this worked.

I would get into position, hit L1, my ally appears and hits the opponent, but I never met the condition. I couldn’t work out if because I wasn’t actually hitting, or the angle of the camera was wrong, or something else; it proved very frustrating to try and figure out but fail each time.

To be fair, this is likely me playing badly, but the Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 simply doesn’t do a good job of explaining when best to use this and what counts as a hit with it. Its a problem with a lot of fighting games, the tutorials simply aren’t there, and in order to get good you have to spend hundreds of hours learning everything.

There is plenty to learn too. Cancels, counters, guards, throws, it’s all here, but those large combos I could never pull off; I just couldn’t figure out how to keep the combo going to the point of hitting that many times. I could get into double digits, but never further than fifteen or so, even with the aforementioned super-charged attacks.

In certain instances you can trigger a series of quick-time button presses, which give all the most impressive scenes some agency, though you do miss out on what is happening by focusing on the action you need to perform. Still, by the end of the scene, someone is definitely screwed up, and your brain, if it is anything like mine, will struggle to process what just happened.

I was able to figure out enough to get through the story, and I found that once I had, I pretty much had my limit. I checked out the other modes, but really I had all I wanted out of the batshit crazy story. These modes consist of an adventure mode set after the events of the story, where Naruto takes quests and battles random enemies. Free battle and online battle, where it becomes more of a straight up fighter, and collection mode, allowing you to view stuff you have unlocked.

Adventure seemed like you could spend a good few hours playing, but it just didn’t have the balls-out action and insanity of story, and felt boring by comparison. The battle modes render it down to just the fighting to let you perfect and battle your friends, possibly meaning you can go back through the story and get that perfect S rank, but I’d had enough at that point.


I almost wish Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 was just the story, with maybe the battle modes thrown in as an extra. It has everything I personally want out of this type of game, but has a combat system that has enough depth to carry those inclined to play online.

The biggest downside to the battle system is the fact that the camera can prove unwieldy. Numerous times I ended up with the camera behind my opponent, causing instant confusion when I was tapping buttons but doing something else. A few seconds later I figured it out, but it is a dumb thing to happen in a fighting game.

Yes, I have manual control of the camera, but that’s not the point. Concentrating on fighting means that camera control is a secondary concern, and Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 should do a better job of keeping it focused on the player’s avatar. It’s not the first game to do this, and probably won’t be the last, but it is a problem that should be ironed out as soon as possible.

“Go Ninja Go”, or just “Go, ninja”?

I would still give this a shot. The fighting system is deep enough to scratch that itch, the story provides a level of insanity few others can match, and there is plenty to do once you complete it, if you find that the story isn’t enough.

It’s not the most stunning fighting game ever made, but I dug what Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 was doing. It looks cool, and blasts light and colour into your eyeballs with unabashed glee. It revels in fun and might just be worth your time.

Review: Samurai Warriors 4

*this was originally posted on thisismyjoystick

It’s not often one series pretty much corners the market, so much so that the game becomes the genre it created. The Warriors games did this many years ago and, due to various spin offs, if you want to play a game in this genre, it comes from the developer Omega Force.

The latest of these spin off games is Samurai Warriors 4, and represents the genre’s first real leap to the next-gen systems. Unfortunately, that leap doesn’t extend to improved gameplay, graphical prowess or storytelling, and leaves it showing only a small spark of promise that is instantly snuffed once you realise how repetitive it all is.

I haven’t played any of the previous games before it, so I went into this with little to no expectations on what the moment-to-moment gameplay really was. I had an idea, but I was happy to expand my horizons with a series I had never played before, and at first I was pleasantly surprised with a starting character’s ability to mow down hundreds of guys easily.

Soon after, though, I realised that that is literally all you do. Sure, you pick up items to help you out in the next battle, but you really only wander a boring battlefield attacking anything with a health bar until they disappear to indicate you have killed them. This is accomplished with a simplistic combat system that could almost be deep if it wasn’t so pointless.

That system is essentially two buttons to control different attack types, but by stringing them together, you can unleash a whole heap of different attacks. The problem is that it is all window dressing; just one heavy attack and one light attack would do, especially when combined with the musou attacks and rage meter, which grant screen filling spectacles that clear out an area – and any more powerful enemies – very quickly.

Trying to hit buttons in the right way to unleash the different moves in the list feels like button mashing because that is exactly what it is. The move list itself doesn’t do what it says, compromising of a bunch of pictures of the square and triangle buttons next to each other, with no context as what hitting them in that order actually does. It does make the player character do different things, but I just didn’t care.

The story mode makes this worse and consists of a series of battles segmented by what appear to be various historic Japanese clans, fighting it out during what’s known as ‘The Sengoku Period’, though it never really tells you what that means. So a series of five battles will be fought for one clan, then the credits roll with an incredibly boring and drama-free end to that storyline, and you move on to the next.

These segments offer different characters to control, each with their own weapon, but once again, none of it really matters. Each character has pretty much the same move list in terms of controls; it’s just what happens on screen that may vary, but not so much that it makes any real difference. They just aren’t distinct enough.

Story wise, Samurai Warriors 4 is both terrible and inconsistent. If this is supposed to be set during a real historical period in Japan, why does one of the segments feature what appears to be a demon who can disappear at will? Why would you be fighting a set of enemies in one segment, only to have them be your allies in the next? Why do some characters have magical abilities if this is a real battle during that period? It makes absolutely no sense at all.

The voice acting and lip syncing are both terrible

It isn’t helped by the fact that the voice acting and lip syncing are both terrible, and there is no option for an English voice-over. To be fair on that last point it is a game set in Japan in a period where no-one spoke English, so in one sense it is understandable, but it might have given what little plot there is more meaning to a western audience.

On the plus side, there is the odd small spark of inspiration during the campaign. If the developers had focused on fewer characters and woven the story between a few different sides of the same conflict, showing why exactly those people are fighting and the political machinations that lead to each battle, it would have proved much more interesting. Sadly, that spark is put out by poor writing, terrible voice work and a complete lack of sense.

The other modes included are a Free mode where you can play any level with any unlocked character, and Chronicle mode, which is actually the one good thing about the whole package – that is until you realise you still have to fight the battles.

Chronicle mode lets you create a character and then sets them free to wander Japan and build up a book about the people from the Story mode. You do this by either increasing your friendship with them by changing your ‘life’s ambition’ or by fighting alongside them, depending on the character.


Defeating them in battle somehow translates to them becoming your friend and saying they will join you on your journey, and to be fair, it can be interesting to see how these characters progress. On the other hand, it is all stuff you can find out about the real people on the internet and it brings little to the table other than trophy/achievement chasing.

At least the game runs smoothly, as I didn’t notice any frame rate issues or graphical bugs, but it also isn’t the prettiest thing to look at. Some cut-scenes look okay, with the majority just as good as anything on the previous generation, but they wouldn’t have been anything special then and they certainly aren’t now.

I suppose I should have realised just how bad things really were when every single menu option always defaults to ‘No’, and that includes the one that asks me if I want to load my save game. If you are actively asking your player base to not load the save for your game, something has gone very wrong.


Wrong. Samurai Warriors 4 is not a good game by any standards. On Easy and Normal it is so mind-numbingly repetitive that you wish for something, anything to break up the flow, but increasing the difficulty just leads to frustration as it tasks you with moving around the battlefield at a pace characters are not set up for.

The few small areas that see Samurai Warriors blossom into a truly great game are crushed by this frustrating gameplay loop, dropping the whole thing into an endless abyss it never recovers from. There are far better ways to spend your money on the new consoles, so don’t waste it on this.