It’s another Warriors game, folks! Fresh on the heels of the Wii U exclusive Hyrule Warriors comes another exclusive of sorts, Samurai Warriors 4, available on the PS3, PS4 and Vita; you want it on the PS4, though the Vita version is portable and that’s a solid plus. Anyway, do I need to go into what you do here? You pick a dude and, through copious application of the square and triangle buttons, shove other dudes into the grave by the millions. This particular flavor of the series is based on the Sengoku period of Japan. There’s a few new additions to the formula but generally you know what you’re getting here and Koei serves it up piping hot, as always.
My favorite addition to the Warriors formula is the “Hyper Attack.” This is basically a massive wide-range attack designed to slaughter mooks by the horde. Sure, all your other attacks can do that too, but not to the extent that a character specialized in Hyper Attacks can. A couple button presses will lay waste to entire armies. It’s nuts. Naturally, these attacks don’t work on enemy officers, so you’ll need to close in and fight those battles in a more traditional manner. This is a great way of making the series’ main mechanic (killing hordes of dudes) much more convenient.
Naturally, Samurai Warriors 4 boasts a dizzying cast of characters – over 50 in total, most of whom you’re not going to be familiar with unless you’re a devoted Warriors fan or a student of Japanese history. I know who Oda Nobunaga is, at least! Most missions allow you to select two of these and switch between them mid-battle at will, allowing you to cover multiple parts of a battlefield, a feature originally seen in the 3DS Samurai Warriors: Chronicles (which sucked, and the mechanic is a much-appreciated addition to a better game.)
There’s a choice for pretty much any playstyle, ranging from your standard katana-wielding samurai to stabbity-stabbin’ spear users to spellcasters, so chances are you’ll find something that hits the right notes. Characters specialize in various abilities, like normal combos or Hyper Attacks, and will improve based on what you use, so generally they’ll trend toward your favorite techniques over time.
Still, if none of the built-in characters work for you, there’s also a character creation option available via the Chronicle Mode, where you take your own dude on a quest to become best buds with your favorites from the main cast and kill the crap out of everyone else. You can customize your hero’s looks, choose a fighting style for them (including a badass sword-and-rifle combo first seen in Chronicles) and gear them up to your liking. Victory allows you to earn new gear and moves to further improve your customized character. It’s probably the best part of the game, honestly.
Chronicle is the mode I’d recommend for newcomers to the series since it’s much more accessible than the present-and-accounted-for Story mode. If you’re not familiar with these characters it can feel bit like being thrown into the deep end of a pool filled with dead mooks. As always, you can choose from several factions to represent in Story Mode and completing missions yields unlocks like new characters, weapons, gear and story paths.
As you’d expect for the PS4, the graphics are gorgeous and run at a lovely 60fps with no frame rate drops. Everything is gorgeously stylized – in particular, the series’ signature Musou and True Musou attacks are amazing and it’s worth checking them out for each character. The sound and music are the series’ standard butt-rock, this time with a Japanese flair. If you’ve liked it before, you’ll like it here; if you haven’t, well, reach for that mute button.
Koei’s learned to pander to the reptile brain with these games. The base gameplay remains relatively simple but all the little additions in Samurai Warriors 4 keep the game engaging. The enormous amount of content available doesn’t hurt, of course, and fans of the series can’t go wrong here. When Koei eventually releases and localizes Samurai Warriors 4: Empires, as they tend to, you might regret your purchase. But until then you’ll have a great time hacking and slashing away.