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April 3, 2010
Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
9/3/2010THQTecmo-KoeiKoei Omega Force12-4
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating
Disc2000MB720pDD5.1NoM

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Dynasty Warriors Strikeforce on PS3.
There are many well-known rhetorical questions such as "How long is a piece of string?", "How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?" and even parents' favourite "Are we there yet?". Before too long Koei will have created another: "How many times will consumers pay to play the same game?". In fairness to Koei, they are doing their best to find a definitive answer to that question. Yes it's that time of the year (or is it quarter, or month?) when Koei release yet another Dynasty Warriors game, this time with the snappy "Strikeforce" moniker attached. The real question is, does this title add anything to, or improve upon the myriad of previous entries in the series?

Early in the Playstation 2's life-span I remember stumbling across Dynasty Warriors 3 at the local video shop. After a quick look at the back of the box I decided this was a game I had to play and I promptly hired it out. The result was one of great satisfaction; here was a game that pandered to every (well, mine at least) male teenagers needs providing seemingly endless numbers of enemies to cut down in large, sprawling battles. Twenty-four hours later when it was time to return the game to the video shop I handed it over reluctantly, though my appetite for hack-and-slash gameplay was largely sated. Now here we are, nearly a full decade later and I am tasked with reviewing the latest instalment in the Dynasty Warriors series which, despite some RPG elements being thrown into the mix, still feels like the same game I played all those years ago...

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Getting a 16 Combo in Strikeforce.
Anyone who has played a Dynasty Warriors title knows the storyline you control a warrior from one of the three dynasties, Wei, Shu and Wu in battles loosely based on the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. The ultimate goal is to secure China under your rule (or that of your dynasties' leader at least).

Missions in Strikeforce are broken down into small areas rather than the huge battlefield brawls of previous titles, which is probably due to the fact this is a PSP port. The gate guards whom when dispatched in previous titles stopped the flow of enemy soldiers through that gate are gone; here enemies will continuously re-spawn throughout the level, taking some of the strategy out of the battlefield. During battle enemies will drop items that can be used to upgrade weapons as well as your warrior's skills. There are also bonus objectives for each mission such as killing a certain number of enemies, or completing the mission within a certain timeframe that will provide you with an extra reward.

There are some new additions to the layout of the game, the most obvious of which is the town-hub where your character spends their time between missions. There is plenty to do in town, though the immovable camera makes walking around more frustrating than necessary. Most of what you can do in town has to do with upgrading your officer and their weapons with items and money obtained during missions. There is a blacksmith who can forge new weapons or upgrade your current one. The workshop allows you to increase your character's base skills, and the market offers items for sale, which can be just the tonic if you're in need of a particular item in order to perform a much-needed upgrade.

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Never fear, our text is in English!
It is also possible to purchase up to four chi skills, one for each limb, that grant bonuses to abilities like your jump height or sprint distance, or add an elemental attack to your weapon. The notice-board in town provides access to side-missions, all of which can be replayed at any time. The gatekeeper in town will inform you of any major battles that are looming, and it is these battles that progress the story.

There is an all-new online component present that allows you to undertake missions with up to three friends. One thing that is noticeable in Strikeforce is that the game has a much tougher single-player campaign than previous titles, so there are times when being able to go online and get help completing the tougher levels is a godsend. The online missions also provide a platform to showcase the skills and weaponry of your chosen warrior, hopefully to make your friends green with envy, rather than make your character feel weak and insipid, sending you back to your offline missions with a sense of purpose about upgrading your warrior. Given how well the online multiplayer system works, it's a shame that the game doesn't support local co-op play, especially given there is a need to upgrade the many warriors at your disposal as the game progresses.

Although the new RPG features add a bit of depth to the title, many of the same issues from previous games resurface. The graphics are sub-par by today's standards, showing little improvement since the PS2 versions. The character-models are ok, but their complete lack functional animations make them frustrating to use. For example you'll come across boxes to destroy during missions in order to gain health or other items, but destroying them can take four or five swings before your character is actually able to hit them. Yep, your trained warrior cannot hit a stationary target a foot in front of them without a few practice swings. There is still a significant amount of pop-up, the environments are bland and enemies will occasionally disappear when the screen gets cluttered. The camera is also a pain to control as it shows no sign of intelligence whatsoever, forcing you to manually control it during the heat of battle.

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Battles can be pretty epic...
It's also irksome that the story itself has not changed in close to ten years; you're still putting down the Yellow Turban rebellion, still crushing Dong Zhuo, still battling Lu Bu and then crushing the other two dynasties to finish off the game. I understand the game is based on a particular period of time, but the fact is these are the same battles we've been fighting for years making the whole game feel old. The story is also poorly told, with few cut-scenes, and little dialog of interest. You can't immerse yourself in the back-story of each character either, as whatever information is displayed on-screen is unreadable unless you have magnifying glasses for eyes. This is almost certainly due to the fact it's been ported over from the PSP, but it is nigh on unforgivable in my opinion.

And finally, the fact remains that the gameplay has remained almost completely unchanged for the past however many years. Combos are no more intelligent now than ever and simply hitting square over and over will get you through to your goal in most cases. Each character has dual-weapons now, and the bow definitely comes in handy for the flying (!) magician enemies, but aside from that they largely unnecessary. Musou mode has been replaced with a Fury meter which serves much the same purpose as Musou mode did in the past, making attacks more powerful until the fury bar empties. You can also opt to unleash the whole meter into one big attack, but this attack is nowhere near as devastating as it should be. Although some will consider the item-drops and RPG-style upgrades to be a major step forward, the reality is that this is window-dressing for a game that has not aged well, with gameplay that feels stale only a few missions into the game.

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...but DW: Strikforce is feeling very stale.
Music in Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is nearly identical to that of previous games, which isn't an entirely bad thing as it is ambient enough. The sound effects are as repetitive as the gameplay Hya! Ching! Hya! Clash! Hya! - it's suitable, but repetitive. The voice-acting is no better than average, and whilst there's nothing obviously poor, there's also nothing particularly noteworthy about it.

The reality is that Koei would not continue to release Dynasty Warriors titles unless there was a market for them. Though there has been some attempt to spice things up with the inclusion of online play and loot hunting, it's not enough to re-invigorate a series that has had few innovations in its near ten-year lifespan. Though these new features may keep some hardcore fans entertained, the repetitive nature of the gameplay which has you hitting a single-button for the most part, will wear most players down in short order. The fact that the graphics are little better now than they were on the PS2 is also a major disappointment, though probably to be expected in a PSP port. This title is no worse than the others that have gone before it, but the simple fact is that the story and gameplay have been recycled too many times already, and most people will be tired of what it has to offer in no time at all.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSAs good as the PS2 version, which is to say entirely average by today's standards.
58%
SOUNDHya, hya, hya, hya!!! Sword clash! Hya, hya, hya, hya!!! Sword Clash!... you get the point. Music is the same as ever, which isn't altogether bad.
55%
GAMEPLAYSquare, square, square, square. Square, square, square... you get the point. There is some loot-hoarding and online play thrown in, but needless to say unless you love hitting one button over and over again, you're not going to invest too heavily in either.
51%
VALUEYou can play the very similar campaign mode as three different dynasties as well as control a variety of characters that each have different weapons, but that's not enough incentive play through more than once. Searching for rare items, and completing the ultimate upgrades will keep fans busy for some time.
60%
OVERALLThe Dynasty Warriors series was fun when it was new and exciting nearly ten years ago. Even with the new RPG elements thrown into the mix, the game has progressed little in ten years and it's clearly past time for Koei to give their cash cow a major overhaul if they want to win the fans back.
53%

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