Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires Xbox 360 hands-on preview

Aside from Tecmo’s Dead or Alive 4, Button Mashers Anonymous members have found Xbox 360 to be a safe haven for sore fingers in dire need of recuperation. KOEI aims to reignite the temptation to let go of your brain and let loose in a frantic display of finger mashing on the controller with the unveiling of Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires later this month.

Unlike several other titles debuting on Xbox 360 this month after a Fall release on Xbox, KOEI’s latest addition to the growing Dynasty Warriors has been developed simultaneously for Playstation 2 so other than given Achievements, no gameplay features are exclusive to either version. We’ve come to expect Xbox 360 ports of current-gen games to provide both a widescreen presentation and vastly improved graphics. On this latest preview build only one of the aforementioned improvements is present. Believe it or not this game looks suspiciously exactly like it would on Xbox or Playstation 2 other than the widescreen format and crisp Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. If there are improvements in the character models or locales they’re too subtle to pick up on. I’m hoping the final build will surprise us with something next-gen looking but with the release date a mere two weeks away, finger crossing probably won’t do the trick.

Another glaring head-scratching omission is any semblance of Xbox Live play. Cooperative Dynasty Warriors hank-n-slash is pure poetry in violence perfectly suited for online play. Yet it would appear we have to wait another release for the opportunity. Cooperative 2-player play does make it into this version in both “Empire” and “Free” modes so all is not lost regardless of a fantastic opportunity missed.

Like previous Dynasty Warriors games there are two distinct ways to approach Empires: strategically and manically. I tend to prefer the latter which leads to a red thumb and, with enough hours put in, painful blisters. No thought is put into rushing battalions of enemy troops without reinforcements. The greater the odds, the more fun unleashing a powerful Musou attack that lays waste to 10s of troops in a single move. If the aspect ratio were scrunched into 4:3 the attack without conscience or plan method is identical to popping in any existing Xbox version. This unfortunately means the aggravating camera that cannot be controlled with the left thumbstick except for strafing returns.

There are times I like to slow down the pace and take a methodical strategic approach. The ability to control one’s empire has appeared in previous Empires titles and here it has been beefed up both on and off the battlefield for those warriors looking to have greater control of their armies. In the menu screens (that unfortunately don’t offer a back-button) preceding a battle there are now 75 policies (25 more than the previous Empires game) that will affect Government, Product Development, Diplomacy and Battle Tactics. Foreign Policy can lead to an alliance with another force for a period of one or three years. If a joint attack under the alliance is successful the other force will offer payment for success. Tactics might include lowering the morale of enemy troops or capturing enemy officers as opposed to offing them, a decision that will directly affect collecting the majority of Xbox Live Achievements (see below). Spending hard earned gold on Product Development will lead to new more deadly weapons and improvements to existing weapons. The list of editable policies is impressive and can take a lot of time to wade through and decide upon.

Officers can be selected for each battle and once in play are now controllable via the D-Pad for basic commands such as attack the nearest base, gather around you, determine their own orders and defend the nearest base. The officer’s react quickly to these commands that can save an otherwise doomed fight if issued in a timely manner. Enemy officers now appear to follow their own commands and are much smarter than before. When their health gets low they will turn and run towards the nearest reinforcements to regain strength. Unless a horse is nearby catching them will be difficult and, more often than not, result in running into an ambush. Sadly the enemy soldier A.I. is as retarded as ever. Sometimes they will attack and other times you can literally walk up right next to a small crowd and not a one will make a single move.

There are a total of 36 Achievements, 25 of which are dedicated to the number of officers your empire has under its command. The list including confirmation of the fan-favorite Yellow Turban Rebellion is as follows:

  • Available Officers 10
  • Available Officers 20
  • Available Officers 30
  • Available Officers 40
  • Available Officers 50
  • Available Officers 60
  • Available Officers 70
  • Available Officers 80
  • Available Officers 90
  • Available Officers 100
  • Available Officers 110
  • Available Officers 120
  • Available Officers 130
  • Available Officers 140
  • Available Officers 150
  • Available Officers 160
  • Available Officers 170
  • Available Officers 180
  • Available Officers 190
  • Available Officers 200
  • Available Officers 210
  • Available Officers 220
  • Available Officers 230
  • Available Officers 240
  • Available Officers 250
  • Play the Battle of Lao Gate
  • Play the Battle of Chi Bi
  • Play the Battle of Yi Ling
  • Play Yellow Turban Rebellion
  • Cleared Yellow Turban Rebellion
  • Cleared Dong Zhuo in Luo Yang
  • Cleared Divided Land
  • Cleared Battle of Duan Du
  • Cleared Flames over Chi Bi
  • Cleared a Gathering of Heroes
  • There’s much to gripe about in this Xbox 360 incarnation of Dynasty Warriors 5 Empires when imagining what could have been yet at the same time having access to some classic hank-n-slash is better than none at all. Check back on March 29 when I chime in with my final score and full review.

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