- Format: PS3
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: NIS America/Reef Entertainment
- Developer: Acquire
- Players: 1
- Site: www.wayofthesamurai4.com
Way of the Samurai 4 is set in the fictional port of Amihama in 1855 during a turbulent time in Japanese history when European sailors started arriving in Japan. This led to a clash of the different cultures and a tense fear and distrust of each other. The game starts with players creating their own samurai from a selection of appearances, and then arriving at the town’s harbour in a boat. During the game you can align your allegiance to three different factions: the pro-government Shogunate, anti-government rebels who are keen on repelling the foreigners, or the British Navy who are in Amihama to negotiate a peace treaty.
The game takes place over four days which are split into day, evening and night. During these times different tasks become available to players. You can join the Shogunate to help restore order in the town, link up with the rebels to repel the foreign visitors, or become a supporter of the foreigners. You have to be in the right place at the right time to trigger these events, and if you miss them, you can’t trigger them again until the next playthrough. Each event appears in the game’s menu to help show the path the storyline takes you, and other story paths that have still to be discovered.
The whole game is voiced in Japanese with English subtitles, which helps with the authenticity, although the missions less so, with some being truly outlandish featuring some really wacky characters and goings on. One tale sees you being chased by a gang of angry sumo wrestlers, like a cruel twist on a Benny Hill sketch, while on another mission our sword broke, leaving us to defend ourselves with a giant fish. You could almost call the game Saints Row Samurai, such is the lunacy on show.
The game also has a large amount of side missions that are available by talking to the townsfolk. These range from the mundane task of delivering a love letter, to smashing up crates, beating up thugs, playing cards or going fishing, and many are downright weird. There are some bizarre and sometimes creepy side missions like one involving ‘night crawling’, where you chat a woman up, and then infiltrate their bedroom without being seen. On the way you beat up competing suitors and relatives, and finally jump into bed with your love interest in the hope of getting lucky. That’s not to mention the crazy sex torture games that occur if you are caught by the local police doing bad things.
If you are arrested you are taken to the torture room, where you are at the mercy of the three Kinugawa sisters. These minigames see you tied up above a flaming wooden horse while one of the sisters tries to hit you, with what looks like a mace. You can also end up being tied to a water wheel or getting pelted by huge stones. If you survive the torture by button mashing like a perverted version of Hyper Sports, then you will impress the sisters and they will invite you to practice ‘night crawling’ on them.
These bizarre missions do give the game some character, although some of the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. For a game about Samurai the combat is particularly poor, with the game using the two button, heavy and light attack control method, along with some blocks, dodges and combos. The problem is the hit detection isn’t great, and you can be slashing away at fresh air while your enemy’s energy bar replenishes itself. This means that you need to move in quickly and pummel your foe before they get a chance to recharge their life force, which happens all too quickly. This makes button mashing crucial to winning the fight, although this tactic wears down your own stamina, making your attacks weaker and your weapons more brittle. This means when you are faced with multiple enemies and don’t have plenty of weapons or vitality increasing items available, the fight will be a lost cause before you even reach your second opponent. When facing multiple foes they take you on one at a time, which can become quite dull, especially when, in one mission, you have to defeat 75 of them one after the other. After playing something like Batman Arkham City the combat in Way of the Samurai 4 feels very clunky and unsatisfying in comparison.
Another problem the game has is the amount of loading screens you have to endure. The game map is quite large, but is split up into smaller maps that need to load every time you want to visit another area. As well as this there are buildings dotted around that also need to load when you wish to enter them, which spoils the atmosphere of the game. Also, the first time you play it can be quite difficult to know what to do, as the game doesn’t really signpost where you need to go. The map contains icons, but they don’t specify what they are, so you have to blindly wander around until you come across the next objective.
Way of the Samurai 4 is a mixed bag. It is a flawed game, but an interesting one at the same time. The game world is intriguing, and the characters and situations can be both bizarre and sometimes hilarious, but the flaky combat and endless loading screens spoil the fun. There are a lot of interesting ideas at play in the bonkers world of Amihama, but the main gameplay elements are just too flawed and frustrating, which is such a shame as a game set in feudal Japan could, and should have been so much better.