Where do you go after Dynasty Warrior 4? Dynasty Warrior 5 you dummy!

While that may sound like a joke it's not. The joke's on you if you purchase Dynasty Warrior 5 while looking for something fresh, exciting and new. The changes from the last game to this one are subtle, which is another way of saying virtually negligible. It's still powered by the same engine so you can expect the same graphics, gameplay and control system. Even though the PS2 version came out in the early spring you won't be blessed with a better game by waiting for it to come out on the Xbox.

I imagine that anyone new to the series might get a big kick out of this game and as well they should. It's actually a great game but not in its own right, since it's pretty much the same thing we've seen for years. It should be excellent by now and with such minor changes from sequel to sequel the gameplay has continually been refined but as I mentioned, the changes are subtle and almost not worth noting from one version to the next. It's a smack in the face to faithful fans.

Events take place in ancient China where you get to play as almost 50 different characters. Each character is imbued with incredible powers that allows him or her to take on entire armies. Armed with little more than a blade, your character will hack and slash his or her way through hundreds of troops. There are more enemies onscreen in this version than ever before, making you feel like a warrior god on PCP - not that anyone should ever be able to identify with that feeling.

Slicing through the crowds is great therapy. I only wish I could do this in line at the amusement park or at the buffet. But too much of a good thing is not very good. After a while the enemy seems like nothing more than blades of grass - and you're the lawnmower. It's too easy to wipe out entire armies, not to mention very tiring. It takes a toll on you physically and mentally as your fingers get sore from button mashing and your mind gets bored from the repetition.

Story-wise the game strives for some historical accuracy and given my limited knowledge of ancient China I don't know if they're handing me a line of bull or not. History buffs should have a clue and future nerds can look up all of the different classes of warriors that are featured in an encyclopedia. Cutscenes attempt to explain the various battles, causes and motivations but they are so forced and void of any personality it's like a history book come to life read aloud by Stephen Hawking - on PCP. It's not that it's always serious, it's just that there's no depth or range in the voiceacting. Not to mention that some of the writing is just plain crap. You can choose the Japanese voiceovers and pretend that great things are being said.

Some of the new additions include a body guard that will actually fight alongside you, in addition to the ability to take over bases by killing the commanders thereby increasing moral among your troops. There is a Free mode which lets you pick a battle and jump right in as well as a Challenge mode that features a number of mini-games including Bridge Melee in which you try to keep enemies off of your bridge. It's kind of like King of the Hill. It's fun but it won't keep you occupied for days. For some strange reason the Empire mode has been omitted.

Comparing the graphics, I have my PS2 and the Xbox in different rooms so I had to load them and run from room to room with a mental picture in my head. The conclusion is that the Xbox is slightly cleaner but not by much. The other conclusion is that I've got to get myself in shape. I must have worked off five Pepsis pulling that stunt off.

The background textures are plain and boring and the fog of war shrouds any details that may lurk in the background, like a town or a mountain range for instance. The enemy hordes are done extremely well but not so much as to justify the lackluster background graphics.

Authentic oriental music is once again assaulted by a cheesy metal guitar noodling all over the place. I love it. Surround sound has been added which brings more dimension to the battles. You can actually hear voices in all directions when you're totally consumed by a crowd of enemies. It's even nicer when you can turn those utterances into moans and screams as you slay them.

Dynasty Warrior 5 should be called Dynasty Warrior 2-and-a-half. I would expect more advancement from a franchise with four sequels. Pass on this if you've already played the PS2 version. Hell, pass on this if you've played the last version. If you just want to be safe, pass on it altogether. You won't be missing much.

System: Xbox, PS2
Dev: Omega Force
Pub: Koei
Release: Sept 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cole