When it was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 earlier this year, Dynasty Warriors 6 did little to distinguish itself from its predecessors, but it did at least benefit visually from being the first game in the series designed for the most current generation of consoles. Now it has been ported to the console on which the series has made its name, but this PlayStation 2 game is a complete disappointment. Dynasty Warriors 6 not only delivers more of the same extremely tired gameplay the series has relied on with little change for many years, but it also suffers from the severe graphical problems that have long plagued the Dynasty Warriors games.
In excruciatingly typical Dynasty Warriors fashion, you choose one character from among a large number of warriors who all share tremendous combat prowess and a distinctive taste in fashion. You're then set free on large open battlefields, where you mow down enemy soldiers by the hundreds, by doing nothing more than running around and pressing the attack button over and over. For their part, the enemy soldiers seem all too happy to accommodate you, standing around idly as you slaughter them along with 15 or 20 of their identical comrades. Once in a while you'll encounter an enemy officer who may require you to charge up a more powerful attack to break through their guard, and when you grow tired of tapping the square button, for a thrilling change of pace you can push the circle button instead to perform a special attack that lets you annihilate your enemies even more efficiently than usual.
To win battles, it's not enough to just kill hundreds of enemy solders. Each battle has certain conditions that must be met for victory, such as defeating a specific enemy officer or escorting a character to safety. You're constantly receiving status updates on clashes happening elsewhere on the battlefield, units being broken up, and allies meeting victory or defeat. All of this should contribute to a sense that you are fighting in a large-scale battle, but what you see around you undermines this feeling. It's hard to get caught up in any sense of intense battlefield excitement when you're likely to be surrounded by enemy soldiers just standing around looking confused instead of soldiers desperately fighting for their lives.
There are 15 playable characters available from the get-go, with many more to be unlocked as you meet certain conditions, but all the playable characters in the world make little difference when the gameplay is as shallow as it is here. For the first time ever in a Dynasty Warriors game, you can now climb ladders, just like Mario did in 1981's Donkey Kong. And the new renbu system makes the already simple combat system even simpler, allowing you to use just one attack button to perform lengthy combos that previously would have required two buttons. The one addition that feels significant is a skill tree that lets you spend points you earn on specific upgrades to your character's health, attack power, defense, speed, and so on. Letting you customize the development of your character to suit your style of play is definitely a step in the right direction, but it's still in the service of some mind-numbingly repetitive gameplay.
Dynasty Warriors 6 looks positively awful in action. Character models for the flamboyantly attired playable officers are colorful and animate gracefully, and the attacks they perform look suitably devastating, but the same can't be said of the grunts who populate the battlefield. They're entirely generic, and when they decide to move at all, their animations are stiff and awkward. There's also frequent slowdown that occurs when a lot is happening onscreen, and while you can play through most of the modes in split-screen co-op with a friend, whatever additional enjoyment you may get from having someone to share the tediousness with is tempered by frequent instances of slowdown. Worst of all the severe pop-in that happens anytime there are lots of people onscreen (which is most of the time) is a never-ending distraction. Friendly and enemy soldiers alike constantly appear out of nowhere and vanish into thin air all around you. Pop-in and pop-out are nothing new to the Dynasty Warriors series, but they seem worse here, and they happen with a frequency that makes them impossible to ignore. The audio presentation isn't much better. The sounds of battle have an exaggerated quality not unlike what you might hear in a low-budget kung-fu movie, which actually suits the action pretty well. But the cheesy electric-guitar-heavy music gets old fast, and the horrible voice acting is either stiff and emotionless or completely over the top, with nothing falling in between, and you'll hear the same boasts and taunts repeated constantly.
There's no shortage of stuff to keep you busy in Dynasty Warriors 6, with plenty of playable characters and a Free mode that lets you play any unlocked scenario with any character. And for those who just can't get enough of the action, there's a Challenge mode that sets specific goals, like killing as many enemies as possible in a limited amount of time. But the gameplay doesn't stay interesting for even half an hour, much less the days and weeks it would take to play through every character's story and complete every challenge. And then there are the ladders. Even though you can climb higher than ever before in Dynasty Warriors 6, the series as a whole seems stuck on the same wrung.