Dynasty Warriors 7
|Xbox 360||PlayStation 3|
|Install||6.3GB (optional)||2796 (mandatory)|
|Surround Support||Dolby Digital||Dolby Digital, 5.1LPCM|
Yikes, the Dynasty Warriors tech comes across as being almost as ancient as the 14th century tales that inspired Koei's long-running series. While debate continues to surround whether the series is actually any good or not (with Eurogamer's reviews of the previous games generally championing its various positive aspects), there's little doubt that it's all starting to look rather old and tired now.
Technologically speaking, this is a game where the deficiencies are equally apparent on both platforms: draw distance is poor, with masses of enemy troops frequently appearing literally right before your eyes, meaning that unless you're keeping an eye on the HUD you're often ambushed by hordes of enemies. Pop-in and lighting are very basically handled compared to the standard we expect these days and impact the quality of the presentation significantly.
One tech improvement over the predecessor is in the handling of the cut-scenes. While FMVs are still utilised, developer Omega Force now carries out a great deal of narrative work with a large number of engine-driven cinematics and some of the character work here is rather pleasing.
Most of the other enhancements are gameplay-related and the changes are legion with a new story mode, an improved Chronicle mode (now known as Kingdom mode), enhancements to the combat system (including multiple weapon support), and implementation of siege machinery including catapults and ballistas. Online multiplayer has also been added to the mix.
In terms of the quality of the cross-platform development, just like its predecessors, it's not bad at all.
We've seen a couple of mini-tweaks between Dynasty Warriors versions in the past, mostly down to the implementation of anti-aliasing (or edge-blurring) but in the case of this game Koei has kept it old-skool on both systems, with this seventh instalment adopting a basic 720p framebuffer with no attempt at edge-smoothing on either platform.
In terms of image quality, this is an extremely close cross-platform development, with barely any differences of note between them, but where they do diverge it's the PlayStation 3 version of the game that has the advantage.
Perhaps you've noticed the mammoth difference in the amount of storage space each game uses - this is down to the quality of the cinematics not handled by the game engine. Koei lavishes the bandwidth on the PlayStation 3 game, utilising Sony's own h.264-based PAMF tools to provide FMV quality markedly superior to the WMV-based sequences crammed onto the Xbox 360 DVD. The only other major IQ difference that may be picked up is that the PlayStation 3 game also features marginally superior texture filtering, only really noticeable on the internal levels with flat ground.
So far then we're looking at a visually unremarkable release, but the Dynasty Warriors games have always had an ace up their sleeves: a v-synced 60Hz frame-rate, which Koei managed to replicate on both Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the last game. Unfortunately, analysis of Dynasty Warriors 7 demonstrates that while v-sync remains, frame-rate is now best described as somewhat variable.
It's fair to say that we're not particularly fond of double-buffered v-sync with an unlocked frame-rate: far better to target 30FPS, improve the quality of your visuals and standardise the look and response from the game. Dynasty Warriors 7 essentially switches between 30FPS and 60FPs at any given moment, resulting in an incoherent look and feel to the game - it's something that both versions obviously suffer from.
While there's some evidence from extended play-testing that the PS3 game may have the edge in terms of performance, when the net result is more alarming judder it's not something that can really be considered much of an advantage and certainly shouldn't be factored into any purchasing decision.
Right now we're looking at a marginal PS3 win here, but there really is very little in it. For owners of 3DTVs, the decision gets a bit easier: it's safe to say that the Sony platform is the preferred home for stereoscopic content and not surprising that while both versions offers 3D support, it's the PS3 game that has the more satisfying implementation. The key difference here is that while there are visual compromises on both platforms, PS3's support for the HDMI 1.4 output format at least ensures you're getting full 720p resolution per eye.
Xbox 360 employs an interesting system, however. Rather than using the 640x720 per eye side-by-side formula that most games support, Koei has instead employed 1280x360 in a top/bottom configuration - a good match for the split-screen mode from which the 3D implementation is undoubtedly derived.
Both games seem to employ the same set of visual downgrades, however. Shadows are completely absent and draw distance/LOD-balancing is pared back considerably, further impacting the game. On the plus side, Koei has managed to effectively lock the game at 30FPS, and, as suspected, standardising response and visual feedback does help gameplay a touch.
Unfortunately, the 3D effect itself is far from dynamic and doesn't really help make Dynasty Warriors 7 a better game. Indeed, the compromises required to get it running acceptably well simply highlight the fact that the game engine really is getting rather too long in the tooth.
That said, it's clear Omega Force knows its core audience and has delivered improvements that will most likely surprise and enthuse them. For everyone else, Dynasty Warriors 7 is a case of same old same old.