Hands on with Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce PSP demo

We didn't know tigers could jump like that

Hands on with Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce PSP demo

It's Friday, so it must be time to either get out your PSP or (on your PC) load up your trusty Media Manager for PSP 3.0 to check out what's going on the PlayStation Store. Good news, there's a free demo of Koei's out-next-month brawler Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce. (It's a 255MB of download that will require you to be running firmware 5.0.3).

The game itself has been designed from the ground up for PSP, with aerial combat and a four-player co-op mode - needed to overcome the huge end-of-level bosses - among the main new features.

In terms of this demo, sadly there's no multiplayer option, so you'll have to just enjoy the aerial combat. Before you get to the action however, there are a couple of unskippable movies to endure enjoy. They are very glossy and nicely done, but at over 90 seconds for the opener, you really want to get on with the demo. Still, it is free so be patient.

Finally, we can hit the start button. The only option is a new game or to play around with the sound and camera settings. Into the new game, you have to choose which force to join. Liu Bei of Shu is driven by the ideals of virtue and humanity; Sun Jian is the leader of the noble Sun family; while Cao Cao of Wei is an astute leader who values talent above all else.

Once selected, you then have a choice between two characters; Xiahou Dun, who uses sword and staff, and the huge Dian Wei. He's more of a pike and spiked ball on a chain man. It doesn't really matter for the demo, but each officer also has a diagram of strengths and weaknesses in terms of weapons and attributes such as Life, Defence, Attack, Speed and Fury attacks. Then you enter a player name and it's into another unskippable movie...

We start off in within the walls of a castle. There are plenty of people to talk to. You can collect officers cards - useful for the full game - as well as buying items and exchanging materials. Materials are collected on the battlefield and then used, together with cash, to make better weapons. It's only a demo, so we're going to ignore all this and get into a fight.

Our mission has a set time of 30 minutes and we'll lose if killed three times. There are some bonus conditions too. Off we go...

The basic controls are movement with the joystick, camera movement with the D-pad (not really needed), while the L shoulder button centres the camera and locks onto enemies. The X button launches us into the sky, O toggles between the two equipped weapons, while triangle and square launch attacks. The R shoulder button is a forward dash.

To get the most out of the demo, Koei has arranged a set of teleports to get us attacking different enemies quickly.

It's not a great start as we're immediately attacked by a pack of jumping tigers. They don't leap into the air however. It's more like mad levitation. It looks really weird, but what's more annoying is they don't seem to die. Even when their red health line is reduced to zero, they keep leaping around. Hmmmm.

This is more fun. After jumping over the tigers and the various traps that were firing ice bolts, we passed through another portal and found some enemies we could kill. Cue much swinging of spiky ball and jumping around with a pike. The game's graphics are pretty good, with lots of particle effects and whizzy stuff. The enemies are a bit generic, although there is a big, battle cart that keeps charging us. Time to charge back.

Then we're fighting a sub-boss archer character. Using the L button to lock on, soon we're both jumping around the sky, pulling off combos, racking up points and sparking big special effects. It's a bit like Japanese mecha game Virtual-On - I'm starting to enjoy this. Further complicating our victory are some large stone faces attached to the rock face. They're firing lasers. Bash, bash. It's time to collect the power ups and move through another teleport as time is passing and we only have 30 minutes to complete this.

Wow, that's a big, fiery boss cat...

The rest of the demo you can experience for yourselves of course. It's not perfect - we can't understand why those tigers won't die - but even a short burst of the single player mode of Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce suggests it's a much more interesting game that previous titles in the series which quickly became repetitive.

This feels much more like a beat-'em up, and it certainly looks spectacular. Throw in the multiplayer co-op mode and maybe Koei has something to shout about. Let's just hope we can skip the movies.

Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is due to be released on 1st May.