Samurai Warriors 2 hands-on

Sooner or later, developer Omega Force is going to have to make a new game. In the past six years, they've pumped out no fewer than 13 Dynasty Warriors sequels and spinoffs, all of which have been essentially identical. New battlefieldsand otherimprovements keep emerging, but each one still revolves around wading into a battlefield and slashing through hordes of witless enemy soldiers.

Samurai Warriors 2 is no different. Like the first Samurai Warriors, it's set in feudal Japan, with players taking control of generals and running them through historical campaigns. Core gameplay still comes down to endless slashing, but while the formula is getting tired, Samurai Warriors 2 still manages to wring some fun out of it.

We've spent some time with a mostly complete PS2 version of the game, and it's a definite improvement over the original Samurai Warriors. The bland, gray battlefields of the original have gotten a colorful makeover, and overall the game looks a lot sharper. It also runs a notch more smoothly; even with huge crowds of enemies cluttering up the screen, the animation never got choppy.

The sequel also adds a bunch of new stuff, not the least of which are 10 new playable characters, including legendary historical figures such as Ieyasu Tokugawa and Musashi Miyamoto. More interestingly, the two level types from the first game - castle interiors and outdoor battlefields - have been merged, enabling players to move freely from plains to courtyards to the hallways of enemy inner sanctums.