Soulcalibur IV Xbox 360 Review
Soulcalibur has always been a flashier, more graceful and grander game than your average brawler. It’s still very much about bringing all manner of pain to your opponents, but it’s also about looking good whilst doing so. Soulcalibur IV, whilst more of the same, ups the ante thanks to that current generation might.
The basic fighting mechanics have been no more than refined, so it’s still a game that is welcoming to the masses (as if the Star Wars presence, jaw dropping visuals and plump breasts didn‘t already see to that), but has more than enough complexities for the more proficient players to be visiting the training mode for months to come.
New to this instalment are critical finishers, these are in function essentially like Guilty Gears Instant Kills, which allows for single hit KO’s. Series purists may be dismayed at this potentially cheap inclusion, but in reality these are super tricky to execute and as a result have little bearing on the mechanics such people have already become familiar with. Armour can also be lost, providing enough damage is done to any section it covers, it serves more purpose than just simply getting the female characters down to their underwear for increased sales, honest. Any section with lost armour will take 10% more damage and is also one of the conditions that must be met to unleash one of those aforementioned critical finishers.
There are 36 characters in total, which sounds a lot, though sadly many of them are clones. In this 360 version, Star Wars Yoda is a playable character and unsurprisingly, due to his small stature (which results in him being immune to both throws and high attacks) he isn’t an ideal option, for serious, competitive play. The Apprentice from the forthcoming Star Wars: The Force Unleashed also turns up to advertise his game. Moving away from Star Wars, there are only two other truly new characters: Knight and princess Hilde brandishes both a spear and a short sword, but her uniqueness doesn’t end there, as her style has an emphasis on charging attacks by holding down the buttons. Algol is the games main baddie and is said to be (by Project Soul themselves, no less) the most powerful character ever to be featured in a Soulcalibur game and his projectile attacks do little to dispute that fact. Characters differing weapon ranges, make balance a problem, albeit never a huge one as far as I could see.
In regards to solo play, Soulcalibur has always been unusual in the fact that in a genre that is largely focused on multiplayer bouts, it‘s also rather generous for the lone player. Along with all the usual story and arcade offerings is the substantial Tower of Souls mode, where you must ascend a sixty floor tower through tag team like bouts (which strangely can‘t be played in multiplayer), and upon meeting certain conditions you’ll unlock additional items for the character creation mode (more on that soon). Reaching the twentieth floor, will allow you to descend the tower in a survival like mode. Tower of Souls serves as a more interesting method of unlocking things than just simply beating opponents, but isn’t without its problems, such as the fact that the hints for unlocking things can be all too vague, whilst its often punishing level of difficulty leaves it inaccessible to the more casual player.
The character creation mode is an expanded version of the mode that was first introduced in Soulcalibur III and is a significant companion to the Tower of Souls (all clothes have stats, whilst skills can be set and weapons can be changed, which makes it compulsory for the tougher floors of the tower). With this you can edit existing characters (which more than makes up for the lack of unlockable costumes) or knock together a new one from scratch. It isn’t extensive enough to be able to alter the length of a nose or create their move sets move by move (in this regard created characters must be clones of exiting ones), but there is an extensive array of clothing options (though fewer facial and hair options than I‘d like), allowing you a generous degree of combinations that gives you the sense that you’ve made your very own character at least from an appearance standpoint.
Created characters can be shown off online. Of course this is the first time that the series has been playable down a magic wire and at least in regards to options, it shows. Unlike Dead Or Alive 4, which has an extensive range of online options, Soulcalibur IV has just simple one-on-one match-ups. Though from a more important performance standpoint, the game leaves DOA4 with a bloody nose. Lag only very rarely reared its ugly head, during my extensive online playtime, it’s still there and not always as readily apparent as Team Ninja’]s game, but as long as you play someone with a decent connection, it’s largely silky smooth. It’s a shame that joining games can be a bit of a nightmare though.
Graphically Soulcalibur IV is sumptuous and easily amongst the best looking fighting games available on these super consoles of ours. Characters are clad in meticulously detailed shining armour, there’s some great character designs, some stages have beautiful sunsets and the fighting is superbly animated. Aurally, with the weapon clashes and grand musical compositions it fares just as well.
Soulcalibur IV is an impressive fighting game package, with several impressive features that will keep fighting fans playing for months. The all important fighting is better than its ever been, though due to few changes, only marginally so. It may very well not have changed much, but it didn’t need to and its overall level of quality is testament to that fact.