Review by grepps
"Great reinvention of gameplay, but lacks content"
I've always been a casual-core SoulCalibur fan and I've owned every title since SC2 (excluding titles like Legends and Broken Destiny). SC5 is the latest in the series and is a solid effort but has some glaring issues.
SC5 had a pretty big overhaul of the gameplay. The movelists have been made significantly smaller and easier to learn as a way of attracting newer players. Characters were also made less complicated by removing stances. There is a new meter system involved now, similar to super meters in Street Fighter. For half a bar, you can perform a guard impact or brave edge attack (which is a stronger version of a normal attack). For a whole bar (you can have up to 2) you can use a Critical Edge, which is like a super or ultra move from other fighters. Meters fill up quickly and CE's have the same inputs for all characters to make it newcomer friendly. In order to use Brave Edge, you'll have to know which moves have Brave Edges for each character, making it harder to pick up a character and play. SC5 is much more offensively based than past iterations. With guard impact costing meters and grapple-breaks causing damage, turtling is discouraged and punishable. There is a new type of guarding that does not cost meter called Just Guard that requires perfect timing of guarding the attack and lets you block without recovery frames. Overall, the gameplay has become much more accessible and quick-paced. If you prefer faster matches or are looking to become competitive in a fighting game, this is a good game to pick up.
Graphics and Music (10/10)
The graphics engine is incredible for a fighting game. The stages and characters all look beautiful. The only problem graphically is that a lot of CAS characters items and clothing will clip through either other clothing or the characters skin. The music is great as well and really fits each stage.
Content (I'll be breaking down each mode here) (6/10)
SoulCalibur has always had one of the best stories in the fighting genre. While the story mode goes more in depth in this sequel, it actually is the worst story mode in any of the games. The story starts 17 years after SC4 and as a result, half of the cast (specifically all women over 35) have been replaced by their children and apprentices. However, you only play as 3 of them in the whole story and don't even fight the whole cast. Is Viola actually Amy as many have speculated? What's Hilde doing in this game? Why can Z.W.E.I. summon a weird wolf thing named E.I.N.? I couldn't tell you; all I know is that Patroklos probably has an Oedipus complex and a creepily close relationship with his sister. Not only are there no individual endings for each character like in previous games, but there aren't even character bios in the game to read about characters' back stories. Also, the story mode's cutscenes are mostly just sketches that aren't even in color with voice acting. There are a few animated scenes, but they aren't very common. Overall, the story mode is too short, focuses on too few characters, doesn't teach you how to play the game, and feels very rushed. It's definitely the worst mode in the game.
Arcade is a very typical arcade mode. Pick any character, fight 6 people, congratulations. There are no character endings which is kind of disappointing. There are 5 different routes to take through arcade which isn't as interesting as it sounds. You can either fight the Asian characters, the European characters, a random assortment of both, a random assortment of both that ranks your time online, and a random assortment of both with a weird camera mode. Arcade is nothing special but not horrible.
This is arcade mode on crack. You fight all the boss characters and they have ridiculously cheap AI that button reads and punishes every move you make to the extreme. There are two characters to unlock through this mode but they can be unlocked using other means so there really is no incentive to complete this except for the trophy/achievement.
This is the best offline mode in SC5. There's something like 240 fighters to face that Project Soul created to simulate the online fighting experience. You fight against players who are stupidly easy to players who are obnoxiously difficult and they're all showing of the character customization. This is great practice for people who are looking to be more competitive or people who can't play games online.
Practice mode is pretty standard. You look at the characters moveset and you practice it. There is something of a tutorial mode where it will go through your characters best moves and combos and tell you when you should use them. However, it's not obvious that it's there and is not extensive enough for a player with no experience to really learn the game.
Versus mode is also pretty standard. You pick a player and you fight either against a friend or the cpu. You can also watch cpu vs cpu fights to learn things or see what you're created characters would look like if they were played by better people. The only gripes I have with versus mode are that you can't adjust button settings from the character selection screen and that you can't change battle time and health.
I don't play many games online so I don't know the standard, but SC5's netcode is really good. I haven't experienced any noticeable lag and maybe I'm just lucky but I also haven't had anyone ragequit on me yet. Online has been a pretty solid experience so far and is clearly where a lot of the effort went into making this game.
Create a Soul (or CAS)
Character creation is one of the modes that's been in SoulCalibur since SC3 that's become a unique staple of the series. And while this mode is definitely better than it was SC4, it's not quite where it should be by now. First off, there simply isn't enough equipment. You don't unlock any new hair or faces and there are very few. The body modifier is good but missing some parts. There is surprisingly no face modifier. For men, beards are not separate from faces, which is just an incredibly stupid design. Also, for some items you cannot make it the color you wanted. I've had clothing that was impossible to make red and I haven't been able to make a character's hair as black as I'd have liked. Overall though, it's a lot of fun and a good mode, even if it is a little lacking. The only other downside is that there aren't a lot of things to do with your character once you've created it.
For content overall, it's definitely the most depleted SoulCalibur title. There is pretty much no single player content. There's really no excuse for not having a gallery mode of some sort and a Weapon Master mode or Chronicles of the Sword type thing would have been welcome. Quick Battle raises their grade a lot, but ultimately it seems rushed.
I actually really like SC5 a lot as it's the first game I've tried to learn to be somewhat competitive and I've found the gameplay fast and enjoyable. So far I've played it almost as much as I played SC3 (which is the golden standard of single player content) and it's the only game I own that I play online. If you're looking for a new game, specifically a fighting game, I recommend it highly, but if you're not content with a pretty bare single player, then I think you should rent it first and try it out.
Final Score: 8/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 02/06/12
Game Release: SoulCalibur V (US, 01/31/12)
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