Review by Bako_Ikporamee
"Namco spent too much time adding funny hats and not enough time polishing this shallow fighter"
The anticipated Namco fighter finally hits the next gen, but with major disappointment. The character creation system contains a myriad of unlockables each with their own base stats and benefits. But you need to swim through an ocean of salt to reach those few fresh drops of unlockables that are actually useful, and when you finally find them you realize you need to play the story mode a couple more times to buy them. The addition of RPG elements and different weapons and clothes that do more than make your characters more aesthetically pleasing makes the Soul Calibur series look like a digital representation of Barbie's Dress Up.
The gameplay consists of you playing against the same set of fighters upwards of 30 times so you can "unlock" the weapons for each character. And by "unlock," I mean earn money to buy. After you play the three story modes (all of which are the same thing) seemingly a thousand times over and unlock everything you need to stay in the middle of the online bell-curve, you now need to go into the character creation section and make you own fighter. Of course you need to use the most beneficial clothes for your character which makes him or her a mesh of off-colored hats, skirts, and monocles. Of course you can ignore the stats and try making your own great looking and "original" characters but putting silly hats (such as the wizard hat) on Lizardman and naming him funny nicknames (like Wizardman) gets old fast.
Once you actually get to the real gameplay you realize how shallow it is. The average combo consists of two moves. Successfully pulling off a three or four move combo is something to celebrate by taking your opponent to the most expensive restaurant in town, blowing fifty bucks on some roses, and getting lucky when you take them back to their place. But I digress, the average combo map looks like "B, >A". (Just FYI, B doesn't mean the B button and A doesn't mean the A button. Confusing enough for you?) And despite the lack of long combos there remains a lack of combo trees. Unlike in other fighters if there is a XXX then there is no XXY combo, and if there is a XYX combo there is no XYY combo.
Not only is the gameplay shallow, but it is slow. Every character feels as though they are walking in water. It just doesn't feel like *you* are the one controlling them, it feels like they just go off and do their own thing.
Clunky, unresponsive, and slow. You can't press XX and hope to do anything, you actually have to press X, wait, then press X. And that is only for a two hit combo. If you ever hope to do a long combo you need to remember that pause after every button press (which is almost impossible when you're versus the mind reading AI in the later levels or fighting a formidable opponent in the online modes). But that is only if you want to look good winning because you can button-mash and move-spam your way through the entire game and that includes the online modes.
The graphics are a mystery to me. Some of the characters look beautiful yet some look overly cartoony with overly goofy weapons. And still there are some characters that look like they jumped right out of some anime. The clash of cartoon characters, anime characters, and a few realistic looking gems of characters make some of the fights awkward. The graphics on the stages, backgrounds, and everything sans-characters are done on par with other great gems on the XBox 360.
Story? What story? For the most characters, the story starts off with you fighting against three lizardmen. Why? The game doesn't say. Sure, there is about a thousand word essay for every character you need to read before playing but that doesn't tell you why the hell you're fighting three lizardmen. And between the five fights in story mode there is little to no dialog or narration. How is the story supposed to advance without dialog or naration? If you want to understand this garbled mess of a story you have to read into the expanded universe books (or whatever Namco produces to make more money) or invest time to look it up on Wikipedia.
$79.99 plus a few nickels and dimes
To have everything you, of course, need to spend the twenty extra bucks to get the collector's edition (which only comes with a couple of clothes). But now, just a couple of days after the release, there is over $15 worth of downloadable content. Namco is going to milk this game for all it's worth. It would be different if Namco didn't make it so obvious that this "downloadable" content we're paying for was all ready on the disc. Even Vader is locked on the disc as shown by some videos posted on YouTube and I'm willing to bet Namco's going to put a pretty price on his head that fans everywhere will fork over in an instant.
The main appeal of this game (which has so drastically changed from the almost perfect Soul Calibur II) is the character customization. But the chore of playing the single player over and over again to unlock those few good items is a major turn off. In normal fighters (like Soul Calibur II) you select a default fighter and a default costume and the deep and responsive gameplay was enough to sustain you for months on end. But now Namco is pushing the RPG-esque stats on each character and focusing less on the actual fighting gameplay. I would suggest renting this game first to see if you would like it but a week isn't long enough (for us people who don't play the same game for several hours a day) to put a dent in the unlockables. So unless you have a couple hundred of bucks just laying around to buy the game and all the "downloadable" content, then this game should be a pass.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 08/04/08
Game Release: SoulCalibur IV (US, 07/29/08)
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