Review by Mutton
"Soul Calibur: A Game as Deep as you want it to be"
People play fighting games for fun and to be competitive. For too long, games have had trouble having both of these at the same time, with the 3D fighters being the former and are more accessible while the 2D ones are actually used at tournaments. Soul Calibur IV is a game that actually brings these two different styles together to make a truly enjoyable experience.
Soul Calibur IV is one of the most beautiful games out there right now, with amazingly detailed models. The intricacies of the characters and their weapons is great, and the background of each stage is very detailed. The only problem arises with severe clipping issues when using the Create a Soul mode to make your own characters, as the engine doesn't know how to layer items.
Lets not touch on Story, as this is a fighting game, not an RPG. Of course the story is almost non-existant, although it is even lacking compared to its predecessors. 1/10
Gamplay and Controls 9/10:
Let me just throw this out there: I used to play a lot of Virtua Fighter. The heavy, combo based fighting system along with the buffer effect simply made the game the pinnacle of what I have seen critics of the genre refer to as "homework games;" games in which route memorization of how exactly moves come out is the real test of skill. The game was a wicked prediction game and was incredibly deep, but it wasn't something everyone could enjoy. This is probably why I dropped the series after 4 and moved on to Soul Calibur; fighting games that aren't that easy to pick up and play are no good without a good online mode, as friends just get crushed too easily and ther eis no fun in it.
Soul Calibur is a different animal entirely, due to how every character plays radically differently except for the, the steal a term from Super Smash Brothers, Luigified characters. It is a rather well balanced game, in which the only memorization can be done in an hour or less in training, and the basic effective moves can be figured out in a few rounds. This, of course, allows spamming, but seeing as skilled player can easily destroy spammers yet still make the fight look good makes it offline friendly. There are hard characters to use (Setsuka), Combo heavy characters (Amy, Astaroth for his air grabs and whatnot), and those characters that don't care for combos and instead play on an instinctual level (Yun Seong). The fact that you can pick up and play this and seems to have a modicum of skill really helps this as a party game and prevents the learning curve of doom that hurts games such as VF and SF (I still have trouble with SFA3's story mode).
The simple layout of buttons, with most movelist combos not going for more than 5 presses which often flow naturally out work well to keep players entertained. More advanced techniques, such as Guard impacting, allows for much higher level play, along with the fact that combo centric characters or those that rely on zoning (Zas) are still there for the hardcore. But I feel that Soul Calibur is like a neighborhood pool: You can wade around in the shallow end and enjoy yourself with a game of Marco Polo or go off the diving board into the deep end. The fact that there is a choice is what separates Soul Calibur from most other fighting games. The fact that fighting with weapons is so much cooler than fists doesn't hurt.
I actually had a Eureka moment earlier today when I was playing my brother. He had made a Black Mage character with Maxi's style and figured out a couple effective combos in the 3 matches that we fought. We soundly pounded my main the first round through a half button mashing, half calculated "what seems to be working." I managed to pull ahead in the second match by a bit, and then pounded him in the third because I knew my Yun Seong better than he knew his few combos. So ya, one needs to know all your opponent's moves to do well during higher up player, but in Soul Calibur, knowing your character is much more important, and figuring out what to do in any situation is even more critical
For example, a few days back I had been practicing on an Edge Master Maxi for a few hours just because he destroyed me when I fought him the first few times (got him through a random opponent). I ended up being able to beat him in the vast majority of rounds by learning his play style and taking advantage of his weaknesses, which didn't involved grab spamming. My brother played a much more aggressive, but less refined game which I had to react to completely differently. It was as if there was a whole new character I was against.
That is what makes this game fun. The fact that spammers can do well is a good thing. Yes, you read that right, the ability to spam is a good thing. A good player will figure out how to react to the spamming and get around it. It is much like solving a puzzle, and the pay off is great. But the fact that spamming works on a low level of play makes the game more fun for people to get into the game. Most people will end up playing offline with friends who don't play Soul Calibur to the same degree, and giving them an option that keeps them slightly competitive is a great thing. I would say that Soul Calibur gives more chance to a new player to beat a more practiced vet than SSBB, if only because you have all the tools and techniques readily available to you and can figure out the effective ones quickly, as opposed to SSBB, in which you get shut down much fast than in Soul Calibur due to how button mashing is completely worthless in that game.
Let me just say that I don't endorse spamming online. Those Kilik spammers with their long range horizontals are hell for my Yun Seong. But the fact that they can do that is a good thing. Just remember that a good player in a lagless situation will generally win against the spammer, but it gives the game a level of excitement that fighting games desperately need if they want to survive as a genre.
The only downside is that the Xbox D-pad is really horrible, so you are forced to use the not quite as responsive analog stick.
Extra Content 10/10
The fact is, fighting games work best if you always have someone to play against. The Online mode is great as long as you stick to Player (unranked) matches which keeps away most of the 12 year old bigots that the ranked mode attracts. But the true gem that kept me playing was the Create a Soul mode, referred to as CaS. With hundreds of parts available, one can spend days making characters out of TV shows and comics or their own original characters, then take them online to play against others. It is like a manly dress up game due to the swords and other weapons involved. In addition, one can play a "Special Versus" mode online and off along with the Tower of Lost Souls, in which your equipment gives you stat bonuses in order to try and overcome the challenges of the ToLS or opponents online. The CaS mode is what really gives this game lasting appeal, and should be used in more fighters.
Overall, Soul Calibur IV is a game which you can play on and on while being able to practice with other good players online or one that can be picked up with friends and just have fun messing around. A solid game overall with only a few holes, but when it comes to accessible fighters with lasting appeal, Soul Calibur IV has it all. A 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/13/08
Game Release: SoulCalibur IV (US, 07/29/08)
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