Review by nvanhae

"You're just left wanting so much more"

I have always enjoyed the Soul Calibur series. I still play the playstation classic "Soul Blade" to this day. After Soul Calibur 3 was released exclusively on the PS2, I was worried I would have to give up a great series when I bought my 360. Lord behold, Soul Calibur 4 was announced for the 360 and I have been pumped for it ever since. With this game showing some great innovations in the past, and announcement of some Star Wars cameos, here's what I thought when I got my hands on it.

Graphics 8/10:
This series is known for pushing systems to their graphical limits, I even still think the graphics in SC 3 are some of the best PS2 graphical showings to date. So how does this game stand up? Well it looks great. There's an amazing amount of detail in every character, every stage and yes, Ivy's breasts are larger then her head and they appear to be full of jello. The only problem is, they aren't really mind blowing graphics. They're great, but they're nothing above the "standard" of 360 games now-a-days. It's hard to blame this on the game, for all I know these were the best graphics possible with the hardware, but that's just the one bone I had to pick.

Sound 7.5/10:
I'll be honest, I don't pay much attention to a game soundtrack. The game has the usual epic tracks and the nonsensical over the top announcer. It's the way Soul Calibur is, and it's the way we like it.

Gameplay 6.5/10:
Woah, calm down, I know you're saying "What?! But gameplay IS Soul Calibur", but let me explain myself. Yes the gameplay from the previous games is great and it stays tried and true in this installment. In fact, the old formula that allows you to button mash or masterfully combo your way to victory is where pretty much where 6.3 of these points come from. The things that let the gameplay down is the new features; two main ones to be exact. Firstly, there's the "critical finish". You know how in past SC games, you get punished for abusing the privilege of blocking? Well this time round, blocking too much can cost you the whole round, in the blink of an eye. The way it works is when you (or your opponent) blocks too much, your soul meter (just a little colored circle next to your life bar) starts flashing red. Should you then continue to block, your guard will be broken for about 1 second. In this one second, the attacker can initiate a critical finish, which is a unique cinematic depicting an often brutal beatdown of the opponent and an instant win of the round no matter what (like an instant win 'fatality'). The problem with these is that they are near impossible to actually perform in the game. The amount of guarding required is abundant and unreasonable. I've tried to actually force a critical finish so many times across all difficulty levels, but still I haven't done 1. By the time you even get close to doing one, you and/or your opponent will be near KO'd, which makes it pretty pointless. The only other way to see them is to go into training mode, fiddle with the settings and force one, but it's just not the same. I would love this feature, but better execution is needed to actually make it a note worthy feature. Now onto the 'perks' (I'll keep this short). In certain modes, your character has 'perks' (just the name I've given them) which are status effects like increase soul gauge or go invisible for a period of time. These (IMO) feel tacked on and I couldn't really care if they were left out. Switching out to partner has also been added, but has been limited to only 2 single player modes. Long story short, the old style gameplay brings a lot of fun, but the new features don't really take it to the next level I was hoping for.

Game Modes and other features 7/10:
I'll try and cover everything I haven't covered above. Firstly, character creation. It's impressive robust and your imagination is pretty much the limit. Character creation is also where you can buy additional in game characters using gold you earn by doing battles. If you ever thought unlocking characters was tough in the previous games, fear no longer. ALL purchasable characters can be bought using the gold earnt after a few play throughs of story mode. After that, you can spend your money on creation parts. On story mode, it's been cut down to 5 battles and 1 or 2 unique cut scene(s). Multiplayer is the best fun you will have with this game, it's a shame that these modes have been cut down to your typical versus modes (no team battle!). Arcade mode is back, which just offers the old fashioned, original gameplay at its core for 8 battles.A new mode is the Tower of Souls, which offers battles that have different effects (i.e. draining health) when ascending, and a non stop barrage of fighters when descending. Online play makes it debut, but lag is basically a slap in the face when watching cheerleaders jump up and down; it's great, but just so hard to enjoy. Lastly, the addition of Star Wars characters. This is no biggie. Yoda does stick out of the crowd, but he's just a blade (saber?) swinging maniac like the rest of the crew (there's not a lot to note about him is what I'm saying).

Overall 7/10:
A great game SC game at its core, but new features that should really bring the game to the next level are lacking. If your a fan of the series, pick this up and you'll probably love it just from the nostalgia factor, if not, give it a rent first.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 08/04/08

Game Release: SoulCalibur IV (AU, 07/31/08)

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