Review by RingsOfUranus
"SoulCalibur IV: a back and forth between great and dull that comes out in favor of the former"
The SoulCalibur series has hung around since the days of the PS1 as "Soul Edge" and remained a cult favorite among its fans. Love it or hate it, it has its flaws, but SoulCalibur IV comes out a smooth fighter with only minor flaws.
Maybe I'm easily impressed, (not) but SoulCalibur IV has some of the best character models I've ever seen in a video game. They're just mindboggling sometimes. This is what we were all waiting for when the PS2 and XBOX were released. This is what we've all been wanting our characters to look like for years, and now that it's finally at this level, I can't say I'm disappointed. The character models are smooth enough to fit into a high-production CGI movie; In fact, the cutscenes (what few there are) in the story mode look good so good, you'd hardly believe they're in-game. Yoda's character is probably one of the single-most detailed video game character's I've ever seen. Down to the gray hairs on his head wafting in the wind to the subtle wrinkles under his old, green eyes, everything is amazingly smooth and detailed. The game is an odd mix of anime-looking characters, realistic-looking characters, comical-yet-realistic-looking characters and...Star Wars? Now the character models themselves look great, like I mentioned, but some of the characters just look odd fighting together, and some seem less-than interesting. Example: Talim's character design is interesting and well thought-out, but Sophita's design couldn't be more sleep-inducing.
That being said, the stages are...well, they look good, but aren't really interesting. Each stage is basically "small circle." Some stages have breakable elements, such as the pirate ship's floorboards. But even the breakable elements 'fix' themselves as soon as you're not paying attention. SoulCalibur IV uses what I call the "House of Wax" system for stages..Meaning everything on the stage is overly shiny and actually 'too detailed.' (If you can believe that). The fact is, you just shouldn't notice some of (what SHOULD be) subtle texture details. Small bumps in pavement is a nice touch, just don't throw it in my face by making the floor overly-lit so I see every detail as though I'm looking at it through a telescope. (Considering the camera is at any time, a good 8 feet away from the fighters?) This is a minor issue, but it's becoming a popular 'lazy' technique among developers these days. "Make everything really sniny and noticable" was interesting the first few times I saw it, but Assassins Creed is long gone and did that style about as well as it's going to be done.
Controls and Gameplay:
Here-in-lies Soul Calibur's few real issues. Now, I wouldn't normally bother to say what console I'm reviewing a game on, but in this case, it matters. The XBOX 360's D-pad just isn't made for this type of game. Combat is tricky, and you often find yourself scrambling back and forth between the C-stick and D-pad to perform different attacks, because combos just don't work well when the D-pad is basically a miniature C-stick. It's just really frustrating and can really take some getting used to. However, when you've figured out how to get the controls to your liking, it's actually a really simple pick-up-and-play style, something most fighting games are unable to do. No matter if you're a fighting game vet, or new to the genre, Soul Calibur IV is very simple to understand. Combos aren't so complex that you'll take hours and hours to get the hang of them (Looking at you, Tekken), yet aren't so easy to perform as to insult your ability. Now, I'm no fighting game expert, and this is really the first SoulCalibur I've ever played...But I was beating this game on Edge Master difficulty on the first day I bought it (The hardest difficulty level) The learning curve is low, and you don't even really need to be a combo berserker to be great in matches...In fact you're able to attackwhore the same button to beat an opponent, so my only real problem here is with the difficulty levels in single-player matches. While I'm nit-picking, I may as well mention the...Unusual button layout. When on the 'move list' screen, buttons on the controller are listed as "B, A, K, G," The "B" button is the "Y" button on the 360 controller, the "A" button, is the "X" button, the "K" button is the "B" button, and the "G" button is the "A" button. Confused yet? Yeah, so was I. This is a really confusing way to place the layout and takes a lot of getting used to.
At the time of this review, SoulCalibur IV's online play can only be described as...as "really bad." The online modes, at least on the X360, are lagging so horribly in certain instances, that playing/enjoying them is virtualy impossible. I once counted it as taking 30 seconds for my character to perform a kick. Completely unacceptable for a fast-paced game such as SoulCalibur. Until the bugs in online play gets worked out, I can't honestly reccomend the game based on it. In a strange way, the game also doesn't seem to be balanced for online play at all; Like I mentioned before, you can use the same attack over and over to beat an opponent, and there's really nothing they can do about it. This is also true when facing someone online. You could have the best combo attacks around, but get someone with the bo staff thrusting repeatedly, and you'll never touch them. Yoda is also genuinely a poor sport's character. Yoda is so short, you can't grapple him at all.(Even Yoda can't grapple Yoda) In fact very few characters even have attacks that can hurt him at all. This leaves online play very unbalanced.
The SoulCalibur series uses a unique fighting system, relying heavily on weapon-based combat. Each character has a weapon type specific to their model, and has its own strengths and shortcomings. In the "Special" modes, characters are able to use weapons, skills, and stat increases the player attributes to them via the Character Creation center. The Star Wars characters are the exception to this, as only skills and weapons can be changed.
Each character has several different weapons that can be upgraded. All armor can be changed as well. The character customization feature is very in-depth, letting you customize everything down to how deep your character's voice is, and what their personality during battle will be like. Some might find the RPG elements unusual or a task, but it adds replay value to the game and a wide selection of unlockable items.
Well..There's not really a whole lot to say here, to be honest..The story mode for each character lasts about ten minutes, and consists of an opening scrolling background story, explaining why they're there, 5 flights of battles, and an ending cutscene involving Algol. I don't know anyone who really bothers to read the opening paragraph, and, honestly you don't need to. The story is simple: There really isn't one.
The voice actors doing the lines for the characters genuinely seem like they enjoyed doing them, which is a welcomed feeling. The opening lines are bizzare in a lot of cases. Characters will say something at the start of battle that probably isn't going to make a bit of sense whatsoever, but its easily forgivable and can even force you to crack a smile occasionally. Even the announcer's cliche.. opening introductions are tolerable, as it just lends to set the less-serious nature of the game.
SoulCalibur IV, despite its flaws, is a welcome addition to the Fighting game genre, and has set the bar for character modeling higher. SoulCalibur has always been the black sheep of the fighting genre, but it seems to have finally come into its own, clearing up the majority of issues and bringing an enjoyable experience you're sure to fall back on time and time again.
A 7, out of 10.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/13/08
Game Release: SoulCalibur IV (US, 07/29/08)
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