August 1st, 2008, 01:13 Posted By: Shadowblind
Publisher: Namco bandai
Developer: Project Soul
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3
Soulcalibur is arguably one of the best fighting game franchises out there. In fact, the original Soulcalibur released for the Dreamcast back in '99 remains one of the highest rated games of all time. (It currently resides at #8 on gamerankings.com. Back when it first came out, it would have been #2, just behind Zelda OOT.) Soulcalibur II, while not as big an accomplishment as Soulcalibur 1, was still an amazing fighting game that set a standard and showed the world that fighting games still have a place in the industry. Soulcalibur III more or less just came and went, but was still a great game all around, just had little new additions to it. Well here we are today with SoulCalibur IV, a highly anticipated fighting game from Namdai. You may be happy(or sad) to know that although the core Soulcalibur formula hasn't been changed very much, it still works very well, considering how old it is. But like most games, the same 4 times can get repetitive and very annoying. So how did the Fourth iteration go?
First thing you'll probably notice about Soulcal IV once you get ingame is the amazingly rendered character models, and as usual, I'm gonna go ballistic over them, rant style. This is quite possibly the best looking fighting game character models I've ever seen. the detail in each character is stunning-- and what's more, there are so many many ways to customize each character with all types of different garb. And no matter what clothes you put on them they always look natural. No matter what weapon, what eye color, what hair, everything blends perfect and smooth. And the characters animations are praise worthy too. A few odd looking attack animations, but they usually lend themselves to only a certain few characters. But characters like Zasalamel and Voldo have awesome and fluid movements. From an explosion of a scythe to Voldo's demented backwards crab-walk all of it goes together fluidly. And as the characters fight, they're armor begins to get chipped away gradually, which is a really cool degenerative addition(?). The backgrounds aren't as noticeable as the foregrounds (obviously, it is a fighting game after all) but they do what they do well. The 360 movement of the characters allow for them to bash up the place as they fight. The destructibility of the backgrounds are cool, but they do leave a good bit to be desired, since only so much can be destroyed on each level. But really, backgrounds usually don't serve as much in fighting games more then something to look at, and things aren't all too much different here. Still, those Star wars backgrounds look niiiiiiice.....
Jumping a little here--The core of Soulcalibur is still the same as it has been for years, and as long as fighting games exist, it will for more years to come. The core: Beat the other guy until he or her drops dead. Still, the general formula is so general that small tweaks to the gameplay, mostly along the lines of making each character fair to play as, proves that the fighting genre still rocks. over 30 different players and minimal clone characters make this game a blast to master them all. Some combo attacks are a bit broken sometimes, but overall the controller is responsive which is usually the problem with cheapness issues in fighting games. To tell the truth I've only really liked two fighting games before; Dead or Alive And DBZ Budokai. However, Soulcalibur is more of a fighting gamers training game. Combos usually only range on 1-3 hits normally, and overall the games difficulty is set to "less then normal." While doing awesome looking technical attacks, you can just as easily beat the game doing little more then just pounding away at the Grab button. Granted, some enemies can block it but they are few. But I have noticed how online, grabbing is harder then usual. It may be due to the vast amounts of lag in the game, but overall it makes online fighting much more fair. Still, online is by no means flawless. We'll touch on that in a sec though.
Soulcalibur IV won't take you long to beat. In fact, the storymode takes almost less then 20 minutes. And each characters story, for the most part, is totally devoid of original cut-scenes. Although you fight against different opponents depending on what character you playing, it tends to leave you wanting more. Most players will go back with other characters however, and after going back around 8 times, the game still amuses me, though not as much as it did at first. So really, campaign mode isn't where your gonna be spending most your time. Another mode, known as Arcade mode, pits you against 8 fighters in sequence then gauges your score. its more or less pretty basic, and just that. Still, you unlock stuff for your characters in the mode so its not completely pointless. Tower mode is probably the one of the best modes, as it has you fight away through 30 floors with tons of enemies on each floor, and you can only heal every two floors. Doing certain things unlocks items you get, so if your hardcore enough your gonna want to unlock everything. And of course, there is online mode.
The online mode for Soulcalibur IV can be great fun. the problem is, lag and "host advantage" in this game take the meaning to another level. Buttons became slow and unresponsive, all the while the host pounds away at you with no problem whatsoever. And if there is one thing I've learned about fighting games online, lag is much worse in this genre then probably any other. (Even FPS.) Since it is always a 1-on-1 match, there is no room for you to rely on teammates or whatever to cover your back when you start getting lag issues. Thus, unless you can fight with amazing timing or your opponent just sucks, once you hit lag your almost certain to lose the match. Besides connection problems, online is great. Four people can be in a room at any one time. That means that you get a better sense of pride when you win a match since people are watching you, but when you lose a match, it tends to just make you say "Oh well, that guy lost a match before too." Fighting against people is much more fulfilling then A.I., thats for sure, and should the connection problems be resolved, this has massive potential. You can even play with your own custom characters!
Really-- what's not to like?
Probably the single greatest thing about this game is the insanely robust character creator. I touched on this before, talking about character models, but I didn't get too in-depth. With the exception of the Jedis (...) you can use the weapons and fighting style from any character to make your own character. Choose the pitch and tone of they're voice, the exact colors of their clothes, hair and skin, the exact features of they're face, really there are huge amounts of possibilities here. What's more, is that no matter how wacky the style and clothes your character wears, they always look some-what natural. With one exception (Tira) the fighting style for all characters can be applied to any looking character and be just awesome looking. Make your character good or bad. Give them any weapon, including over 350 weapons and armour pieces. After that, take them online, and show your opponents as you either kick *** or get your *** kicked. The characters you make always feel right at home with the Soulcal crew. If your friends are dumb enough, you could even tell them that they are part of the crew. Why? Who cares. Its kinda fun to do though.
Major Selling Points:
-- 4th entry to one of the highest rated fighting game series of all time.
-- Great weapons based combat.
-- Extremely robust character creator.
-- simple combat makes it easier for beginners.
-- Online Play
Major breaking points:
-- Online play is laggy
-- May be too simple for experts
-- Only one general Story mode
The story for the characters is pretty good; its just that the stories for each character aren't really explored in they're campaigns.
Amazing characters and great effects. Backgrounds aren't amazing but they work well enough.
Clashing of swords and whatnot sounds exactly how it should. Music is hit or miss, and VOs are good.
It doesn't really change much about Soulcalibur as much as it just keeps refining it. Although they may have oversimplified the combat.
If the online mode gets less laggy then you've got something to do for a long time. Tower will take you a while to beat, but its really just more on the same fighting as everything else in the game.
At the average game price of $60, Soulcalibur may or may not be worth it. Fighting fans will be enthralled with it, but those looking to the fighting genre "just this once" may really only want to rent it.
NOTE: Sorry for the lack of pictures, I can't find any that will fit...
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