Giant Bomb Review


Soulcalibur IV Review

  • PS3
  • X360

Soulcalibur IV's sharp fighting is offset by a dull set of single-player modes and lame guest characters.

Soulcalibur IV has a lot going for it. It looks great, for one. It plays pretty well, for another. But at the same time, most aspects of the game totally turn me off. Whether it's the "story" mode that consists of bad endings and weak opening text, or the way the item statistics always seem to conspire to make your characters look ugly when you customize them, every positive moment I had with the game seemed like it was immediately countered by something that made me just want to stop playing it entirely. If all you're looking for is fighting in the Soulcalibur style, you'll be satisfied. But the complete package feels a little weird.

These dudes are so totally fighting.
The fighting sticks to what you'd expect from the series, even if you're like me and haven't really followed the series terribly closely since it was on the Dreamcast. It's a weapon-based game that, for the most part, focuses on clashing weapons, rather than supernatural attacks. This makes the game flow at a different pace than most other 3D fighting games, as Soulcalibur puts a greater emphasis on parrying and countering incoming attacks to create openings. Since the different fighters all bring different stuff to the battle, this gives everyone a different speed or range that you have to constantly consider while playing. On its own, it's pretty good. Enhancements to the series this time around include the critical finish, a fight-ending move that can only be performed under very specific circumstances.

The roster in Soulcalibur IV is already pretty deep, with over 30 characters to choose from. But Namco Bandai decided to revive with the whole "guest character" concept from Soulcalibur II. So the 360 version gets Yoda, the PS3 version gets Darth Vader, and both games get The Apprentice, who will be the main character in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed later this year. Much like Heihachi, Link, and Spawn before them, the characters aren't a great fit with rest of the SC lineup. Everyone's going to have his or her own opinion on this stuff, and here's mine: the inclusion of a bunch of gimmicky Star Wars characters cheapens the entire game and comes across as a desperate attempt to get people excited about a game they would otherwise skip. Of course, the fact that you can't even have Yoda battle Darth Vader means that even this attempt at spiking interest in the series comes off as half-assed. Yoda's height makes him especially lame--he's effectively the Gon or Dr. Bosconovitch of the Soulcalibur universe.

Like previous games in the series, you can create custom characters or edit the outfits of existing fighters. The custom characters need to be assigned to an entire moveset, though, and the weapon comes with the moveset. So underneath the pirate hat and pigtails, you're still just making a different-looking Siegfried or Taki. The way you customize your character effects that character's stats in certain modes, also. This has the side effect of making pretty ugly-looking characters in an attempt to get the stats you're looking for.

It's like combining Gon and Dr. Bosconovitch into one totally uninteresting package!
The stats and abilities you can slap on your created characters can make them pretty interesting. You may have to sacrifice a large amount of your offensive or defensive potential to get some of the higher-level abilities, though. You can find varying levels of many abilities, like Nullify Ring Out, which makes it tough to get knocked out of the ring, or Venom Fang, which poisons your opponent when you hit and drains life until they hit you back.

Online, you can get into a match that either uses the different equipment stats or a standard fight that ignores them. It seems to work just fine most of the time, and the only real issue I could see there is that the game doesn't seem like it's taking your online statistics into account when matching you up. I kept getting into fights with players with much higher rankings than mine, which might be frustrating if you're hoping to find evenly matched opposition.

The characters look terrific from a technical perspective. The models are nicely detailed and the animation looks great. A lot of the characters feel a liitle over-accessorized, and being able to slap on all kinds of weird hats and pauldrons in the edit mode doesn't really help. You can strip them down a bit, but considering that Ivy already looks sort of weird with her freakishly large and barely covered boobs, maybe it's best to just leave them as-is.

Overall, it's sort of hard to recommend Soulcalibur IV to anyone who isn't already a big fan of the series. It felt like everything I liked about the game (the actual fighting) was countered by something else (the meaningless story mode, equipment stats, Ivy's creepy-looking boobs) that made me want to take the disc out and put it away forever.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
306 Comments Refresh
Posted by Kash_1095

I don't get the Japanese's obsession with giant fucking tits either.
I mean big boobs are great, but there is a LIMIT.

I highly agree with that review.

Posted by EpicSteve

I think as a game mechanically Soul Caliber IV was great, but everything else,. characters mainly, were pretty silly. There were many occasions when I screamed at the screen "what the hell are you wearing!?"

Posted by mrfluke

totally agree with the review but the fighting is still good so even though with the extra crap it will still stay in my 360 due to that game finally online but damm since you guys are used to it i have a feeling this is your guys first heated review so get ready

Posted by OptimusPrime

I would have given this a four out of five.  This is the first Soul Calibur that I actually bought.  I like what they did with the controls and the character customization.  The thing I find most disturbing about this review is that you mentioned Ivy's ridiculous breasts, but said nothing about Angol Fear's nipples of doom.  Other then the corny Japanese dialog, I actually enjoyed this game, and am still playing it all the time.

Posted by Arjuna
Posted by kaiozu

I have no problem with big tits. But Ivy looks like a tranny, her face is just crazy large.

Posted by lawblob

I am loving the game so far; however, I think your criticisms are totally valid.

I really wish an American developer would make a solid fighting game; so much of that stereotypical Japanese game design just muddies what should be an A+ game.

Posted by MayorMcCheese

The characters in this game are weird.


Posted by PureRok

The whole series went downhill after the first game. The first game was great, then they just broke it. The second game was still really good, especially since Link was in it, but after that it just got stupid. I really regret buying this game.

Posted by nasie

I never cared for soul calibur sequels since 2. Fighting games has moved on.

Posted by DavidSnakes

Uhhhh... That's pretty creepy.  I kinda wish GB didn't have comments for the reviews.
Posted by KingBroly
here's mine: the inclusion of a bunch of gimmicky Star Wars characters cheapens the entire game and comes across as a desperate attempt to get people excited about a game they would otherwise skip.

Pretty much the #1 line in this review, and it sums it up for me.  I bought SC4.  I think it's pretty good, but if it weren't for the inclusion of Vader/Yoda, I wouldn't have bought it.  I'm fine with the purchase, but I agree that it was mainly a marketing tool.
Posted by GristleMcThornbody

The story mode is definitely the biggest disappointment, but I really enjoy the character customization.  Tweaking your character to achieve the best results is very satisfying/addicting in an RPG kinda way.  BTW, you can choose to match up online with players that are within 10 points of your own skill level.

Posted by vgmkyle

Predictable review from Jeff.

If it's not a sports game,an fps or a map pack for cod there is no chance it will get a five.

Terrible review.

Posted by Jeff

You've figured me out! I'm a huge sports fan!

(ps: video review of this one in the works)
Posted by MagusMaleficus

I just love the whole Star Wars characters in this game makes no sense crap. As if any of the shit going on in the Soul Calibur games makes any goddamn sense whatsoever.

Posted by xxNBxx
Japanese men have a envy of the large mammary glands due to a high % of their woman have no larger then a B cup.  That don't justify what they do with objectifying woman its just the reason they do it. 

I wounder Jeff would you have rated it higher if it was just Starwars characters?
Posted by ochazuke

from review: "consists of bad pre-rendered endings"

Regardless of what you think of their quality, the fact of the matter is , the endings are not pre-rendered. They're rendered in real time.

Update: Looks like the review text was fixed.

Posted by SymbolliC

I'm with Jeff 100%. I feel SC franchise has fallen since the first one. Seems they just give them new armor, and bigger boobs, in the newer titles. I agree the fighting is fun, but story wise it can be better, and I really ended my love for SC after the 2nd game.

Posted by williamdirk

For those of us who have never been great with remembering moves and combos in fighting games, Soul Calibur is one of the very few that is excessable to everyone.  And this is a nice fighting game, but one with to many problems for a fourth installment.  The "story" mode is way to weak.  I agree on the ugly character to get your stat customizing.  Also for any new beginers the lack of tutorial or a good manuel makes it difficult to understand a lot of the smaller details such as soul breaks and other things in the game.  Its a lot of fun but flawed, 3 is just right.

Posted by Cube

Great review Jeff.

Posted by koopi

I've never been a fan of the series, I just don't like to fight with weapons. Street Fighter, Tekken and Virtua Fighter!!! :D

Posted by SpaceInsomniac

Like it or not, reviews end up on metacritc, and a three out of five is essentially a 60 out of 100.

That is both why I wish you guys reviewed in half stars, and why I would review the game as a four out of five.  Even forgetting about metacritic, three out of five seems pretty low for a game as good as this title is at its core. 

And while I agree with every negative you mentioned, you could have also pointed out that it's very much up to the player how much skin characters show or how "large" the women are.  It's also worth noting how realistically sized some of the female characters are, unlike the DOA series which is the real T&A fest.

Posted by gamer4life
Posted by JonathanL

I dunno, Jeff. The custom cahracter mode is a bit limited, but it's also terribly addicting, to me anyway, and it really takes SC to a new level for me, though ti also marginalizes what made some of it so great - its interesting and varied cast.

Posted by ProzacGunner

Great Rev Jeff, agree that the negatives on SCIV wants me to take it out, but i think Spacelnsomniac is right on some points. 3 / 5 is a bit low, the games positive sides are very well, and once you get plenty of items to fool around with, you can make a decent CaS with good skills(perks) and stats.

Posted by FLStyle

Yeah I decided against IV after already buying II and III, the series has gone stale much like the genre.

Posted by TracedVelocity

Great review, although I can't say I wholeheartedly agree with the score. To each his own though.

Posted by Red

I like SoulCalibur, I was actually addicted to the arcade version of Soulcalibur 2 when I was on a cruise and I bought the XBLM version of SoulCalibur because I wanted a fighter for my 360.
I need a great Next-gen fighter and Soulcalibur 4 is right up my alley, so, I'm pretty sure I'll buy it.

And from what I've played of Soulcalibur on XBLM, the story in the series has always sucked and has always had low production values. I prefer the story to Tekken games much more, but I prefer the fighting in Soulcalibur.

Posted by Captain_Felafel

Totally agree with your review here, I take a lot of your complaints a little less serious and was still able to have a fun time with the game, but everything here is pretty much my opinion summed up.

Posted by Godzilla_Sushi

Giantbomb, a threat to Soul Calibur 4!

Yoda, still a threat to us all!

Posted by LordelX

I wouldn't have given it the same score, since it is the first fighting game of this generation to have really decent online play, but yeah, the Star Wars characters are ridiculous. Hopefully Namco releases a patch to erase them for those who don't want to see them.

Posted by Jigen

Can't agree with this review, and I agree with Jeff a good 90% of the time too.  Their hating on the game during the last podcast almost made me stop listening altogether.  Anyways, I've put almost 45 hours into the game now, have played a lot with friends, made a lot of cool custom characters, and of course done a good portion of the unlocking.  I agree with many of the points made (the factual stuff), but the end result of the game to me is a great game.

The Star Wars characters don't fit well, but that doesn't take away from the game at all.  I think the Apprentice is a pretty fun character as well, but again, doesn't really fit.  Most of the time I'm not playing as one of the Star Wars characters, and their presence in the game doesn't bother me.  I didn't really find the boob stuff in the game creepy at all, and it seems many people complaining about this haven't played the earlier games in the series, Taki's breast bounce has been reduced if anything in SC4, the entire series has always been 'oversexed'.

Posted by Donkey_Kong

I have never been as on the fence to buy a game as i am about soul calibur 4.

I am a huge fighting game fan, I have 1 of my DC (love it) 2 on my GCN (love it) and could never get 3. This one looks crappy, but the reviews are good.

I will probably not end up getting this game.

Posted by pause422

Wow, some of you people are just childish. Jeff's review reflects his opinions of the game, and honestly all the negatives it states are completely true. If you like the game, you like the game, keep enjoying it...don't get pissed just because he didn't give it the score you would of or said some things that you wouldn't of. We all have our own opinions, so get over it. and Vgmkyle, I don't even have proper words for you....I also don't know what you were smoking when Jeff  suddenly went crazy over 'sports games' and gives them raving reviews, I think you must be thinking of someone else, at some other site.

Posted by Aaron_G

Thanks for the review Jeff.

Posted by Dakota

I think the other members of the Giant Bomb crew need to write reviews as quickly as Jeff. Maybe its just me, but it seems like Jeff rights 2-3 times the amount of reviews the others write.

Posted by albedos_shadow

Unfortunately, I'll probably end up buyingit anyway, just because I lost SCII somewhere and need my Voldo fix.

Posted by mbmonk

Thanks for an honest opinion on the game.  It's nice to have you reviewing the big games again :).

BTW, real life B cups > DD virtuals. :P

Posted by SpikeDelight

I think Ivy's tits are alright. They're like the exact size I would consider to be big but still hot. Anything bigger would just be gross looking with visible veins and shit.

Posted by Scarecrow_

Hmm. You make some good points, but even you admit that the gameplay is good, and that should be what really counts right?. I've simply always prefered the weapon based combat over most other fighters, and SCIV is proving to be enough of an improvement over SCII that I'm not disappointed with my purchase. It's just...I felt your review didn't address a whole lot of important stuff. It felt more like a look at the mostly meaningless stuff, and how it is weird. Which it is...but still.

Posted by kingmasters

I don't get how vader being in this game makes it dumb and desperate
when Mk vs DC has a bunch of DC people in it and apparently its so great
Mk seems more dumb and desperate to me 

Posted by pawsoffury


I'd say because the ability to have match-ups and argue out classic questions like who'd win out of Superman VS Batman (with the added brutality of the Mortal Kombat universe) is somewhat exciting.

'Yoda' Vs say 'Astaroth' in this game doesn't really come close.
Especially if you're not a Star Wars dork to boot.

That being said SC4 was still an /okay/ game.

Jeff is correct in saying that most people who haven't had previous exposure to the series probably wouldn't dig it one bit whatsoever.

Posted by AlucardaLaCarte

The only fighting game to pull off the "really weird" character  thing with huge success is Guilty Gear. And that game hasn't had a decent iteration since XX.

Posted by sofakingcool

Obviously every one is entitled to there opinion but this was straight up un called for shit flicking. For starters saying "it's creepy" is an odd comment and not well justified. I happen to agree that the addition of Star Wars characters was a bit of a desperate grab for publicity, but hardley isolated to Namco and certainly not the worst example of it. As a luke warm fan of the soul series I find 4 to be a worthy installment. Graphicaly it is astounding, the level of customization is beyond that of any other "traditional" fighting game, and the combat itself is true to the core series. I give the game a high 4 out of five stars.
 - PS. What is wrong with lasciviously rendered boobs? I like boobs. Most male gamers like boobs... Boobs RULE!

Posted by Cadmus

Jeff Gerstmann --Owning fanboys since 98.

Great review Jeff, nice to see that I wasn't the only one that bought into the hype.
Posted by Kar98k

Yep, it's still the Jeff we know and love :D

Posted by sofakingcool

Oh and I am not a "fan boy". as I said I am luke warm on the soul series. The fact is that this game shouldn't be reviewed by some one who goes into the process wanting to dislike it. For the record, Giantbomb has the lowest review for soul calibur 4 and by a long shot. The average review score is 85. GB's= 60.  Come on, show some integrity to your own  philosophy.  Don't review  games that you aren't willing to judge on their own merit rather than  your preconceptions.

Posted by Dryker

Sounds like another fighting game I'll pass on. Seems like the next Street Fighter will be the first fighting game I'll buy since Street Fighter II. Sad, really, I almost bought this one.