Soul Calibur IV Review
Whether you’re playing offline or on, SoulCalibur IV is always watching. The more you play, the higher your fighter’s level progresses, thus unlocking customizable upgrades like weapons and armor. This adds a hell of a lot of replay value to the game, but considering how absolutely phenomenal this 3D fighter is it’s unlikely you’ll be playing it for the extras. Once you step in to the Arcade or Story Mode it’ll take a lot of convincing to go to the Create-a-Character’s color schemes and menu screens. SoulCalibur IV is not merely an accessible fighter, but a much more technical beast to tame than its predecessors as well. With refined combat for each fighter, pulling off eye-candy combos is a readily available feat for anyone who’s just getting their fighting-series feet wet, or veterans who succumb to the encouragement of linking combos and special attacks in favor of button mashing. Playing smart often prevails over frenetic, disjointed attacks, but don’t be shocked when your non-gamer sister pummels you the first time you duke it out. Each swing of your weapon is so tight and precise, you’ll never find yourself calling BS on an opponent’s evasion, or wondering why that last hit landed. The stunningly gorgeous graphics and consistently fluid animation and incremental decrease in movement speed of each brawler’s swings, dashes and attacks aid the believability. It gives the game a new sense of realism without losing its fast, fun feel. Because of these precision adjustments, this is the smoothest fighter I’ve ever played; it feels amazing in every regard and is endlessly enjoyable. And despite the lack of new additions, very few things spring to mind when I wonder “How could this be better?” The addition of Star Wars characters only fuels my lust for a properly done fighter from that franchise, specifically because all three of the characters (Darth Vader, The Apprentice and Yoda) are so much fun to play, but conversely galling to fight. The Xbox 360-exclusive Yoda is hard to hit and impossible to grab due to his miniature stature, whereas his PS3 counterpart, Vader, has two doctorates in “Kicking Your Ass.” The worst of the three, however, is The Apprentice; his block-heavy style and quick attack speed make you feel like he’s using The Force to premeditate your moves. Perhaps the game’s biggest flaw is that it apparently forgot to include these characters’ fighting styles to apply to created characters, a huge bummer for anyone who planned on creating a lightsaber wielding pirate. You’ll eventually be tricked in to creating things once you start the Tower, no matter how uninterested you are. Both Ascent and Descent hold hordes of treasures, which range from bigger blades to stat-boosting garbs. By meeting unspecified requirements like “Win by Ring Out” or “Earn a Perfect” you won’t be able to resist SoulCalibur IV’s constant unlockable goodies. Where the third iteration faltered, its sequel pays off in spades with the ability to alter the already impressive roster of franchise favorites with loads of clothing, accessories, armor and weapons, or to spawn entirely new and creative characters, giving way to create a thematically appropriate axe-wielding Victorian-era warrior, or a pants-less Viking samurai maid. The sky’s the limit, and the addictive designing will surely gobble up a hefty chunk of time between bouts. SoulCalibur IV has been enhanced so much that it is, without a doubt, the best edition in the series. From its technological improvements (animation, speed, and response) to its graphical leap (reflective armor, beautifully textured clothing, jaw-dropping environmental detail) it sets a new standard the fighting genre without being completely revolutionary. It’s fine-tuned to the point of perfection in most every aspect, save for the totally lame, hard to pull off, and rarely used one-hit-KO “Finisher” attacks, occasionally-laggy online play, and ludicrously annoying defensive opponents on the Hard difficulty. There isn’t a single 3D fighting game on the planet that could possibly be construed as “better than SoulCalibur IV”, and it makes me wonder where the series will go from here. The proven formula has been improved upon so well that it’s easily my favorite one-on-one fighting game, even if the inclusion of “new” stuff is thin. So step on to The Stage of History and never look back. Well, at least until the fifth SC. Until then, SoulCalibur IV will be watching.