Soul Calibur IV Review
The best weapon-based fighting has returned with a new entry into the series, Soulcalibur IV. While not much has changed with Soulcalibur IV, that’s not a bad thing at all, and will please series fans. The visuals have been vastly improved, the fighting remains much the same, and the modes you’d expect from a Soulcalibur game return to make this a great package that’s very easy to recommend.
Soulcalibur IV has been made accessible for anyone to pick up and play, while maintaining enough depth for hardcore players. The fighting still remains the same–it’s all about blocking, attacking and dodging at the right times. There aren’t very many lengthy combos to memorize so timing is very important. And as with any other fighting game, you’ll need to defeat your opponent by depleting their health bar or knocking them out of the arena.
Besides just worrying about your health bar, you’ll need to keep an eye on your ‘Soul Gauge’. As you block more and more, the Soul Gauge will change from green to red, and then start flashing. When the gauge is flashing the player will enter a state of ‘Soul Crush’, leaving the player defenseless. Another way to take your opponent’s defense down is by destroying their equipment. If you attack your opponents armor enough, it will break off and decrease that player’s defense. This doesn’t effect the fighting too much, but it is a nice feature and a good visual touch.
There are a number of modes you can play through. The most simple is Arcade mode; which has you go through eight battles, each one increasingly harder than the last. During those fights you can earn points, unlock new characters, arenas, and equipment. Story mode is also included, but is a bit disappointing. You’ll still be unlocking the same things as you would in Arcade mode, but you’ll be fighting more opponents in each battle and following a story with that character. The stories aren’t as good as in previous games though. Aside from the very few cutscenes you’ll see, the majority of the story is told through text. Story mode also seems a little short, even though you are fighting 1-4 opponents per battle.
Aside from Story and Arcade mode, the Tower of Lost Souls will be the main attraction and most challenging. Before you start, you can choose to ascend or descend. If you choose to ascend, you’ll have to go through at least three floors at a time, fighting one battle on each floor. During those battles, you’ll be fighting “boss” characters, who often just have more health and a lot of defense. Choose to descend and you’ll see how many enemies you can defeat with one life bar, similar to a survival mode. The challenge to the Tower of Lost Souls is not being able to regain health after a battle. Every floor has treasure chests you can unlock by meeting a specific requirement in that fight, netting you new armor or weapons. For example, in order to get a treasure chest in one particular battle, you cannot take damage during the fight.
For the first time ever in the series, online play is present. You’ll have two options online, Special Versus or Standard Versus. Special Versus allows players to use their characters customized equipment, weapons, and skills. Standard Versus does not allow customized characters. The online play works well and has virtually no lag.
The roster in Soulcalibur IV is pretty much the same as in III, but of course new additions make an appearance. Most notably, Yoda is playable on the 360 version while Darth Vader is on the PlayStation 3. Darth Vader’s Apprentice also makes an appearance in both versions. Some of the new characters include Shura; who wields dual katanas, Ashlotte; who is basically a big robotic doll with a pole-arm, and Angol Fear; who is about 14,800 years old but looks about 20. You’ll also be able to make your own character, which will have to be based on an existing characters fighting style. Thankfully, all the new characters fit nicely into the Soulcalibur universe and don’t feel like they were an afterthought.
Every character is customizable with different equipment and skills. Everything can be changed from head to toe, hair, skin color, etc. Different pieces of equipment will grant more attack, defense, or HP. You’ll be able to equip four different skills per character. The skill types include Power, Impact, Boost, Gauge, and Special. The skills aren’t very necessary to get through Story or Arcade mode, but once you get deep into the Tower of Lost Souls it’ll be important to manage your skills accordingly.
The visuals in Soulcalibur IV are stunning, and may be the best looking fighting game to date. The detail on the character models is amazing. The detail in the different levels looks great as well. You’ll notice particles floating around, much movement in the background, a nice amount of bloom, along with great lighting. If someone is thrown onto the ground, a small crater will appear and small rocks will be left on the ground. The music in the game sounds great, but may seem a bit over-the-top at times.
Overall, Soulcalibur IV is a fantastic game that needs to be played by any fighting game fan. Whether you’re new to the series or not, it’s great to pick up and play. With downloadable content clearly on the way, there’s enough content to keep you busy for quite some time.