Published on June 23rd, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell1
A Review of Soul Calibur IV
Year: 2008 // System: PlayStation 3, XBox 360 // Publisher: Namco Bandai // Developer: Project Soul // Genre: Fighting
>>>Melded together, space and time have. The unraveling of humankind through the storm of metal and brute force, I fear. Indeed, yet another Soul Calibur, this is!
And in case the Yoda-speak didn’t give it away already, this is the fourth in the series and the first for the PS3 and XBox 360. Both platforms surprised fans with their inclusion of Star Wars characters, with the PS3 starring Darth Vader and the 360 sporting Yoda. The Apprentice also burst onto the scene as DLC for either version of the game. With light sabers clashing against the broad sides of axes and blades, and the create-a-character feature returning, Soul Calibur IV set out to render all previous versions obsolete and give players the highest “caliber” of a fighting experience that the franchise could offer.
But the best in the series, the fourth entry would not become.
Although the create-a-character mode featured a wider range of customizable options and stats-affecting equipment pieces for your character, the additional classes that new fighters could take on in Soul Calibur III are absent, forcing each new character to mimic a fighting style from one of the mainstays. What frustrated me even more was the inability to characterize new fighters after the Jedi styles or the bonus characters. So even though the fourth game added more skins, greater fighter variety fell to the wayside.
The actual fighting itself downshifted to a more casual pace, which works wonders for the player who wants a fighter that isn’t too technical. There are combos to learn, but the ones you’ll generally use are done by adjusting your stances with the directional buttons and then unleashing disarming strings of lethal blows. The range of difficulties accounts for a custom-tailored challenge that allows the player to find his or her rhythm in the Versus and Story modes.
The Single Player modes do provide a deeper playing experience, especially through the Tower mode which suits the hardcore SC fan and mixes 40+ levels with a hard-as-nails AI. For the player yearning completion on a stress-free level, the Story mode is available for them to take one of the 20+ fighters and knock out five levels to see each character’s story. As long as one is aware of the basic controls, the Normal Story functions as a cakewalk whereas Hard picks up the slack and calls for a stronger cerebral focus on fighting tactics.
The Arcade mode may be the most imbalanced of the Single Player sections due to the broken nature of the Apprentice. While every other character in the 8-stage event took less than two minutes to defeat on average, the Apprentice usually demanded ten minutes of my time. Not even Algol packed as vicious a punch! The Apprentice simply had too much power in his grabs, excessive speed, and a flurry of explosive strikes that were nearly un-blockable. He and Yoda together provided an imbalanced force (no pun intended) in the 360 version that deemed all other fighting styles second-rate. Of course, that’s what happens when you bring technological advanced weapons and “The Force” to a medieval sword-fight.
I did like the breakable nature of equipment, as it correlated with the amount of pain inflicted on a fighter per strike…but only slightly. For the most part, equipment coming apart factored into the fights primarily to give the fourth entry a greater sense of realism, as well as allow players the chance to see what Taki looks like with a ripped-up sneaking suit.
The online multiplayer mode did wonders for connecting players across the globe and showing off each player’s created characters.
This reminds me of the restructured multi-fighter battles in Single Player. This allowed you and the opponent to switch characters mid-battle, increasing strategy and keeping the flow of the fighting at its peak. You only paused in the MFB’s when taking on the “boss” of a round.
Ultimately, Soul Calibur IV kept the franchise going, neither falling apart nor opening the heavens. It’s fun to play as a casual fighter. Tournament-saavy fighters may find that the second and third titles suit them better, whereas those seeking widely customizable characters and and battles that allow them to tear clothing off opponents will find SCIV to their fancy. And despite their out-of-place nature, the inclusion of Yoda and Darth Vader in the 360 and PS3 versions, respectively, does add a flavor of Star Wars. A bad thing, the flavor of Star Wars can never be.
Challenge: 8/Great: Most useable combos are quick and effective but basic, the Arcade mode is addictive but broken due to the Apprentice, and the Story mode gives the casual fighter an appropriate challenge and a nice set of goals to look forward to whereas the Tower mode works just dandy for the longtime Soul Calibur fan.
Handling: 8/Great: Control layouts are nice, and the use of the shoulder button as a tag-team option in Multi-fighter battles allows for lightning-fast transitions between characters. The flashiness of attacks feels toned down, as well as the technical aspects, but for the most part, beating down an opponent gives one a nice sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Innovation: 8/Great: Although the Tower Mode doubled the game play and the enhanced story mode featured ending sequences for each character, I couldn’t help but think that the creators took a couple of steps backwards by taking away exclusive fighter classes for the characters that you could create.
Core Experience: 8/Great: Despite the vast array of options for customizing both your own characters as well as the mainstays, there seemed an absence of lighthearted single-player and multi-player modes that appeared to be exchanged for the extensive Tower levels. At least online play gave Soul Calibur fans the means to hone their blade-wielding skills online, even if they were doing so with a slightly less technical engine.
OVERALL: 8/Great: Soul Calibur IV doesn’t disappoint, but it also doesn’t hold over fans for when the next in the series arrives on console. Oh wait, that next-in-line already did, and that may have caused players to revert to playing this game here, if not the earlier entries in the series…