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Soul Calibur IV Review

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Developer: Project Soul Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: July 29, 2008 Also On: PS3 and Xbox 360

Fighting games for the longest time consisted of punches and kicks. Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Virtua Fighter and Tekken all dominated the fighting genre throughout the 1990s. At the launch of the Dreamcast, a new fighting game was introduced from Namco (ed. Soul Blade was the original game in the series on the PlayStation). Soul Calibur was different from the aforementioned fighters in that it relied on weapon combat. For being such a groundbreaking title at the time, Soul Calibur IV does not change much of the formula nearly a decade after the first.

As you are likely aware, the two major characters that have been added to the Soul Calibur roster are Darth Vader and Yoda. The good news is that you can play as them from the start. The bad news is that they are each exclusive to their respective console: Darth Vader on PS3, Yoda on Xbox 360. There is also a third Star Wars character, The Apprentice, from the upcoming Force Unleashed title. He, however, must be unlocked.

The rest of the characters should be familiar to Soul Calibur veterans, and about half of them need unlocked by playing the single player modes. Actually, you earn gold from playing the single player and then purchase whatever character you want to buy. The Xbox 360 version, of course, has achievements that can be unlocked. The PS3 version of the game, as of this review’s publication date, does not support trophies. It is not outside the realm of possibility that they patch the game to support trophies, or for that matter, offer downloadable content in the form of Vader/Yoda.

The single-player consists of a story mode and a Story mode, Arcade mode and the new mode known as Tower of Lost Souls. The former is a short and quite frankly disappointing attempt at explaining the story behind Soul Calibur IV. It does, however, give you background on each character that you play as, including how the Star Wars characters ending up in the game. The latter mode has you “ascend” the tower to seize it by defeating the bosses that protect it or “descend” to battle against hordes of enemies and see how far you can reach. In order to descend the Tower you must first ascend it. Arcade mode has you face 8 opponents, all of which you must defeat, ending with The Apprentice.

The online play is a little shoddy. It has never been done before in a Soul Calibur title, yet even after years of online gameplay for other games, the system in place just is not sufficient. A number of players that I ran across had only two or three of the five possible bars. Another player dropped from five bars to one during the match. This sort of extreme lag is not easily remedied in a fighting game of this nature. There should have at least been something that would boot you if you do not sustain a level of acceptable connection speed to circumvent this problem.

That being said, you have both unranked and ranked matches to choose from. Among these only the ranked match will award you with gold that you can use in the offline to purchase new characters. The ranked obviously uses a ranking system and will award “levels” based on experience points. While you may earn experience even if you lose, you can not, however, move up a level unless you win. This is a good way to filter out people from leveling up who play a lot but don’t win many matches.

If you have played previous Soul Calibur titles, you will feel right at home with this game. Throw in a player creator and online play, slightly improved graphics, Yoda or Darth Vader and you have Soul Calibur IV. The story mode is still sub-par, but Arcade and the Tower of Lost Souls should keep you busy long enough. Not to mention all of the replay value you will get out of playing with friends offline or random strangers online. Soul Calibur IV is definitely worthy of a rent, while fans of the franchise shouldn’t think twice about buying.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 8.4
Written by Kyle Review Guide