Before I begin this review, I would like to mention that I am a big Soul Calibur fan, as well as a big fan of the fighting genre in gaming as well. The last Soul Calibur game I have owned is Soul Calibur II, but my experience with the series has gone back as far as Soul Blade. The reason I did not buy Soul Calibur III was due to financial restraints at the time being as well as the fear of having all the data in my memory card deleted, which was a present glitch within the game, but I still did play it a lot due to a friend owning it. To Soul Calibur enthusiasts, fear not; Soul Calibur IV resembles and even improves upon Soul Calibur II’s gameplay mechanics. The reason I mention this is because enthusiasts were greatly disappointed with Soul Calibur III, due to its unbalanced system of unnecessarily nerfing and buffing core characters for no good reason as well as the immense weight of combat that made the fighting system quite un-enjoyable. Now without further delay, this is my official review of Soul Calibur IV for the PlayStation 3.
What I Liked:
- Combat Fluidity: Animations are fairly smooth in this sequel to the popular fighting series; no character feels too clumsy or constraining to control.
- Equilibrium Among the Majority: Unlike in Soul Calibur III, almost all of the characters are fairly balanced; no character was unfairly nerfed or buffed for no reason. Be aware that there are still a few that are slightly overpowered, but nothing an experienced player cannot handle.
- Tag Team Mechanics: Some modes and battles allow you to have a Tag Team battle with multiple characters. Switching in and out with them is fairly simple and very fluid. With default controls, all the player must do is press R1 to switch characters and it will happen instantly with no interference to the battle, unlike in other games, where the player that has been tagged actually attacks first before becoming playable or involves a clunky animation of the player literally tagging in the other player which disturbs the current battle a bit.
- Tower of Lost Souls Mode: This mode basically has the player ascend a tower through a set of floors filled with battles involving different challenges, whether it be a 2 vs. 2 match or even a 1 vs. 4 match. The player may choose to fight these battles normally, but note that within each floor of battles, there is a chance to acquire a treasure chest. This is what I mean by “different challenges” in the sense that if a player meets the requirements of that floor of battles, whether it be to Ring Out the opponent or block 10 attacks consecutively, they will receive a treasure chest that contains new items available for the Create A Soul (CAS) mode, which is basically creating your own new character, which leads me to my next point.
- A Very Complex, Comprehensive ‘Create A Soul’ System: Creating a character in Soul Calibur IV is truly fantastic. It has a very wide range of items for the player to select from and nearly everything is customizable to create a new character. If you look around the internet, you’ll already see many of the astonishing creations people have been able to make from this system; I’ve seen Altair from Assassin’s Creed, Ken from Street Fighter, and even the Incredible Hulk! From choosing your own hairstyles and their color to altering their whole costume in each part of their body and their color scheme, this has something for everyone. Also, each and every item will affect different stats of the character, including Attack, Defense, and the amount of HP they have. You can even implement certain skills in your creations, which will be further elaborated on next.
- System of Leveling Up Each Character’s “Style”: Soul Calibur IV incorporates a slight RPG system in each of its characters in the sense that as you fight more with that character, you will level up their Style. The maximum level for each character is 9. Style affects what types of Skills you can put into each character that you can implement in CAS mode. Implementing Skills are restricted by the amount of “skill points” you have in certain areas, including Power, Impact, Boost, Gauge, and Special. Each of these areas have a limit of skill points that each skill occupies and as you level up a character’s Style, the limits on these will increase further and further allowing you to implement better skills, such as Hyper Mode that increases the power of your character temporarily, or even turning Invisible. Of course, most Offensive Skills are temporary and most can be triggered using R2 in the default control scheme.
- Myriad of Unlockables: Each battle you fight, whether you’re in Arcade mode, Story mode, or Tower of Lost Souls mode, you’ll be earning Gold according to your performance in battle. The accumulated Gold can be used to buy new characters, new images in the Gallery, and such. There are many things to buy in Soul Calibur IV, which definitely helps its replayability factor. Not only that, but the game also has its own system of achievements called “Honor”. This system is fairly similar to Xbox 360’s Achievements and PlayStation 3’s Trophies; the player must achieve a certain task to unlock one of these Honor.
- Colorful, Lively, and Pleasant to View: The graphics in this game have truly impressed me. For such a complex game, the character models look fantastic; the lighting is above average and overall, it is just great to look at, especially in CAS mode. Namco Bandai has truly made sure that the graphics in CAS mode are spectacular and ensured consumers that the quality of their creation will look no better than the already astonishing existing characters.
What I Disliked:
- Lackluster, Rushed Story Mode: Mainly catering to the fans of the series, the story in the Soul Calibur universe was always fairly intriguing. The Story Mode in Soul Calibur IV was most disappointing to me, personally. Each character’s Story mode consists of 5 stages and is usually filled with random battles against one or multiple enemies; there are some Story modes that have an assisting character with you that you can switch and out with. Most of the story is somewhere within the characters’ dialogues before they fight, but that isn’t saying much. The endings for each story mode are short cutscenes that are pretty to look at but ultimately fruitless in the end, since after those 30 second to 1 minute cutscenes, it will just be followed up with one or two sentences of text that usually details the aftermath in a very vague way, which left me and probably many others, unsatisfied.
- Unresponsive Online Mode: The online mode in SCIV functions in a clumsy way. There are several modes to choose from, ranging from Standard Matches that include battles with no weapon or skill effects and the other mode that does allow them. They both share the common trait of a below average performance though. Quick Matching has led me to full rooms; searching for servers with 1 out of 4 players in them and choosing them has also left me with the message that the room is full, when it clearly is not. Note that the structure of 4 people in a room is divided up to 2 of them fighting ahd the other 2 waiting in line watching the fight in real-time, unless you unluckily enter while a match is occuring, in which you’re left with watching the lobby instead. The biggest flaw in Soul Calibur IV’s online mode is the laggy button response time. It takes about a good half a second to a full second for buttons to actually register, which makes a big difference in combat to enthusiasts of the fighting genre. Also, even when you and your opponent are at a stable connection with each other, there will be hiccups here and there which will nearly freeze the whole game and having it run at at most, 2 frames a second, though these instances pass by within a few seconds. The online mode is bearable at the very least in Soul Calibur IV and is quite enjoyable with friends, but it could be much, much better.
- Love or Hate AI: In the cast of AI in this game, they are quite intelligent, especially in Hard mode, but their turtle tactics are still in place, similar to the past games. Some fans hate it; some fans favor it; I’m just neutral about it. Of course, this doesn’t exactly detract from my enjoyment in playing the single player portions of the game as they prove to be quite challenging at times, but overall, judging the AI system of Soul Calibur IV has left me quite in a dilemma as to whether I should exactly like or dislike it.
Soul Calibur IV is a more-than-welcome addition to the Soul calibur series. It improved upon what fans loved, took away what fans hated the most and covered it with a stunning fresh coat of paint. I hope my personal review will prove useful to those who have been on the edge of purchasing this game. My recommendation is to buy it, especially if you are interested in the fighting genre at the very least and have been waiting for a new game to play.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
The Online Mode is pretty much broken, as is the story.
Well balanced gameplay is supplemented by large number of unlockables.