…and the soul still burns… On and on and on. Once a mighty fighter, SoulCalibur lost its way a bit with the rather lacklustre IV and since then Street Fighter 4 came home, reinventing the fighter all over again. Now at number 5 (not including all the side projects), SoulCalibur promises a return to its former splendour and this time without the interruption of the popular but out of place Star Wars characters.
Though we are not completely away from the “guest” appearance, it’s sad they think these games need the exclusive characters, the originals like Kilik and Voldo are so strong that having a Yoda, or Ezio in this instance makes them the character everyone wants to unlock and play, kind of overshadowing these other great characters. When you do unlock our favourite assassin, all of the moves expected from his own Ubisoft titles are there, but he is certainly for the more experienced players. Moving away from guest appearances there are the usual batch of faces returning to battle for the 2 Soul blades, either for personal glory or the good of humankind, with the likes of katana wielding Mitsurugi, Ivy and even Astaroth, who seems to have been to the gym, looking more slender but as brutal as ever.
Having been moved forward around 17 years from the last title a few new faces appear that are somewhat familiar, like the children of Sophitia, Kilik’s successor Xiba, Cianghu’s daughter Leixia, Natsu who was trained by Taki and a stranger who has taken on the mantle of Yoshimitsu. This is a great avenue to explore, allowing for hybrids of previous fighting styles as if taught by their parents and teachers but still with their own, independent style.
This is furthered by the infinite feeling of the character customization system, with the game utilizing this to create loads of characters to act as general fodder and also for you to create the greatest warrior. With every fight you take part in earning points to level up your character and unlocking more and more as you go along. Starting with basic weapons and clothing you can earn a multitude of fighting styles, clothing, equipment and even edit and take photos to put on your characters fight card for the world to see, you can go for a low key and simple background with your creation striking a pose, or have them bursting out from a sharks mouth, its all down to you.
There are plenty of modes to choose from, the first of many being the Story Mode, which is set in 17th century Europe, with the two swords again causing rifts throughout the world. This time the focus is on siblings Pyrrha and Patroklos, with Patroklos searching for his sister. Through a chance meeting with previous champion Siegfried, Patroklos is granted as the new host for the SoulCalibur, you can guess who has the Soul Edge and so a great journey begins, searching for his and also take down Nightmare once again, bumping into plenty of the original cast plus some brand new faces including Z.W.E.I, another sword wielding character but with the ability to summon a werewolf, adding a more projectile tactic to the fights, something that SoulCalibur games don’t usually go for.
The story is a solid few hours of battles being presented in a mixture of sepia toned stills and in game cut scenes, letting you take control of Pyrrha, Patroklos and Z.W.E.I at certain junctures. Whilst a good time waster and unlocking a couple of characters the story mode is nothing like what previous games offered and with no separate storylines to experience from other characters point of view it will be forgotten very quickly.
More offline modes include the Legendary souls mode, a basic Arcade mode that entails 6 battles through Asia, Europe or a mixture of the two, pitting you against different enemies, a Quick Battle that puts you against an huge roster of random created characters, a Vs battle and also a handy training mode that lists all of the available moves for each character.
The fighting mechanics themselves have been changed a lot from previous versions, you still have a kick, block and vertical and horizontal attacks but no longer do you have gauges all over the place, this time you have a simple health bar and a critical gauge that fills up as you fight, keeping screen clutter to a minimal. There are plenty of special moves, combos and counters to master plus guard breakers but this is where I struggled with the game a little, as though enjoyable for the early stages and a more accessible feel then the last title, the heavy focus on knowing counters and such becomes something of a frustration as the earlier games were not as tough, meaning a lot more time in the training arenas, or maybe I am getting old.
Something that has improved with age is the presentation, especially with the graphics that really do scream quality with huge on-screen characters, moving fluidly and hosting a great range of heavily detailed armour and clothing. The backgrounds again are stunning, with battle torn European towns and forests, only one fails which is the battleground level, which has a strange, almost shifting sands effect as you move around, which does distract from the battle from time to time as your eyes process it as something slightly off. As well classic K.O’s you also have the ring outs; where if you are lucky and skilled enough you can finish a fight early by knocking a rival out of the arena, great when you do it but you still feel cheated if it happens to you.
Once you feel comfortable against the computer you can always try your fighting skills online with Ranked and Player matches available to choose from, each mode allowing you to play as either created characters or any that you have previously unlocked. If you don’t have the patience to wait for the game to find yourself a battle you can always create a fight room where you can stipulate rules and set up fights.
Going online also offers you the Global Colosseum where you can chat and create tournaments with anyone else hanging around and finally you have the world Leaderboards to see how you are doing against your mates and the rest of the world.
SoulCalibur V feels a lot more like the older games which is good, but with such a heavy reliance on counters and such it may put people off. Despite the negatives any hardcore fighting fan will lap this new title up as one of the better SoulCalibur games from the series.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)
You can pre-order Soul Calibur (PS3|Xbox 360) from ShopTo and get some pretty great bonuses, such as these Soul Calibur Bobble Heads and Art Cards.