A very belated Soul Calibur IV Review Perfect? Nope. Best SC yet? Assuredly. *Does anyone know if Project Soul has a Vulcan on their payroll? Professor X? John Edward? In any case, it's as if, circa 2006, somebody mind-melded my SCIV wish list clean out of my skull and dropped it on Namco's bamboo doorstep. What about the broken engine? Fixed.
Variable Cancel? Gone!
Where-the-H-did-that-even-come-from RTS mode? BUHLETED!
Character Creation? P-I-M-P. I don' na what you hurrd about me. Shooting Voldo with a bubble gun, lobbing him into the air with a nonsensical and sinister-claw chest, and nonchalantly crushing his deviant body with an ornate throne which plummets from some trans-dimensional portal? ...well it wasn't on my list, but it's in here. And I'm not complaining. The SC engine Namco has been shamelessly recycling since the late '90s is still here, and just as solid as ever. Series veterans return with bike-ride familiarity, but there are enough tweaks to keep die-hards interested. One of my favorites is Astaroth's new back throw - rather than the twisting your spine around the haft of his impossibly large axe, he knocks you to the pavement and peppily marches down your back like a cheerful masochistic chiropractor, ending the affair with a tasteful curb-stomp. My only complaint with the move list thus far is the baffling removal of Rock's leaping overhead swing - the one could end a round with three consecutive hits. I miss it. I miss it bad. He does have some ridiculous two-hit combos and some devastating throws. And a Rhino head. I guess it evens out. While the feel of the combat feels really familiar, there is one brand-new, and surprisingly decent addition. The Soul Charge function has been nixed and replaced with a new Soul Gauge dynamic. According to developers, the Soul Gauge was instituted to punish over-cautious players. The Soul Calibur engine is such that I've never noticed a problem in that regard, but the new system is pretty cool nonetheless. If a player spends too much time on the defensive, a jewel next to his name will gradually change color from blue/green to red. Once you've pretty well gotten wailed on, your health bar will start to pulsate, at which point, any blocked strong attack will break off a piece of your armor and stun you. This super-stun is called a Soul Crush, and in the rare cases in which you'll pull one off, you'll have to contain your excitement long enough to press A+B+K+G (or something...I have it mapped to Rb ) to trigger your character's unique Critical Finish. The Finishers are instant match-enders. If you get caught by one, no amount of button-mashing or complaining or offers for a Sonic Beverage of your choice is going to help you. It's really hard to beat someone down enough that you'll actually trigger the sequence - 9 times out of 10 you're just going to kill your opponent before you have a chance to CF. It really doesn't shift the balance much, but it does give me one more reason to spam Poseidon Tide with Astaroth. (who, BTW, is a freaking lava monster these days. What is the world coming to?!)
The Critical Finish moves vary in coolness from Two Bats of an Eyelash to John Woo, Eat Your Heart Out. My favorites are probably Yoshimitsu's - which culminates in a kaishaku-type decapitation, and Yoda's - a lightsaber fling into the opponent's chest. Which brings me to the Star Wars characters. Are they cool? Well, yeah. (Yoda has a guard impact counter where he picks up his foe and flings him to the ground with the Force. Yeah. It's rad.)Are they as woefully out of place as you'd expect? Yes M'am. Once the nerdy coolness wears off, the lack of refinement in these gimmick characters becomes apparent. Yoda is impervious to throws - that's right, you CAN NOT throw him. Even if you try really hard and your mom signs your reading log, you just can't grab him. He's also immune to high and mid A attacks while standing, though this seems way worse than it is. You see, about half of his attacks cause him to vault up into your grill, making him susceptible to just about anything you dish out (except for throws, don't forget!) He's nowhere near as fluid as he should be, but with the help of the Force, he can string together some really flashy-twirly air combos. They look really cool, but they don't do much damage, and combined with his dreadfully slow ground movement, they'll cause you to lose matches and interest faster than you can say, "TK421 why aren't you at your post?!" On the opposite end of the balance spectrum (and Force gradient, coincidentally) is Starkiller, the protagonist from The Force Unleashed. He's good. Kinda too good. Everything is speedy and heaps of damage and guardbreak. But, he still feels awkward. He will absolutely ravage you in the Story mode, but once you take him out for a test run, you'll realize he's just not all that much fun to play. All in all, it feels like there just wasn't enough time devoted to the Star Wars characters. Oh, and there's really no attempt made to explain their presence. I guess that's probably wise - it's like trying to explain why David Hasselhoff is hosting a show about talent. They do look and sound great though. And the Star Wars themed stages, complete with licensed John Williams soundtrack, are plain and simple Fanboy porn.
As of right now, Yoda is on the Xbox and Vader is on the PS3, but there is a mysterious space in between the exclusive character and Starkiller, which is sure to be a crossover download soon enough. I can't wait to beat down on Vader with my tiny green homeboy. If I were more ambitious or less sleepy, I could detail a few yawny new game modes and a much improved creation system. I won't. Here's some wrap-uppers
The graphics and sound are great. I need an HD tv. The gameplay is as solid as ever, with some interesting tweaks. It's head and shoulders above SCIII, and its satisfying mechanics and slick packaging make it an easy recommendation for anyone with any interest in the genre. 4 out of 5 WTF guys
Posted Sep 10, 2011 2:50 pm GMT