Soul Calibur IV (2008)
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Platform: X-Box 360
Purchase Date: 07/29/2008
The most popular weapon-based 3D fighting game, there are not many of them out there mind you, is back for its fourth iteration (fifth if you count Soul Edge). Namco brought all of the popular fighters in the series back into the game alongside several new faces. When you look at the game's instruction manual, you will find nothing explaining the characters and the setting of the new game. Those familiar with the series know that this is not necessarily a bad thing. The series is more focused on the brawls more than justifying the brain behind them. But for those new to SC, the game is set in the medieval world filled with samurai, knights, ninjas, scantily-clad vixens, and everything else in between.
Those wanting to know more about the new adventure can play the short and mostly team-based Story mode. The stories make little sense of course and filled with repeat cut scenes. The team-based gameplay is new to SC where the player gets to switch between characters on the fly. It's fun and it definitely adds a different feel to the game: Sadly you can't play the team combat with other players. The Story mode is really there as an afterthought and an easy way to collect points needed to unlock artwork and character customization items. Speaking of character customization, the player can build a new character from the ground up or customize the existing characters. The customization options are deeper now because the player's choice of design will impact the character's attribute points. Playing certain modes will activate the altered stats, from stronger attacks to passive skills like auto-escaping from throws. It's all fun to experiment with but I find it more entertaining to mess with a character's look and play a regular match so that my performance would not be impacted by my wacky editing. The "Tower of Lost Souls" mode is a mission based adventure where the player can choose to ascend or descend it. This mode gets progressively more difficult and requires the player to alter the chosen fighter's attributes to best counter the opponents. There are numerous items to unlock here if special conditions are met and there are really tough to beat. SCIV is the first in the series to be playable online and the player can choose to battle with the attribute-modifiers on or off.
Expect to see a lot of this while trying to find opponents online.
Even the Quick Match option is not quick enough to snatch up an opponent for you.
The overall gameplay mechanics here are only lightly tweaked and those who have played the series before will feel right at home with the controls. The most significant addition is the Soul Gauge that changes from green to red and it leads to armor destruction on the upper, middle, or lower part of the body, making the specific damaged area more vulnerable to further attacks. The player can also execute a critical finish that will instantly end the round when the enemy's Soul Gauge is flashing red but the occurrence of this is very rare. A lot of the new characters' weapon styles found here are merely copies of the existing ones, a total disappointment. There are many characters to choose from but since they all play just the same since the big changes that came after Soul Edge, things get a bit dull. Then, there are the Star Wars characters. Not only do they feel out of place in the game, they are mostly cheap and overpowered, especially Yoda in this X-Box 360 version. Darth Vader will soon be a downloadable content on this platform and Yoda will be joining the PlayStation 3 as well. Maybe Namco is trying to convince LucasArts that they want to make a new Star Wars 3D fighting game? The game would have been better off if they include the cast of their Tales role playing series into the game.
"Go ahead and destroy the floor on that side of the boat, Xianghua.
I'll fix the broken section on this side!"
After the ever dynamic destructible floor in Virtua Fighter 5,
this graphical flaw is just plain unacceptable!
Is SCIV fun? Of course it is. Is it a balanced fighting game? Well, let's just be adult about this shall we? Declaring that it is balanced is like declaring that the world is flat. Don't believe me? Try playing the game online for a while. Notice that once your opponents discovered the overpowered combos on some of the characters, there will be no escaping a sure defeat if you just happened to be playing the wrong character. Notice that you would be able to do the same thing if your opponents just happen to play characters that just can't fight well with your chosen fighter. There are a lot of people who like to abuse Yoda too whenever you choose a slower/bulky character. The balance issues have existed ever since the first game and Namco apparently like it that way. This flaw was well hidden before because of the lack of online play and now that you're fighting against the worldwide gaming population, it's as glaring as a hot summer sun. With some serious tweaking, this game can evolve into something more substantial and I don't know what is holding Namco back. Even the graphics seem to be only a small jump from number III that was made for the PlayStation 2. The characters do have more polygons and the texture work is amazing but how come a majority of the clothes move like they were made out of cardboard boxes? SCIV is a more forgiving, more casual, and faster version of Namco's own Tekken series. That being said, SCIV is no Virtua Fighter.
RATING: 3 out of 5