Soul Calibur IV Review (PS3)

Question any gamer about what their most anticipated feature in Soulcalibur IV is and itís a sure guarantee that the majority of them will mention the addition of the Star Wars crew to the marquee fighting title. In a way, itís sad that this is being highlighted as the best feature within Soulcalibur IV from the general view of things; especially when Yoda, Darth Vader and The Apprentice all are unbalanced in terms of game mechanics.

Albeit they are a fun addition, Darth Vader, Yoda, and The Apprentice have taken center stage with a few kinks in their repertoire of maneuvers. Darth Vader comes off as a slow old man that strikes with a lot of power, but doesnít have the right amount of force powers thatíll whip the opposition into shape. Yoda is of course small, but isnít as fast as he was when he showed Darth Tyrannus whoís the best Jedi of all time in Star Wars Episode II. Lastly, The Apprentice is overpowering with his force powers and is almost as fast as Yoda when it comes to his moves.

Be ready for amazing feats of athleticism
Jurassic Park ainít got anything on me!

Of the three characters, Darth Vader fits the best into the universe due to the fact that he isnít unfairly balanced as Yoda and The Apprentice are. Players will want to avoid grappling with Yoda as itís impossible to throw or grapple with the Jedi Master. As for The Apprentice, be prepared to block a lot as this Dark Jedi will come with an onslaught of moves that include force lightning and throwing his lightsaber across the arena.

This isnít to say that Soulcalibur IV is a bad game since it suffers from unbalanced characters; itís exactly the opposite as there are a handful of new and improved features that help make this an attractive game to fans of the series.

First off, the character customization is back and better than ever. The customization system allows for players to tinker and edit any of the 30 plus characters already in the game or create their own. Itís a nice diversion thatíll take up your time for a few hours, but the customization isnít as in-depth as say Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09.

The best Ė and not to forget most needed Ė addition to Soulcalibur IV has to be the online play. So far, the matches have been lag free and enjoyable on both the PSN and Xbox Live. Players can join in on ranked matches or join an unranked lobby that acts as a virtual arcade for players taking turns fighting each other with the winner sticking around to defend his title.

A stabbing in the heart never felt so good.
How do you like my eye makeup?

As for Soulcalibur IVís gameplay, itís slowed down a bit. Itís a little more sluggish than what it was in Soulcalibur II and it shows when you run the two next to each other. For the most part, outside of the speed of the game, the gameplay is nearly the same as what players have experienced in the past. There are a few new aspects added in such as the soul-gauge system that gives players the chance to perform a finishing maneuver on their enemy. Overall, the soul-gauge system is entertaining, but Iíve barely had players (online or offline) use their critical-finish maneuver.

Soulcalibur IVís game modes arenít anything special to hype about since theyíre your standard assortment found in many other titles. Of the new game modes, Tower of Lost Souls turns out to be the best. It has the players running through a gauntlet of fighters ascending up a ladder/tower of enemies. To increase difficulty, players wonít have the ability to replenish their health Ė this is easily going to be the mode where a majority of Soulcalibur fans spend their time.

Thereís also the usual Arcade Mode and Story Mode included with the latter suffering with length and quality. The Story Mode has players working their way to face off against Nightmare and Siegfried until their eventual showdown with the new end baddie Algol. Algol is weak and a push-over, so donít expect a climatic finish to the Story Mode. Arcade Mode isnít as bad since it has remained practically identical to what it was in the past.

Replay value is found with unlocking the 10 or so locked characters, the weapons and clothing for each character, and of course, creating your own character. Unlocking the hidden characters in the game can be completed within a thirty minute session, so donít expect a lot of replay to come out of that.

Try blocking this, little lady.
Oh, well how about my counter? Shield to the face should make you think twice.

Technical aspects are tight all around with a few shortcomings. The best aspect in Soulcalibur IV is the environments that Namco Bandai has put together Ė theyíre quite beautiful and pleasurable to play in, especially the tribute to Star Wars Episode I. The downfall of the graphical portion is the faces of several fighters including Raphael who is pretty ugly. Outside of that, the audio is great even though the lip-synching is way off and the long intros to the battles will unnerve you.

If youíre a Star Wars fan and you donít already own Soulcalibur IV, itís recommended that you at least rent or play it to see Darth Vader on the PS3 or Yoda on the Xbox 360 in action. For Soulcalibur fans, it might make you cringe since the Star Wars characters are the ones being heavily promoted and the gameplay has slowed down a bit. Itís a quality game, but itís not as fun as when Soulcalibur II first launched.

Top Game Moment: Being a Star Wars fan, it was when I had Yoda face off against The Apprentice.

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