Soul Calibur IV Review - 12/08/08

Namco have a premier fighter on their hands, but will adding Lord Vader and Master Yoda into the character roster make the game significantly better than the last instalment?

Soul Calibur 4 is, obviously, the 4th title in the Soul Calibur series and needs to perform well if it wants to be as successful as the superb iterations before it. For almost a decade now, critics world-wide have praised SC for its fluid fighting and innovative use of weapons. The weapons and fighters really are where the beauty begins in this game. Each one has a unique sword, axe or even war hammer that is used to K.O. the opponent. Characters with axes and war hammers tend to be slow and hard hitting, whereas players with swords and daggers are agile and fast, but do hardly any damage to their foes. This balancing really contradicts inexperienced players and teaches them, harshly, to figure out player weaknesses and strengths and play against or to them. This means that most fights against your mates will be long, drawn-out epic battles which will involve you using your wits to outsmart your enemy and predict their next move.

Like the previous games, Soul Calibur IV uses the D-Pad to move and the Face Buttons to attack and block. X is block, O is Kick, Vertical Strike is Triangle and Horizontal Strike is Square. The layout is pretty much the same for the 360, only replacing O and X for the B and X buttons on the 360’s pad in the same position. A new feature is the Critical Strike which, when performed, will end the match and the player executing the move wins. To have your character do a Critical Finish you need to break your opponents Soul Gauge by constantly battering him or her. The less you block and the more you attack the quicker it will become to flash red. Once your opponent's health bar starts flashing red, press L1 and watch the fireworks as your rival is pounded into next week! Some dazzling effects can be seen during this move and each playable character has a different one. Apart from created ones, of course.

The series is back with a bang.

Yes, like I just mentioned, you can create your own ’unique’ character. Unfortunately there’s no move selection and you just have to choose an existing player’s style. Once you choose to make a female or a male and have chosen a style, you need to select it’s side (good or evil) and what type it shall be i.e. Heavy Armour and Maximum HP. Whilst crafting remakes of classic heroes and villains using the detailed creation system can make for some hilarious moments, it unbalances the game as you could make a super fighter with 200% health or a cool-looking fighter with rubbish stats and less health than even the stock characters! I’d suggest only pitting created characters against other created characters as it becomes much more fun to have a fair battle.

Now it’s time for the biggest answer of this review. Is Darth Vader a good character, or a cheap way to suck in casual gamers? To answer that question is pretty hard, but in my opinion, he’s one of my favourite fighters so far. Even against returning roster-favourites Maxi, Lizard Man, Ivy and Nightmare he fits in for some reason. The Big V is also accompanied by The Apprentice from the not yet released-Force Unleashed and 2 Death Star stages. He is the exact opposite to former Anakin Skywalker and is the perfect challenge for him. Vader uses slow, precise, powerful moves, whilst the Apprentice uses quick swipes that do low damage. Sure, they now sound like most of the other fighters in the game, but they have a Force Meter which fills up after time if not used. Both have special force moves that can be used to lift, throw or choke opponents; it can be very useful and they are executed like any other move, using face buttons. But to balance things out, when you use a move that takes up more force than you have in your Force Meter, you’re character will be stunned temporally. Just that small detail makes them perfect as they have no real advantage against the rest of the Soul Calibur Crew. There are now a total of 33 characters and one empty spot, but obviously that is for Yoda/Darth Vader (depending on your chosen format, PS3 or 360) and will almost definitely be up for purchase on PSN or Live Marketplace soon for a small fee.

All of the characters are really well balanced.

One of the most exciting aspects, though, of SCIV is the online modes. You can head online for a few rounds with a 1 vs. 1 situation or a 4 player mini-tourney in which you have 2 matches going on and winners play winners, etc. You can even choose a ‘Special Match’ which will involve you bringing your ‘Pimped-Out’ character to face off against another. It’s implemented rather well and you can invite friends to play, but that’s expected, the only real issue is that it can get rather laggy in the 4 player modes and there’s nothing worse than losing to a faraway friend because the frame rate drops dramatically and you were winning beforehand. Although, for a fighting game, the online variation is handled particularly well.

So there you have it, another Soul Calibur game that has improved upon the last. Namco have really pulled the cat out of the bag to bump the series to next-generation consoles and the details really show, whether it be the graphics, the audio or the fluidity of the entire thing! The only downsides are the online modes, and even those don’t disappoint too much, and the fact that it’s not entirely different to its predecessors. While that’s no problem for the fans it’ll be more upsetting for newcomers.

- Sam Foster


Darth Vader is…Good!?


Older Features Improved.

New Features Need Some Work.

Brilliantly Balanced Gameplay


Great Example of a Next-Gen Leap.



More of the same from the iconic series.


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