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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Soul Calibur 4 Review

posted by on August 16 at 9:55 AM


Soul Calibur 4
(Xbox 360)

The Xbox 360 edition of Soul Calibur 4 adds Yoda to the fighting, and the marketing tie-in seems tacky at first. Even kinda cheap—uh, you can’t throw Yoda, and in Soul Calibur, that’s 1/4 of the 3D battle. But I’ve come to appreciate the grammatically challenged half-pint.

Tiny is he. Hops around all over the place. Is weaker. Can summon the force. Why, that sure seems different for Soul Calibur, doesn’t it? In a fighting game where many Euro-centric characters swing their oversized swords/hammers/axes the same way they did in 1999, Yoda forces a strategy reboot. Maybe a healthy dose of the supernatural could do this ancient series some good.

Sadly, that’s as far as Soul Calibur 4 gets in upgrading a core fight that was already phenomenal in the 1999 original. Back then, it was the first good 3D fighting game with weapons. The second and third versions lost that luster by adding mere tweaks; this one sees more tweaks, HD graphics, and online play.

We could take the easy way out and call this the best Soul Calibur yet, which it is, but then I remember my complaints from weeks ago. It’s 2008—can we get started on some severely different fighting games?

Here’s my biggest issue. You have muscle-bound folks wielding implements of death. Yet nobody gets impaled? No amputation? Not even cuts or bruises. You might consider using that “block” button from time to time if it might save your wrists. And when you slam somebody with a hammer the size of an adult cow, maybe the Xbox 360 should display something other than a flash of light?

We didn’t get that next-gen progression, sadly. And if you’re a casual player who doesn’t want to memorize frigging combos—if you just wanna mash buttons and battle your friends—then a fighting game in this era should at least give that player some level of oomph. I don’t bring this stuff up to sound like a violence freak, but, well, this isn’t Tetris, and there are too many other beat-em-up games to choose from. Stand out or step aside.

To be fair, Soul Calibur as-is still brings the fun—button-mashers can pull off cool-looking attacks, or you can learn the ropes and find a deep, balanced challenge that’s significantly different from the likes of Tekken. Reduce your expectations (or be entirely new to Soul Calibur), and you’ll be fine—especially if you’re a whore for HD visuals, which are a first for the series here.

But even low expectations don’t deserve SC4’s busted online modes. Essentially, Soul Calibur requires quick responses to block sword swipes, but this game’s networking code doesn’t compensate for online lag. So if an enemy hammers a super-quick poke over and over, you can’t disrupt them with a proper block. I’ve been spam-killed like this too many times (and that’s when the game’s broken auto-connect system actually finds me an online foe). Shame.

As a Soul Calibur lifer, I’ll still play the hell outta this game. Grudgingly.

RSS icon Comments


I think there's something lost when you can't see the evil grin on your opponent's face when he engages a 20-hit combo that just about kills you, right before you turn and punch him in the face.

Posted by Greg | August 16, 2008 11:22 AM

I'm saving my money for Mortal Cobat Vs. The DC Universe. I am not to into fighting games (I'd rather shoot stuff) but I am a sucker for DC (and sometimes) Marvel tie ins. (Plus the preview you posted looked damned good).

Posted by elswinger | August 16, 2008 12:01 PM

Kotaku has some good screen caps of the MK vs DC as well.

Been playing the hell out of Bionic Commando on XBLA this week.

Posted by bobcat | August 16, 2008 12:48 PM

I'm holding out for Diablo III.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 18, 2008 10:25 AM

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