Review: Soul Calibur V
Soul Calibur V is the fifth iteration of the weapon orientated series on home console. Is it good enough to justify the purchase or should you just stick with Soul Calibur IV?
- Worth The Time?Depends on your preference for fighting games and the series
- Things LovedCharacter variety, character creation, visuals, online modes
- Things HatedA.I can go from insanely easy to crazy difficult in the middle of a match, slightly cheesy storyline
- RecommendationSoul Calibur V is an entertaining fighter that will appeal to all fans of the series and in fact the genre in general. It's well constructed and its only real weakness is it plays safe by not revolutionising the franchise and is instead more of the same. Though that can be a good thing.
- Name: Soul Calibur V
- Genre: Fighting
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Yes
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
- Developer: Project Soul
- Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
- Price: R515
- Reviewed On: PS3
Fighting games and I have a real love-hate relationship. I really enjoy them; right up until a friend comes over, hits the gamepad with their face and ends up winning matches. The other possibility is I practice, unlock every character and refine my skills, only for the game to then become less enjoyable with friends because I can just cream them. There are exceptions to this however, take Mortal Kombat for example, it’s not only fun to master but easy to enjoy and all my friends actually bought it. So Soul Calibur 5, is it any good? Well I should say so, it may be my first real experience with the Soul Calibur series but I know the genre well and it was definitely better than I expected.
Let’s start with the story, well Soul Calibur 5 definitely takes its story quite seriously, more serious than most in fact. Soul Calibur 5, in true fighting game style, leaves little to be desired and despite trying hard is quite cheesy. It’s called 1607 A.D., taking place 17 years after Soul Calibur IV and revolves around a young Patroklos searching for revenge and the two swords Soul Calibur and Soul Edge. Without giving too much away it is rather predictable and not exactly award winning but that really doesn’t matter does it. The story pushes you forward and keeps combat from being nothing but match after match, occasionally letting you duke it out against adversaries you otherwise wouldn’t get to fight. It is interesting at times and despite its flaws, much more enjoyable than many of the dry story modes served up with most fighting games.
Apart from the story mode, there’s all the sorts of offline modes you’d expect; arcade mode, versus mode, a quick battle mode, a training mode and a legendary souls mode. Legendary souls mode is for the more hardcore player and offers a more difficult arcade mode. Quick battle mode presents you with 4 custom characters (I’ll get to that in a minute) to which you can either challenge or swap out for 4 more characters to challenge. Each battle earns you titles, experience to level up and occasionally a fighting style. Of course there’s an online mode and contains all the features you’d expect from a current-gen fighting game; ranked matches, unranked matches and a rather interesting mode called global colesseo. Global colosseo mode places all players who join into a sort of randomly generated tournament where you move up as you win matches, leading to the two best players to duke it out in the finals. I did try this mode and it was very enjoyable but be warned, there are some insane players coming off of previous Soul Calibur games.
The result of playing online with little to no experience.
Character creation, told you I’d get to it, is back and far more creative and approachable than in Soul Calibur IV; and even more so as you unlock items by levelling up your rank. In character creation you are allowed to customise almost every aspect of what your character wears and what colour or pattern that item should have. This aesthetic skin is placed over the fighting style of a chosen character within the game and makes for a great way to individualise yourself from everyone else who chose the same character. Speaking of characters, there are a few new and many old faces to pit against each other. Of course guest character Ezio from Assassin’s Creed is present and has quite a unique fighting style to match his personality and well… career. It’s one of the larger rosters in the series and maintains a balance of unique fighters who each makes use of a very specialised fighting style. I’m surprised they wrung so much balance out of a weapon system that would seem to make combat quite chaotic.
Gameplay is where Soul Calibur has seen its biggest changes and quite a large change to what was considered the staple mechanics of the Soul Calibur series. Critical finishes and its accompanying soul gauge have been removed so there are no more instant kill opportunities in Soul Calibur V. Armour remains destructible but there is no longer a meter to gauge how destroyed a piece of armour is; the only sign your armour is wearing down is when it shatters off of your character should they take too many heavy blows. Additionally, and to allow for a set of super moves, rather than instant kills, there is a new super gauge that as it fills allows you to use ‘brave’ and ‘critical’ edge attacks that deal heavy damage. They work well enough and seem to balance out the style of combat the character uses; so some more damaging but harder to get in and this will correspond with the tank like character Nightmare. 8-Way-Run (I’m sure they could’ve thought of a better name) allows characters to easily side step their adversary with a quick double-tap of either up or down; something that is crucial in this game as blocking is nowhere near as effective as avoiding an attack all together. I should say that this aspect of combat is rather balanced and means that you can either block, a far easier move to execute, but leaves you open to grabs and other moves. Or you can dodge, which is harder to do as the opponent may read your manoeuvre, opening you to attack but also allowing for retaliation if done right. The final mechanic is called ‘just guard’ and if done correctly results in a ‘perfect’ guard, allowing for a considerably shorter time required countering the opponent. All in all the combat is quite balanced and seems to favour all styles of combat while not making any specific character overbalanced or open to exploit. There are a few characters who are still able to spam a move and create annoying situations though I am yet to play a fighting game where that isn’t the case to some extent.
Yoshimitsu using a critical edge.
Speaking of gameplay, the A.I can be quite brutal at times, something you’d expect from a fighting game, but can also be a bit dim-witted at the easier settings. That’s easy to get around and a quick change of the difficulty will fetch a more suited experience. There is one strange occurrence however, and seems to occur in modes like quick battle where different levels of character difficulty are meshed into one mode. What seems to happen is you’ll choose an adversary who seems relatively easy for the first round and about half way into another round when all of a sudden their difficulty kicks up 10 levels and you get creamed. The other aspect of A.I that might frustrate those new to the series, and without at least some modest level of skill, you might find the last stages of story mode to be surprisingly difficult when all previous matches were far less challenging. None of these A.I faults are game wrecking but can be annoying at times.
The one clear improvement over any other iteration in the series is obviously visuals. Soul Calibur V is a very pretty fighter and makes every effort to squeeze all the detail it can into its characters and levels. To work wonders with the visuals is a fitting and enjoyable sound track as well as smooth framerates, something vital to any tournament level fighter. Soul Calibur V is definitely one of the better looking fighters and makes up for what it lacks in some of the characters voices.
Soul Calibur is an enjoyable game, a great online fighter and will look good for a time to come. Its gameplay isn’t exactly new and employs many of the same characters the series has carried over since the first iteration. It’s definitely an evolution of the series rather than a revolution and despite being the same Soul Calibur we’ve come to expect, it does it rather well. The few hiccups it has are easily outweighed by its strengths and while it may not be my favourite fighter ever, it is far from my least.