Back in the days of the Playstation, Soul Blade was one of my all-time favourite weapon-based brawlers, I sunk too many hours into the game and they were frustrating at times but ultimately fun. Now we’re in 2008 and the series is called Soul Calibur, this being the fourth instalment in the legendary tale of souls and swords, eternally told. Soul Calibur IV for the Xbox 360 kicks into high gear with dynamic highly polished visuals that are excellent and brings to the table a tonne of new fighting moves, a great character roster list and several new modes to the series.
Namco are also quick to announce that the series ties in to the Star Wars universe, and I can’t help feel that they’re trying to piggy-back onto that name to bring in some fans of both Yoda and Darth Vader along with the newly named Starkiller, Vader’s secret apprentice from the forthcoming game: Force Unleashed. Yoda is on the Xbox 360 version of the game and Darth Vader is on the PS3, there are rumours however that there’ll be downloadable content that brings Vader into the 360 and Yoda into the PS3 version of the game.
The controls for Soul Calibur IV at default are reasonable, they’re customisable so you’re going to be able to map various fighting moves to the different shoulder and trigger buttons to suit your control style. We were able to blast through the game using just the normal controls and pull off some stylish and devastating moves, using most of the characters. It is still a game about learning rote-style the various character moves, picking a favourite and mastering that set so you can dominate against your friends online or offline.
New to the series is the concept of the Soul Crush, a state that you enter if you block too much and your opponent rains down a series of devastating moves that leave your health bar flashing red. A few more hits and there’s an impressive clash, a visual effect and if you’re unlucky the CPU will pull off a Critical Finisher move that’ll end the match in one. Fortunately you have access to this as well and it’s mapped to the left bumper on the 360 pad.
These finisher moves are big on special effects and blast you with gorgeous visuals; they rain down destruction on your opponent and end the match in style giving you a huge boost in terms of bonus points as well. There are special powers that can be triggered with the right trigger (if they’re manually activated) or kick in when certain conditions are met. Such as at the start of a match, where for a short time you’re given increased statistics.
Each character has various abilities, they have different statistics and they can be levelled up via constant play. I should mention at this time that whilst Soul Calibur III had an excellent character customisation system, IV has taken this to the next level and through it you can make your own unique custom character based on any of the unlocked character’s move and weapon sets. You can also customise a variant of your core character, altering powers, costume and so on. So if you want a Kilik with a new hairstyle and clothing that you may have unlocked, you can do it.
Clothing and various equipment parts have some effect to your overall stats and can change attack, damage, impact, defence and other statistics. They can also add or subtract from your various power, boost, gauge and other abilities allowing you to customise your character in an almost limitless number of combinations.