STAFF REVIEW of Soul Calibur IV (Xbox 360)

Sunday, August 3, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

Soul Calibur IV Box art Soul Calibur IV has been on everyone's radar for quite sometime. Well folks it has finally arrived onto our beloved Xbox 360 consoles and it seems that its been well worth the wait. The graphics are stunning, the gameplay is solid, and there is plenty of online goodness for all gamers to enjoy. This game should be a welcome addition to almost any gamer's library whether you are a fan of the genre or not. And the inclusion of Yoda in the 360 version just makes it all the more worthwhile.

The Soul Calibur series has written itself into video game history as being one of the elite fighting games. It has also established a large following of fans that will swear by the name Soul Calibur and protect its integrity to their death. Well those folks will be happy to know that SCIV is a fabulous and welcome addition to the Soul Calibur library of games. But for folks that may not be familiar with the Soul Calibur series lets give a quick run down as to what the game entails.

The SC series is a weapon based fighter that boasts beautiful backdrops, a cast of unforgettable characters and storylines as well as stellar gameplay. Each character has its own themed fighting style and weaponry along with an array of special moves and attacks. You'll progress through each character's storyline to unlock new characters and weapons.

Now onto what the latest offering has to offer the gaming world. You will get plenty of bang for your buck with this title. The game gives you several different modes of play including online multiplayer. First off lets discuss the Story Mode. Each character in the game has a story to tell which culminates in a cinematic final cut scene that at times leaves you wanting just a little more. The storylines only last about five rounds for each character. But with the enormous roster of characters, you'll have plenty of playing time in the story mode. As I stated earlier in the game, Yoda is exclusive to the 360 version while Darth Vader is exclusive to the PS3. The storyline that ties Yoda into the games overall universe and quite well done. I definitely suggest checking this one out before really diving into the game. And yes, Yoda is unlocked at the start of the game so you will not have to wait to play as the Jedi Master. Also included in the mix is ?The Apprentice? whom is featured in the upcoming title The Force Unleashed.

Anyhow, as stated each character plays through 5 levels with the final level being the ultimate battle against the big boss. Each level you will face off against 1 or more consecutive opponents which will all need to be defeated in order to advance to the next level. You'll unlock a few characters and weapons while playing this mode dependent upon who you face and beat.

The next mode we'll discuss is the Tower of Souls. You basically fight your way through multiple floors of enemies in order to take control of the tower. Each level consists of a few floors which must be cleared to move onto the next level. When you begin this mode you'll only be able to ascend the tower, but once you have cleared 20 floors you'll then be able to descend the tower as well. There is plenty of unlockable content throughout the entire tower so you'll definitely want to give this mode a try. One of the cool features is that you will be able to designate a team of your favorite characters which you can cycle through in almost a tag team style as you proceed through the floors of the tower. You'll also want to be sure to upgrade you character armor, weapons and skills as you get into higher levels. Mix and match different character groupings to see what works best for you and your fighting style.

As I just mentioned, you'll have the ability to upgrade character skills, weapons and armor. The skills that you can assign to your fighter is based upon a point system. There are various types of weapons and equipment that will assign a point value to skill category. The skills you get to choose for your fighter are dependent on the skill value and how many skill points you have to ?spend?. Some skills will be locked at first but will become available as you progress level up the style attribute with your characters. You'll also be able to style each piece of clothing and armor you wear with your own color schemes. Some characters appearances cannot be altered such as Yoda. You can also create your very own fighter from scratch choosing the style, appearance, clothing, weapons and skills. This character can be leveled up just as the in game characters.

One of the biggest and most welcome additions to franchise is online multiplayer across the Xbox Live network. You'll be able to use any character and customizable character online and it seems to be fairly seamless online and quite enjoyable. Not a whole lot to mention here as the online plays very similar to the offline modes. There is one pretty neat feature online and that is the ability to have matches with or without equipment and weapon effects active. Of course, without weapon/equipment effects basically pits you one on one and the best actual fighter wins rather than the best attributes. You'll compete in either ranked or player matches with up to 4 other players.

The controls of the game are extremely responsive and seem to work well with the game. There are plenty of moves that can be performed with button combos and stick movements. You'll also have the ability to pull off special finishing maneuvers called Critical Finishers which will inflict great damage upon your foe and end the match with a final swift slow motion cinematic. Very impressive to say the least. These finishers are caused by the new armor damage that is inflicted on your opponents. If an opponent blocks to much he poses the possibility of losing pieces of armor due to your blows. When their Soul Gauge goes red its time to hit A, B, X and Y buttons simultaneously. Just so you know, using default controls the left bumper is preset to simulate pressing those buttons.

Some of the more diehard veterans of the game may find it troubling that button mashing can be quite successful in this game. I am not an expert at this type of game and can hold my own against seasoned veterans just with some typical button mashing and key blocking of their shots. While I will be unsuccessful more times than not, its still out there for the casual users to be able to jump in and coy the game is absolutely gorgeous. Lighting and shadows are done beautifully on both the character models as well as the backdrops for each and every stage. There is always some sort of ambiance to each scenery backdrop. For instance, there is a Star Wars level that depicts your battle inside a Star Destroyers hangar bay. Outside you'll see an epic Star Wars battle taking place while Tie Fighters and X-wing fighters race past you and your opponent. Dead or Alive 4 and now Soul Calibur IV have set the precedent for fighting game backdrops. Thumbs up and frankly I was in awe quite a few times while admiring the artwork and displays of graphical masterpieces.

Overall Soul Calibur IV is a must have for gamers in general. Gorgeous graphics, fluid gameplay, online multiplayer and just plenty of unlockables and game modes are just a few of the reasons that you should at the very least give the game a try. I hope to see Darth Vader make his way to the 360 in the form of future downloadable content at some point. But for now, I am quite content with what Soul Calibur IV has to offer as is.

Bring Darth Vader to the 360 if possible via DLC, and possibly some other characters and venues!!! Also, would be great to have some tournament style matches online for both ranked and player matches. Other than that, great job!

Overall: 8.9 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.3 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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