Review: Soul Calibur V
The bladed fighting tournament continues with the fifth home console instalment.
Set 17 years after Soul Calibur IV, the main thrust of the story is with Patroklos, son of Sophitia from the previous games. The story mode this time is played out as a series of fights linked by highly polished CGI and more traditional animation. Taking control of Patroklos as his fighting method changes over time is a clever way of getting the player to try more varieties of fighting style. Although relatively short (I completed it in around 2 hours 30 minutes), the mode is very well produced with excellent voice acting and an involving storyline throughout.
The main bulk of the game is in both the Arcade and Quick Battle modes where you earn experience that goes towards unlocking new items and game effects. There are no 2 vs 2 tag battles in any of the modes, Arcade being a straightforward series of six fights with Nightmare as the boss, however you can alter the route you take through to vary things up a bit. You’ve also got Quick Battle, which is a kind of substitute for an online mode where you fight CPU characters of various difficulty levels to earn their titles.
As always the arcade difficulty is adjustable but the real hardcore brigade will no doubt be satisfied by the Legendary Souls mode. This is a boss rush of four ultra hard characters that has been designed to test your mastery of the game’s fighting system to the max.
If you’re a veteran of the series, you’re going to have get a bit of practice in as the fighting system has been given a complete overhaul. Gone are the parries, Critical Finishes and Soul Gauge and in their place is a new gauge which gets charged up through combat. Charging this gauge allows you to execute a Brave Edge, which is essentially a beefed up version of one of your characters normal moves. Another new feature is that when the gauge is full you can use it to perform a special move taking a fair chunk of your opponents health bar.
Defence has also been changed, with Just Guard replacing Guard Impacts. This new defensive manoeuvre is harder to pull off and consumes part of your Critical Meter, but is ultimately more rewarding as you get a better chance to retaliate against your attacker. These changes are far more than skin deep and present a new and exciting challenge to both existing fans of the series and newcomers alike.
Online mode has the usual standard fare such as ranked matches with leaderboards with the option of text chat in the player match lobby. You also get to play around with a replay mode which allows you to record your favourite bouts, plus download replays from other players. The fighting genre really suffers online if plagued by lag but here the fighting is fluent and smooth, even on an average connection, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a decent challenge online without issues.
The character creation has been greatly expanded with an increased depth of options. You can now place stickers (various artistic designs) on any part of your characters clothing or skin. Face paint is now available and you can even customise your weapon’s colour trail. Your character’s voice has more pitch and tone options and there is special equipment available for further customisation scope. All in all a strong improvement on last editions features and as clothing no longer gives special properties you can dress how you like. Splendid. If you don’t care about creating your own fighter, don’t worry, you’ve got 30 fighters to choose from, including series favourites Cervantes and Siegfried.
One character you won’t have to create is Ezio from Assassins Creed as he joins the character roster as a special guest. He’s a much better than the cool, but ultimately odd/poor choice of Vader, Yoda and The Apprentice in IV. Ezio looks like he fits into series whereas the Star Wars additions were just bunged into the game to drum up publicity and to try and bring in some new fans, much in the same way as the awful new Vodaphone advert. Thankfully that’s not the case here as his crossbow and daggers make him an accomplished character at both close and ranged combat and his character plays very smoothly.
With several new fighters and a more tactical and in-depth fighting system (plus the unlockable fighting style option from Tekken available), this is a superior release in the fighting game genre. Combined with high quality graphics and an impressively epic orchestral score, Soul Calibur V is sure to set the pulse racing.
Soul Calibur V is released on Friday 3 February on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. You can pre-order the game now from our online shop.