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Review: Soulcalibur IV

Aaron Stack | 7 Aug 2008 21:01
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Aside from the aforementioned guest characters, a lot of time has been spent trumpeting Soulcalibur IV's online matches, mainly because of the amount of lag I experienced. At first, I thought it might be a problem on my end, but other people I know with the game have experienced the same problem. Players can also enter into ranked matches, which compares them to gamers around the world based on experience points won from battles, but there's no real penalty if a person drops out of a match when they're on the cusp of defeat. At the moment, this is actually a good thing because being randomly disconnected from these battles isn't all that uncommon, but once things are stabilized this could become a major problem.

The worst flaw with the game is that its art style has gotten so over-the-top that it's beyond silly in some cases. There are a number of characters whose appearance is clearly anime-based, but this often feels jarringly out of place with the rest of the characters and levels. This odd style choice carries over to when players create a character: there no option to actually create any stat-boosting items or weapons, which means players have to use points to buy nothing but pre-made objects, which often look completely ridiculous. No offense to the game's creators, but things like neon-colored witches' hats and dangly necklaces tend to make characters look stupid instead of fearsome. When this art style is mixed with the game's tendency to takes itself as seriously as it does... well, it simultaneously feels goofy and pretentious, which never really equates to a winning presentation. And no, before you ask: you can't customize the Star Wars characters. As cool as it would be to give Yoda an oversized witch's hat and make him look like a mutant Black Mage, the only thing you can do with any of these characters is change out their lightsabers (which remain the same color and style as before, but alter stats accordingly).

While it sounds like Soulcalibur IV is a bad title, it's not. In fact, it's a wonderful fighting game, overall. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking title, and the fighting mechanics are as strong as ever. The problem is that each of its predecessors has managed to do so many new things right when they were released; here, it feels like a number of new things were attempted but put into the game without being perfected. As a result, it's the first time I can say that the newest Soulcalibur game isn't the best I've played.

Bottom Line: Soulcalibur IV is a solid fighter for both the 360 and the PS3, but it's one that takes itself a little too seriously given its presentation this time around. The only reason you should choose one over the other (provided you've got both systems) is because you have a particular preference for the Light or Dark Side of the Force.

Recommendation: Rent it. Unless you're a die-hard fan of the series, you should make sure to get the geektastic Star Wars battles out of your system before you enter into a committed relationship with the game.

This review is based on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game.

Aaron Stack once fought off an invading army of mutant koala bears by singing a drunken rendition of "MacArthur Park." No one is sure if the bears or the song were more terrifying.

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