Developer/Publisher: Namco/ Namco Bandai
Release Date: July 29, 2008
Rating: T
Available On: Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360
Genre: Fighting
Number of Players: 1-4

Strong Points: Impressive graphics, both in the character models and environments; tight controls; solid single player and multiplayer; great character customization.
Weak Points: Voice acting is feeble at best; not as ‘deep’ as other fighters out there; as with most games of this genre, there is hardly a story to speak of.

Moral Warnings: There is violence, though none of it is graphic or bloody; certain characters sport an unbelievable amount of cleavage; some minor language and “magical” attacks

The fan base to the Soulcalibur games has been anticipating the fourth installment in the franchise for quite some time. The fourth game doesn’t change much in gameplay from the previous entries, but as it is the first in the series to appear on next-gen consoles, the technical advancements are considerable, and it is also the first entry in the series to include online play.

Soulcalibur IV sticks to the traditions set by past games of the series, in that it is an extremely fast fighter. This is both for good and ill. The plus side to the speed that this series offers is that it doesn’t rely on combo chains in quite the same way as a fighter the likes of Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter does. Instead of requiring the player to learn massive combos, and which combos/counters to use in a given situation, SCIV takes the quicker approach of “That button does this, this button does that” for its formula. This works perfectly for bringing in more inexperienced players, instead of restricting the game to the hardcore fighting nuts.

However, this is also one of Soulcalibur IV’s biggest downfalls: it’s just too easy to win. Button mashing will get even the most casual players a long way in a match. It’s not entirely uncommon for a veteran of the Soulcalibur series to fall to a newcomer. While it’s nice for gamers of all calibers to be able to access a game, the easiness of Soulcalibur IV will likely deter fans of the more complicated, deeper fighters out there. Granted, there are still a good deal of combos per character to memorize. But SCIV simply doesn’t feel as much of a fighter when compared to others of the genre; indeed, it will, on occasion, feel like an action game, simply because of the sheer speed. Still, even though it may not fill out to be a “true” fighter, Soulcalibur IV’s fighting system is extremely entertaining as far as ‘pick up and play’ games go.

The overall single player aspect to the game is quite solid. To start off with, there is the Story mode. After selecting this from the main menu, you’re given the option of choosing any of the many characters available at the start of the game (more will be unlocked by achieving certain goals throughout), and you will play through the events of the story as seen through this character’s perspective, with each ending being different. However, as with most fighting games, the actual ‘story’ is hardly there at all. You’ll usually get a vague idea of what happens at the end of the game to each character, but, if truth be told, most players could care less. That’s simply not why you play this kind of game.

Of course, there is always the classic arcade mode. For those wishing to forgo the tale telling, this mode offers up nothing but action. After selecting your fighter of choice, the game sends you through eight battles against foes of increasingly hard difficulty. After completing the challenges, you’ll be graded on how you did, such as time completed, Ring Outs (knocking your opponent out of the ring for the KO), etc. So, the better you do, the better your overall score. I found this to give the game some re-playability.

Further adding to the single player content in Soulcalibur IV would be the addition of the Tower of Lost Souls. In this game mode, you battle through multiple levels within a tower, under progressively difficult enemies. However, you receive no chance to replenish the health of your fighter, making the conservation of health of the utmost importance. Though that does sound hard, the game allows you to take along a partner through your journeys. While you cannot have both of your players onscreen simultaneously, Soulcalibur IV lets you switch out between your two characters with the mere press of a button. In this way it can be extremely enjoyable to string together interesting combos, and it also makes the would-be ultra hard Tower of Lost Souls much easier.

Now, if you are not the type of person who enjoys going through the single player part to these kinds of games, then the excellent multiplayer should keep you occupied. While it won’t revolutionize the genre, it is a solid experience that should please anyone who likes to pound on his or her friends, both locally and online.

Also, an interesting aspect of Soulcalibur IV is its character creator/editor. Here, you’ll be able to completely re-dress any character on the regular cast, as well as start out anew with an entirely original character of your design. While it may not be as detailed as games like Oblivion, Mass Effect or Fallout 3, it will, with the hundreds of accessories, clothing, armor and weapons available (some through unlocking), as well as an interesting body “manipulator”, certainly impress.

Graphically speaking, the game is, in a word, beautiful. The character models are absolutely gorgeous. Everything about them from how the clothing and hair sway with the wind, to the amazing detail put into the actual bodies and faces shine with polish. The explosive effects from certain character’s moves are a sight to behold, and environments you will be fighting in, with one or two exceptions, have a remarkable amount of detail. It’s hard to find any faults in the graphical package in Soulcalibur IV; it’s just… beautiful.

As stunning as the graphical aspect to SCIV is, the sound isn’t half as good. While the sound effects and yelps of pain and war cries are fine, the horrendous voice acting will make even the most non-caring gamer cringe with pain. The often grunted and forced dialog will make games such as Gears of War (which normally would be considered a ‘poor’ example of good voice acting) shine. It’s disappointing, because this truly does stand out in an otherwise outstanding game, when technically-speaking.

There are a couple things Christians out there should be warned about in this game. Obviously, being a fighting game, there is a violence factor. However, even with all the punching, kicking and slashing found within the game, there is no blood or gore whatsoever. The fighting is not even fatal, seeing as how your opponent just gets back up after he or she has been knocked down. I just found it to be very mild in this area. However, not so mild are the “suggestive themes” and “partial nudity” that the ESRB sites on the back of the box. Certain female characters spot cleavage to the extreme, form fitting outfits that are so skin tight that everything is outlined, and of course, the mini skirts that make several appearances. Add to that the ability to strip all the girls down to their thong and bra using the character creator/editor and you’ve got a T rated game on the harsher side of sexual content. There is also some very mild language, namely d--- and hell, though it shows up infrequently. The last thing to mention is that some of the fighters moves look a little magical, which may offend certain users.

Soulcalibur IV is, without a doubt, an extremely fun game. It is easy to pick up and play, looks amazing and is, well, just plain old fun, especially with a buddy. If you’re not put off by pitiful voice acting and a fair share of moral objections, and if you don’t mind a fighter that is a little bit more on the “easy” and non-technical side of things, then by all means: get this one today.

Game ratings - 43/50

Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound 5/10
Controls 5/5
Stability 5/5

Moral ratings - 38.5/50

Violence 6/10
Language 8.5/10
Sexual content 5/10
Supernatural 9/10
Ethical 10/10

Final Score = 81.5/100


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