Originally released in arcades in 1998 and ported to the Dreamcast a year later, Soul Calibur was critically regarded as the best fighting game of all time. Fourteen years later, the fifth instalment of the Soul Calibur series has been released, titled Soul Calibur V.
Developed by Project Soul and published by Namco Bandai Games, the game’s campaign sees Patroklos on a quest to save his sister, Pyrhha, of a curse that befalls those that come into contact with the evil Soul Edge sword. As a side plot, Patroklos is out to wield Soul Calibur.
Whereas the plot sounds intense and has the premise for a great storyline, unfortunately, it’s anything but. The repetitive dialogue, weak voice acting and generally poor storytelling are just some of the factors that lead to its downfall. The cutscenes are told through a series of drawings, with more dramatic scenes told through animation. Although the combination of the two works together to some extent, it still doesn’t redeem for the poor scripting.
The gameplay has received a number of alterations since Soul Calibur IV released in 2008. Both the “Soul Gauge” and “Critical Finishes” have been removed and replaced by a new gauge that works similarly to “super meters” evident in other fighting titles. Once charged, the meter allows for players to execute “Brave Edge” and “Critical Edge” attacks. While regular fans of the series may see this as a dumbing down, for those new to the series it’s a more balanced learning curve.
“Ring Outs” (when an opponent is knocked out of the arena) have also been improved with both characters falling down to a new arena to continue the fight on certain stages. While this is something that has previously been witnessed in the fighting genre, it’s a welcome addition to the Soul Calibur series.
Other notable improvements to the gameplay include alterations to the “Guard Impact.” Requiring a segment of the Critical Meter to execute, the Guard Impact now repels any attack (apart from unblockable ones) regardless of height. Similarly, using guard at the precise moment of an opponent’s attack results in a “perfect guard,” which considerably shortens the amount of delay that the character must wait before retaliating.
Soul Calibur V contains 28 characters overall, ten of which are new. Following the Star Wars guest characters in the predecessor, the latest instalment contains Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed series, who is a welcome addition to the line-up. The remaining characters are returning ones from previous games. As with most fighting titles, the wide range of characters allows players to experiment and find the one that best suits them.
Each character is customisable in the “Creation” game mode. Surprisingly, the creation elements are quite in-depth with players being able to alter pre-existing characters or create one from scratch. Everything from the player’s height, to body parts, colours, clothing and voicing can be played around with. While it’s not perfect, it is pretty close as there is room for improvement. Further playable characters, clothing, hairstyles, weapons and more are available as unlockables throughout the game.
While the single player is pretty much just limited to the poor campaign, the game comes alive in multiplayer over Xbox LIVE. Players can take part in Ranked matches, in which players attempt to improve their rank as they are placed against a random opponent. Player matches are also available, allowing players to take on their friends or play for fun. The final online game mode is “Global Colosseo,” which allows players to take on any of the fifty players in the lobby. There’s enough variety in the well thought out game modes to keep players occupied in the long haul.
A neat feature of the online is a viewing window that shows other player battles while you wait for your fight to start. Similarly, players can also register their online friends as rivals, something which adds to the competitive nature of the game. Also take into account the ease of getting into a battle and the usual trash talk and it makes for an overall great online experience.
Graphically, Soul Calibur V is stunning. Everything from the excellent character detail to the game’s beautiful environments makes the game a sight for sore eyes. Similarly, the brilliantly composed soundtrack and the great sound effects make it worth turning up the speakers to hear the game’s fantastic audio. The only downside is the poor over the top voice acting evident in the campaign, which fails to add life to a poorly thought out storyline.
Overall, Soul Calibur V is a great fighting title. While the campaign could be majorly improved on, the improvements to the gameplay, the in-depth "Creation" game mode and the good online game modes make this a must purchase for fans of the series.