Prepare for an epic battle…to be told through an animated flickbook
For years, the Soul Calibur series has lurked in the shadows of Street Fighter and Tekken, just waiting to stick a possessed dagger in their backs. This generation of consoles has yet to really do the series the justice it deserves however, with IV stripping away most of the lore we’ve become used to and supplementing how well you can fight with how well you can wear a scarf. Almost wiping the slate clean with a fresh batch of characters, Soul Calibur V enters the ring to get the series to blemish its mark on consoles…be it a huge scar or ugly bruise. Soul Calibur V returns to the battle of ultimate swords and zany warriors, 17 years after the previous instalment. The convoluted web that these swords have woven over the decades has become a rather tangled one, so V attempts to set the story straight, by following the exploits of a small handful of this generations warriors. It shows pretty much the same trends past tales have, just with more teenage angst and worrisome writing. The story mode restricts you to a minute cast, and tells the plot with a few lovely cut-scenes before putting crude voice-work over still images like you’re watching some of medieval Powerpoint presentation. If you don’t get around with main plot runner Patroklos, then it’s really hard to justify fighting through the 3 hour dull-fest in a bid to win a couple of shirts. The overall story comes off remarkably cheap and lazy, and just feels so lacklustre when the series praises itself on the epic tales it tells…and this is the meat of the single player experience. It’s astonishing, as many criticised the poor single player story modes in IV, giving nothing but a scrolling prologue and a short cutscene in arcade mode. Here, however, EVEN MORE has been stripped away. You don’t even get scrolling text explaining why your chosen character has entered this instalment, just 6 battles in quick succession and a return to the main menu. Even the quick battle mode feels like it’s just a warm up for the game’s main attraction; Online. With the lack of single player modes on offer, there isn’t much chance to train with your favourite characters and as such the game feels exceptionally alienating to the new thanks to its sheer denial in teaching you the mechanics of the game. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled in recent years by titles like Mortal Kombat that have embodied themselves in lore, and balanced both teachings and plot well. Here, it feels like there’s no encouragement to play without a broadband connection.
Even the quick battle mode feels like it’s just a warm up for the game’s main attraction; Online.
Take the battle worldwide and you’ll find a much more fulfilling experience. Much like recent Capcom fighters, taking battles online can earn you a wealth of titles to emblazon onto your personal warrior. You’ll soon learn that your greatest means of tuition is by fighting through online battles, and you’ll quickly get a repertoire with the community no matter how well or badly you fight. Players can add up to four ‘Rivals’ to constantly keep track of, and this almost Big Brother mentality adds a passive competitive edge to proceedings, or gives you an army of sages to practise with. When you dedicate yourself to a favourite character and master their moves, it’s easy to lose hours with friends constructing combos and building techniques. Should you be a Soul Calibur veteran, nothing much has truly changed behind the games mechanics. Attacks feel a lot quicker than they did in IV, and as such the fighting feels a lot more fluid. You know you’ve hit a great combo when your opponent is being juggled in the air with each strike. Taking a leaf out of Street Fighter IV’s book, each character now comes with their own improved ‘Critical Edge’ moves that acts as Ultra Combos. Building up your meter by taking hits (or preferably landing them), you can unleash these deadly attacks in a bid to even the score, or demolish your opponent. They’re a beginners ‘Get out of jail free’ card, yet can still be integrated tactically well with combos. The new cast only really refresh aesthetics, as most are descendent or students of previous characters. Should the cast still feel too familiar, however, players can enrol as this instalments’ guest character; Assassin’s Creed star Ezio Auditore. The master assassin is a hard character to get to grips with, not really agreeing to juggle enemies in the air like others are encouraged to. His mix of ranged attacks are exciting to link together when done well, though, sniping away with his crossbow before rapidly moving in with the signature Hidden Blade. Past cameos have been cool, if relatively baffling, others have been plain bizarre and unfair, but Ezio is a perfect fit for the series. It’s just a shame there’s no plot device to suggest why he’s been chucked into this world of demonic swords, but nevertheless he’s a fantastic addition to the roster. Of course, should no one take your fancy, you can simply create your own character…and what a character you’ll create. Customisation options are so extensive that and can be so ludicrous that it’s pretty easy to make an avatar for a Gay Pride parade. 5 minutes after entering the Narnia sized wardrobe of wonders, I had created a 30 stone pirate donning a pink fuzzy afro and a sword the size of Kent with a voice that envied Joe Pasquale in indignity. That’s not exactly pushing the boundaries of imagination, either, as a short trek online opens up the cast to a ridiculously insane bunch of misfits that may catch you off guard by forcing you onto the floor in a laughing mess. Donning the most ridiculous outfit of the evening doesn’t grant you any extra perks, but you can still utilise almost every fighter’s weapons and move sets, including Devil Jin from Tekken. The range of technical traits and barmy dress codes of offer is insane, and ensures you’ll always be facing up against some exceptionally original individuals. Environments and characters look damn near heavenly, forcing you to double take between the deadly action and the beautiful plains you’re fighting on. Yes, the series’ trademark cleavage makes an appearance on some females, but your eye would be too drawn on other phenomenal attentions to detail to care. The voice-overs of the mismatched cast is somewhat overdone, riddled with angst and drama, but the epic score that holds the same attributes feels incredibly appropriate with its booming orchestras. Whereas other titles have attempted to shine with different artistic flairs to them, be they funky and artistic or edgy and dark, Soul Calibur V is just downright remarkably gorgeous from the start, from the sun drenched drawbridges to the strangely twisted dimensions. Soul Calibur V is a strange entity. The combat feels like it has managed to finally catch up with the greats of older instalments, but a the same time those very classic representations felt like
they had a whole lot more depth to them. Recent fighting titles have really delved into single player lore, yet here V has looked upon its tame inclusions in IV and takes even more away. If you’ve picked up every addition of this series with the intentions to duel with pals both offline and online, you certainly won’t be disappointed by this smoother and quicker instalment. Should your heart lie in lonesome feuds however, this is an extremely disappointing entry for the series. The war between the two all-mighty swords may be as extravagant as ever and dramatic as ever, but it’s coming across as nothing but a petty squabble at times.
The Bad: EXTREMELY disappointing single player story…and lack of anything for the lonesome, Stale training mode doesn’t exactly teach beginners the mechanics of the game well, Most ‘new’ characters are simply rehashes of old
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