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August 12, 2008
Soul Calibur IV - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
31/7/2008UbisoftBandai NamcoBandai Namco1-22
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating
Disc2.6GB720pDD5.1NoM

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Soul Calibur IV - looks stunning.
With around 10 million sales in the franchise prior to the release of Soul Calibur IV there was little wonder that this was a title likely generate interest, and potentially push hardware sales. The arcade based fighting game is back for a fifth official outing (the first game on PSOne was called Soul Edge/Soul Blade, hence the number discrepancy) and it looks awesome.

Soul Calibur IV isn't made up of a single story, but rather individual stories for each of the characters, each of whom have their own reasons for looking for the Soul Edge and Soul Blade. These stories are detailed in the Story Mode section of the game (more on that later). The character list in this game is mighty impressive too with virtually everyone from previous games returning including (in alphabetical order) Amy, Astaroth, Cassandra, Cervantes, Ivy, Kilik, Lizardman, Maxi, Mitsurugi, Nightmare, Raphael, Rock, Seong Mi-na, Setsuka, Siegfried, Sophitia, Taki, Talim, Tira, Voldo, Xianghua, Yoshimitsu, Yun-seong, and Zasalamel. Two new characters have also joined the lineup for this game, Algol and Hilde.

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That's newcomer Hilde on the left there...
In terms of actual gameplay Soul Calibur IV is a complete joy. Each of the main characters have a distinct battle style and each and every one of them is very responsive to commands from the Dual Shock 3 controller. Switching characters during battles is now instantaneous by pressing the R1 button. Adding some extra spice to the gameplay is the introduction of destructible armour and Critical Finishes.

Blocking has always been a major part in this franchise but now, if you block too much, and either your head, upper body or lower body armour is hit by the opponent too much, that armour will be destroyed leaving you vulnerable. Naturally though you can also destroy the opponents armour.

Critical Finishes allow you to wear down the enemies Soul Gauge and, should it be fully depleted, allow you to then perform a single, deadly, move on your opponent. These Finishing moves look absolutely delightful too with brilliant animation, and some devastating moves.

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Each of the fighters looks superb.
In terms of game modes Soul Calibur IV includes the usual fighting game fare. Each character has a story to be revealed through the Story mode while an Arcade mode takes the game back to it's pure, no distraction, fighting. The Tower of Lost Souls sees you fighting in special battles to challenge and customise your fighting skills. A training mode allow you to hone those skills prior to entering battle while the game includes a Standard Vs and Special Vs (where you can used any standard or customised characters) for 2-player battles.

As many of you would be aware the franchise has been injected with some new characters, the most exciting of which come from the Star Wars universe. While the XBox 360 game gets Yoda who is so small he ducks under attacks and also can't be grabbed at all, the Playstation 3 gets Darth Vader who is a much more balanced character and actually fits into the gameplay quite well, although his movements are a little 'stiff' in places. Both systems also get Darth Vader's apprentice who we will be seeing a lot more of in LucasArts' upcoming title Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. He is indeed a powerful character (perhaps too powerful) with abilities that include Force Lightning and being able to levitate enemies. Beyond that there are some other unique characters deigned by famed Japanese artists. These characters include Angol Fear (designed by Mine Yoshizaki), Ashlotte (Oh! Great), Kamikirimusi (Hirokazu Hisayuki), Scheherazade (Yutaka Izubuchi) and Shura (Hiroya Oku).

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Yes folks, that is Darth Vader!
As you play through the game, and in particular the Tower of Souls, you will notice the large number of unlockables available. These can then be used in the Character Customisation screen where, as well as purchasing new characters allows you to create a new character and fully customise their look and abilities. Well, not quite fully, as you can't change physical appearances of the character such as height or skin tone, but all their equipment can be changed around. We've fought some wonderful online battles with characters the look like Kratos and Solid Snake, but apparently there are look-alikes for Mario, Sonic and so many others.

As we have just mentioned, for the very first time in the series gamers can now battle online. Not only can you use the standard characters in these ranked, or unranked, battles, but also your own customised characters. The lobby system though is quite poor and you'll be waiting a while for an opponent, or miss out on 'available' opponents as they are snapped up very quickly. When you do get into a fight though it is pretty much lag free. I would have love to see a rematch option though so you didn't have to search for someone through the lobby again.

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Mitsurugi is looking bad-ass!
Despite its brilliance there are a few areas where I think the developers could have improved the game. The Story Mode for each character is amazingly short - I have finished some characters stories in well under 15 minutes, and that includes watching the cut scenes and end credits. This really could have been beefed up a bit. I would have loved to see Bandai Namco include something more akin to the Chronicles of the Sword mode from previous games. The online mode should have also been fixed up to reduce the "Match is Full" comments which appear upon joining nearly every match, and then having to wait for 15 seconds or so for the list to re-populate. Also disappointing was the fact that, in reality, there are only two new main characters - Algol and Hilde. Surely Bandai Namco could have added a couple more into the mix besides the numerous 'clone' characters.

The Playstation 3 is a machine which has plenty of potential graphically and for the most part Soul Calibur IV manages to impress. Menu presentation, cut-scenes and character models are among the best we have seen in a video game. Certainly the character design with the weapons and armour are probably second to none in the fighting genre.

Where I do have some very slight, and these are slight, issues are the backgrounds. While brilliantly designed and modeled there is a bit of aliasing, or jagginess, on some of the edges. This could, in part, be put down to the use of 720p resolution, but is noticeable in any case (and before you ask we are running this on a 46" 1080p LCD TV over HDMI cable). Another minor issue is that very occasionally there was a slight jump in the animations and some characters, particularly Darth Vader, seem less fluid then others.

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Note the gorgeous (720p) effect as the blade moves.
Certainly the highlight of this game aurally is the superb music which sounds absolutely brilliant no matter which stage you are battling in. Some of the orchestral music was actually recorded at the Trackdown Studios in Sydney by the 39-piece Eminence Orchestra, and then blended with electronic music for a wonderfully crafted and upbeat experience.

Impressively the English voiceovers in the game are actually pretty good. Most fighting games have some pretty questionable dialogue in both scripting and delivery, but there wasn't that much of a groan factor here. One issue though is that the characters dialogue overlaps that of the announcer when the matches are complete making it a bit jumbled at times.

If you like your fighting games then this is a no brainer as Soul Calibur IV is one of the best fighting games in years. Graphically and sonically the game is superb, and the gameplay intense. We would have loved to see some more game modes, and longer Story modes, but there are so many characters to get to grips with here that you could spend months getting to grips with them all. Add this to your collection now!

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSOverally very impressive with only some minor niggles.
87%
SOUNDGreat music is backed up with bone crunching effects and speech.
89%
GAMEPLAYEach of the fighters has a very different style to the others. Great fun.
90%
VALUEThe story mode should be longer, but plenty of characters to master.
80%
OVERALLSome minor disappointments can't bring this below the level of a must have game on PS3. Soul Calibur IV is superb.
88%

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