Soulcalibur IV Reader Review
A greater man than me once managed to almost get through an entire review of Tomb Raider without mentioning the obvious selling point of her ample, supple breasts. I'm not him, and unfortunately for you I'm not going to avoid references to breasts, partly because I can't be bothered and partly because I DO rely on cheap laughs to get you people to comment. With that in mind, the review.
SoulCalibur IV is the fifth installment to the franchise (including the original Soul Edge) whereby big sweaty burly men and ample-busomed young fillies grab sharp and pointy or big and blunt objects and in a variety of locales beat the buns out of each other. There's not really much that can be said as they haven't improved on the formula for a while save for a physics engine dedicated solely to the jiggle-athon that the majority of players will be gawping at. The moves have remained much the same and the characters plotlines - of what there is - haven't really evolved much either. Some still want to get Soul Edge for revenge, for power, to turn it into a mystical sex toy and roger the entire universe to Super Happy Finish, essentially it's all loose exposition to get them into differing-shaped arenas with various hazards and twat each other about for a few rounds whilst the young boys gawp at the amount of female flesh on offer.
To be fair, technically speaking there isn't a lot wrong with SC4. The fighting mechanics are as precise as ever, with more tweaks and balances to ensure the imbalances of SC3 were not repeated again. To its credit, it isn't a button-bashers dream as many fights do require skill and a bit of thought. It may be fun to continually assault a foe and push them back to the edge of an arena but a mistimed throw, a wrong move or a clever counter and it's you who'll be taking that ring out squarely in the mush. It's a little easier to get into, with plenty of easily-executable moves and combos to feign depth to your massively undersized sense of accomplishment, and to old pros who've been around this particular lady of the night before it's instantly familiar with some new toys to make the experience a little more fun. Basically what you'd expect from Namco since they buggered their other decent fighter with a tonfa stick, with no clue when it'll get out of hospital to join the fray again.
The first - and sadly only - good advancement is that they dropped the silly Chronicles of the Sword - hopelessly bugged and totally pointless as it was - and gave you a tower system. Fight your way up and fulfil differing objectives to recieve rewards, or a straight-up Survival mode going down. It's a simpler system with a little more polish, but it once again fails to address the fact the Story Mode is terrible. Five fights, wham bam thank you have a nice video clip. Seeing as the SoulCalibur history is so overly complicated and overdramatic it's amazing that the majority of characters are so cliché and wooden they'd probably get their issues resolved better on Jeremy Kyle, or at least have a good reason to get their tits out.
Which leads on to the character customisation, which more or less in my mind totally negates the point of set characters. You get a series of pieces of clothing, some you earn from fights in the tower and story modes, pick a pre-set fighting style and you're away. Actually, that's being a little unfair as this time clothing can affect your characters stats both adversely and in a positive fashion. But generally speaking, it's easy to kit your character up to have quite a boost to health and attack and defense that makes the majority of other modes a little too easy. And most people will pick a female character and inflate her boobs so big that Pamela Anderson would pass out from shock. There are still some major clipping issues to be addressed, and the system doesn't tell you in advance when pieces of equipment clash with each other until you want to see how it looks on your character. But all in all, you can make a reasonably pretty girl or a reasonably bad-ass dude, pick a few special talents that sometimes help and in some cases hinder, choose a weapon of choice and get chopping things up into fine strips for the wok.
Online fighting is better than it used to be - though that isn't much of an accomplishment. It's more or less what you'd expect, leaderboards and random fights both with stats and without, the majority of people you encounter females with hopelessly large chest sizes trying desperately to look tough and hope you don't notice the mammoth pair of airbags that you could very likely pop without much effort. Remarkably, I chose not to indulge in this petty jugs fixation and made a couple of evil-looking male characters, and found I was in quite a minority. Depressingly, I quickly encountered someone else who had managed to make a character that looked like Jill Valentine so I realised there's plenty of options here to make something that resembles your favourite busty heroine, no doubt someone will have Lara in here somewhere. It's still a bit soulless though, and for me really online fighting is a bit dull. You're more or less swapping touchy AI for touchy humans, and the less these people touch me the better.
However, it's still remarkable fun when you get a couple mates around and a few drinks in. Grab another controller, both make a generic character (seeing as you will probably play each of the main characters once and forget about them) and get stuck into fighting and it's as entertaining as it's always been. But it's hardly an advancement over Soul Calibur 3, softcore pornography aside, and if all you're doing is offering incremental additions to the formula every couple years you're in serious danger of missing the point.
SC4 really tries to detract from the march of the hooters by throwing in Yoda (or Darth Vader if you grabbed the PS3 version) and The Apprentice to try and grab the Star Wars fans out there. But I do wonder, considering the last Star Wars fan I met probably had never seen a pair of breasts and likely wouldn't get close without being immediately handcuffed, if this is entirely the appropriate place to jam in a Star Wars cameo. The large proportion of puppies on parade will either wake them from their boring stupor and make them realise their life has been a total waste of time and they must quickly run outside, find a girl and lose their virginity, abandoning the Star Wars franchise forever, or it will totally bewilder them as to why they're not using light sabers, because after all, light sabers are stronger than a few metal plates and a pointy sharp thing, reaffirming the world that Star Wars fans will eventually die out because they have a total inability to breed.
You can probably tell by this review that I've gone off SoulCalibur this time around. Not because it's a bad game, however. No, this is still SoulCalibur and nice it is too. The problem is, it's bloody boring me now. It's hardly changed an inch since the first time it made us all salute it on the Dreamcast, just making the costumes more revealing and tweaking the mechanics to such an anal degree that I'm really wondering if they work for Audi as well. Everything else on top is just more garnish to disguise the fact the burger really has been done to death this time around. It's way too familiar, and yet tries so desperately to complicate itself with stats management and levelling character styles and the sheer volume of equipment and weapons to buy when in reality, they're missing the problem entirely.
SoulCalibur is just desperately in need of a bit of a rethink. It may be as technically accomplished as ever, but when it gets hard to justify the sequel over it's predecessor, regardless how impressive the new twins system is, you know you're in a world of issues. However, maybe this isn't the fault of the game and more a failing of the genre to press onwards into new territory, but then you remember things like Power Stone, and look to Super Smash Bros. and the new Castlevania fighter and realise that some companies really are looking at how to differentiate, how to change, how to evolve. Then you look at SoulCaibur IV, getting old yet trying to squeeze into Britney jeans and a tight blue boob-tube and be attractive to all. Newcomers might be tempted but those of us who have been there before won't be fooled.
With the addition of Star Wars cameos, it's almost as if the series is jumping the shark. That this is as far as it can go in its current state. There needs to be a real collective brainstorming at Namco in the next year or two to think if they can really push this any further without damaging the good name they had built up the past decade. And in that next meeting, for gods sake Namco, ban any and all porno mags. Whilst funbags are fun for a while, if you can't get the game behind it to match you are no better than Tecmo when they ran out of ideas for Dead or Alive. If you can't make the core game any better, let it die. Please. This just isn't worth it.
Make SoulCalibur better. Or just stop it. I used to love you, I used to love SoulCalibur, but your charming looks and nigh-illegal cosmetic enhancements cannot cover up the fact that you are now starting to bore me. And if you can't show me anything new... my love needs to go elsewhere.
And on a final note, if I see SoulCalibur Beach Sports, I will kidnap your dog and roast it alive outside your offices.
5 / 10