Note: This review was done using the PS3 version of the game. It is also available on Xbox 360.
The Soul Calibur series has long held the title of “Fighting Game of the People.” While Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Marvel vs Capcom received all the press, Soul Calibur was the one game you could sit down and play without getting a PhD in combo-ology. Soul Calibur V continues this fine tradition, sacrificing complexity, challenge and precision in the name of playability, to varying amounts of success.
Applause is due the greatest feature of any fighting game ever: a fully functional character creator. When I was able to make my combatant a massively tall spear waver in a pirate coat, with jester boots (complete with bells on the tips), a top hat, and a massive purple afro, I decided I was in love. Too long have fighters forced us into using a set of fighters with a couple of alternate costumes. Soul Calibur V allows us to choose a move set, and then build a character that looks like whatever we wish them to be. The editor has extensive features and was definitely the best idea the game brings to the table.
I’m not as excited by what Soul Calibur V presents in the single player campaign. The presentation is distinctly sub-par. The infrequent cutscenes are supplemented by drawings with voiceover. The drawings themselves are, frankly, awful, though the voiceover does do an adequate job of explaining what’s going on. Given what we’ve seen from other developers in this department in recent years, the story presentation was disappointing.
The campaign itself consists of 20 levels of one of one fights. Occasionally, you’ll fight more than one enemy per level, but the combat themselves are pretty generic. I understand that there’s a formula to encounters in fighting games, but changing it up once or twice over the course of 20 levels would have been refreshing. To top it off, the single player AI was pathetic. In most of the fights, I was able to win by spamming the same single button combo over and over again. I didn’t even need to learn the block function until level 19. This was on the highest difficulty setting. Side stepping seems to leave the enemy AI facing the wrong direction for the entire battle. If you are looking for a single player venture, you can skip SoulCalibur V due to the poor AI combined with the mediocre presentation.
Thankfully for Soul Calibur V, there’s a lot more to it than that. The multiplayer suite is quite deep, and has a full set of features, including stat tracking. The more you play, the more you level up, and unlock more ways to outfit your character. And of course, being Soul Calibur, anyone can pick up the controller and stand a chance in a fight (though, actual deep knowledge of the controls, combos and such provide a key advantage).
Doing (or receiving) damage in a fight boosts up your Critical Gauge, which in turn allows you to conduct special attacks and combo breakers at key moments. As nice as a feature as this is, it seems less impressive than some of its brethren (with Mortal Kombat’s gory X-ray attacks and the screen filling insanity that happens when you fill the gauge in Marvel v Capcom 3). The attacks don’t seem to do much more damage than normal combos, and don’t look particularly impressive. If my character can call in his werewolf persona to tear into his foe, I want to see something that awes me.
Soul Calibur has one again called in a well-known character from another series, in this case, Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed 2. Unlike previous guest characters, I didn’t find Ezio to be completely overpowered, and he seemed to fit the aesthetics of the game a lot better (16th century folks would not be able to stand up against, say, light sabers, like they did in Soul Calibur 4). He’s a fine addition to the game, and I’d like to see future guest characters in the series given the same sort of consideration, and be equally as appropriate to the setting.
If you’re looking for a multiplayer experience that’s both familiar and easy to digest, Soul Calibur V is the game for you. However, the single player campaign is insufficient for a recommendation on its own merits. It leaves the game feeling a bit incomplete, and I can’t help but thinking my opinion of the game would be higher were such a throwaway mode not included. The multiplayer is fun, but if you are used to a more hardcore experience, you might wish to look elsewhere. The fight between Soul Calibur and Soul Edge continues. I recommend ignoring it in favor of the battle between yourself and random player on the internet.
- Very playable.
- Good online multiplayer.
- Full Character Creator
- Bad AI
- Weak presentation
- Single player adds very little to the experience.
3 / 5