Who said stories weren't important in a fighting game?
It has been three years since the last Soulcalibur outing, which would make it the perfect timing for a brand new release. While Soulcalibur V may feature some gorgeous visuals, does it do enough to warrant a purchase for the casual fan?
What Soulcalibur V Got Right
Gorgeous presentation - The Soulcalibur series has a reputation for gorgeous presentation, and Soulcalibur V is no exception. Combat animations are some of the best ever displayed in a fighting game. Each movement is fluid and precise, and when coupled with detailed characters, it creates a mesmerising experience. The environments are varied and exciting, and provide the perfect backdrop for some hardcore battles.
Deep combat system - Soulcalibur V features a deep combat system, that is certainly a challenge to master. Even veterans to the series will need to re-learn their combos to deal out punishing blows, which can be a little off putting for newcomers.
On the flip side of this however, the developers have included a new and improved Critical Edge move set, which allows newbies to perform a series of stylish combo moves. It allows them to get into the game and get a feel for the move set, without needing to learn mountains of button combinations. It's a great introduction, however to stand a chance, players will need to perfect their favourite fighter.
Multiplayer mayhem - Soulcalibur V features a simple, yet effective online suite that will allow players to jump into a random ranked battle, or take on their friends via the PSN or Xbox Live. Player awards and titles can be unlocked via the single-player arcade mode, although they don't offer anything other than bragging rights. Lag is non-existent, which means players can expect a silky smooth experience online.
Character creation - Soulcalibur V brings character creation back again, allowing you to craft a character using items you have unlocked in the story and arcade modes. As a result, you can expect to see some absolutely crazy characters online. User created characters can be used in all single-player aspects except the story mode, and can be seen online.
What Soulcalibur V Got Wrong
Weak single player component - When it comes to single-player components, Soulcalibur V is the weakest of the series. The quest mode is short and uneventful, and the arcade mode is lacking substance. Don't expect different stories for each character; the arcade mode has been replaced by six time-based battles, which feels a little watered down.
New characters are familiar - While Soulcalibur V features a number of new characters, however most of them feel far too familiar to make them exciting or worthwhile. A number of them a related to previous characters, with many sharing similar moves, personalities and even outfits. If you're a veteran of the series, you will probably be disappointed. Having said that, Ezio from Assassin's Creed is an excellent touch.
Worst story in the series - The story mode in Soulcalibur V is by far the worst in the series. Based around a character named Patroklos, the campaign is presented via a series of storyboards and dry narration over the top. The player is forced to use a series of new characters, with no direction or explanation as to how or why you are using them. On even the most basic level, the story plays out like a poorly written fan-fiction affair, that would struggle to grip even the biggest Soulcalbur fan.
The Final Verdict
As a fighting game, Soulcalibur V keeps up the tradition of fast, fluid and varied combat. As an entire package however, Soulcalibur V falls short thanks to a weak and uninspired single-player component that sullies the Soulcalibur franchise. Multiplayer has a solid offering for those heading online, but unless you're a big fan of the franchise, you will find yourself retiring this game a little earlier than expected.
By Stephen Heller