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Soulcalibur V Review

Like nearly all fighting franchises, the Soul series has had its share of missteps. From Soulcalibur III’s clunky engine to the awkward inclusion of Star Wars characters in IV, the Project Soul team is certainly guilty of making some questionable design decisions. Yet, by crafting one of the rare three-dimensional, weapons-based battlers where players clash with opponents instead of an unwieldy control scheme, the developers certainly deserve a bit of clemency. After all, if wasn’t for the tag-team prowess of Soul Edge and Soulcalibur, we just might still be playing sequels to Battle Arena Toshinden, Mace and Dark Rift.

One of the series’ fundamental strengths has been the ability to balance novice accessibility with enough depth to satisfy fighting game fanatics. Elegantly, the recent Xbox 360 and PS3 release of Soulcalibur V sustains this trait, while making some careful tweaks to placate both audiences. As such, button-mashing neophytes are able to initiate a pleasing variety of stirring strikes without much effort. Yet, in the hands of a Soul virtuoso, the game reveals an intricate interplay of resource management and a conscientious execution of quick strikes- peppered with punishing combinations.

Soulcalibur V’s rudiments are all in place: vertical and horizontal slashes are executed while airborne, standing and crouching- as well as the game’s capacity for sidestepping opponents. Look beyond the basics and you’ll notice a handful of notable renovations. Dishing out damage (as well as guarding) gradually fills up the Critical Gauge. Once a player has topped off the meter, two quarter-circle turns and a trigger pull initiates the Critical Edge- an ostentatious set of combatant-specific combos which recall Street Fighter 4’s Ultra Attack. Alternately, players can employ an EX Attack-like boost to the arsenal with the use of the Brave Edge- adding additional damage, guard-braking, or combo continuing possibilities. Parrying an opponent’s attacks has been altered, no longer requiring a player to predict a high, mid, or low-level strike. Now, the Guard Impact has been modified to repel any attack, albeit at a slight depletion of the Critical Gauge. Undoubtedly, some players will bemoan Soulcalibur V’s adaptation of the system, as it limits the use of the ability. Controversy aside, the adjustment reflects this installment’s elevation of strategic elements.

Less justifiable is the title’s reductive single-player component. Forgoing the tournaments which rewarded a character’s journey with an individualized cinematic, the game’s 1607 A.D. mode adheres to a single storyline. Using hand drawn images accompanied by vocal narration to spin the yarn of Patroklos and Pyrrha Alexandra, the campaign certainly feels lacking after experiencing Mortal Kombat’s interactive chronicling of series history. Slogging through the scenario feels tedious at first, with the first seventeen levels putting up on a modest challenge and offering little in the way of tutelage. The final three stages ramp up the difficulty exponentially, culminating in the cheat and repetitive conflicts which fighting games regrettably rely on. Nevertheless, players will want to persevere to unlock Legendary Souls mode, which offers SoulCalibur’s interpretation of a boss rush mode.

Beyond 1607 A.D., Arcade Mode offers six, time-based skirmishes, while Quick Battle offers a collection of over two-hundred fights against adversaries crafted by the game’s satisfying character creation component. Although players are still bound to the basic skillsets and broad appearances of SoulCalibur V’s 27-combatant roster, the amount of costuming possibilities are vast, with gamers even able to affix textures on equipment pieces. While it ultimately boils down to being a digital doll set, taking your handiwork online makes it rewarding, especially when you trounce an opponent with a busty brawler wearing little more than a deer head. While Namco-Bandai’s supplemental DLC gear is bound to be contentious, there’s more than enough paraphernalia to keep players engaged.

After jumping into the title’s online arenas, it’s clear that the Project Soul was dedicated to offering a polished experience. SoulCalibur V’s netcode proved to be consistently reliable, supporting matches that were free of lag and persistently responsive. Clever additions such as being able to watch live battles while waiting to participate in a ranked or player match are pleasing as is the title’s Global Colosseo mode- which allows a room of participants to freely interact and challenge each other.

When SoulCalibur was made available along the Dreamcast launch, it was visually lavish; little has changed in the past thirteen years. The franchise’s fifth iteration beams with a flawless sixty-frame per second delivery and exquisitely detailed character models. Seeing the game’s sumptuous backgrounds is only outclassed by the game’s traditional win pose, which has combatants facing the camera and speaking directly to players. Straddling the line between photorealism and caricature, the game’s rooster is unswervingly captivating. Even special guest Ezio Auditore easily outclasses his Assassin’s Creed model by exhibiting elegant cloth physics and lethal-looking animation routines.

For players looking to battle live opponents, Soul Calibur V’s local and online fracases are indisputably stupendous. Teeming with vitality and vivacity, the title’s fights finally surpass the high watermark established by the series’ second iteration. For solitary players, V isn’t as essential, delivering an uneven set of pursuits atypical for the franchise. As long as you’re not picking up the title to slash away at AI bots, the Soul still burns- and routinely shines brightly.


A copy of Soulcalibur V was provided by the publisher for review.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert ‘DesertEagle’ Allen is Tech-Gaming’s resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

50 comments

  1. What’s the best deal on this? I was something about $10 off at Carls Jr. $40 would be great.

  2. Stretch Caddy Daddy

    Wow, really great review. Considering Desert’s into JRPGs and FPS, this one was pretty amazing.

    • not so sure about amazing, but definitely good.

      SC is probably my favorite fighter just because of the weapons. As long as they don’t break the game’s mechanics, I’ll buy this eventually.

    • No mention of character balancing or if this V is more juggle-y.

      • Look at the top pic. I bit there’s some juggle.

        Oh did you mean jiggle? I bit there’s some of that too.

        Seriously, the SC games have been a bit middle of the road when it comes to that.

  3. Man, they made IVY look extra hot this time out. Nice.

    Can you comment on the breast physics?

    • Any one have a character list? Yoshimitsu or no buy. He was my favorite character.

      • Siegfried Schtauffen

        Nightmare

        Heishiro Mitsurugi

        Isabela “Ivy” Valentine

        Maxi

        Hildegard “Hilde” von Krone

        Tira

        Voldo

        Astaroth

        Raphael Sorel

        Lord Geo Dampierre

        Cervantes de Leon

        Aeon Calcos

        Yoshimitsu

        Algol

        Edge Master

        Patroklos Alexander

        Pyrrha Alexandra

        Natsu

        Z.W.E.I.

        Yan Leixia

        Viola

        Xiba

        Ezio Auditore

        Katsuhiro Harada

        Kilik

        α Patroklos (A Patroklos or Alfa Patroklos)

        Pyrrha Ω (Omega Pyrrha)

        Elysium

  4. Too bad they messed with the roster. I miss my Talim!

    Solid review. worth the read.

  5. Reviewed like a boss.

    Desert, what is your favorite fighting game?

    I’ve been hearing this one called “more of the same”. You didn’t mention that, so you don’t think so?

  6. saying the story isn’t good in a fighting game is like saying the story is no good in a shmup. Who the hell playing a fighter for the story? Go play a RPG or something.

  7. except for unlockable characters, this game has no art, music, or anything like that for people who don’t like getting killed online.

  8. He didn’t say the story was bad, just that it was lacking content. And yes, some people still play fighting games by themselves.

  9. SC is coming to 3DS right? For some reason, I didn’t play much SFIV on console, but on 3DS I played a ton.

  10. I wonder if the single-player stuff is lacking because Namco-Bandai want to sell additional modes to people. If that’s the case, this whole DLC thing has gone too far.

    • I certainly hope thats not the case. Im already kicking myself about not just having saved the money and bought MK Komplete instead.

  11. Kraven the Hunter

    I picked this up on the 31st, and have been playing it non-stop with my roommate. Probably the best fighting game since SFIV.

    The Soul Still Burns and So Do my Hands.

  12. Hows the sense of speed in SC5? Can you adjust that too?

    I’m sad they took my favorite characters out but I hear there some they play the same.

  13. I thought I’d offer my two cents:

    Story mode is pretty weak. Say what you want about people not buying fighting games for these type of things, but its still a weaksauce. Go big or don’t even bother. Besides being boring, you only get to play as 4 or 5 different characters. MK was so much better.

    Second, they slowed the game down AND made it newb friendly. All characters have the same qc-three button move. I guess if you’re new to fighting games its cool, but I want something I can get in and learn.

    Graphics are great. I can’t argue with that.

    • I really didn’t notice any kind of significant speed change. I put SCIV back in to check. Maybe it’s a tiny bit faster, but I couldn’t even tell.

      I say, ignore the haters it’s worth $60. Fighting games are always some of the greatest one on one action.

  14. Man, the last SC games I played was two. I remember I’d sweep everyone up with Link.

    Is there a demo for this one?

  15. “As long as you’re not picking up the title to slash away at AI bots, the Soul still burns- and routinely shines brightly.”

    You are pure cheese.

    • That line right there was the decider for me. I’m not a huge fan of playing with randoms in fighting games, so 1P modes make or break fighting games for me.

  16. Good review. Sorry guys there’s no demo. But I do think RedBox has them in. Gamefly for sure.

  17. As some one who spent plus 300 hours on SC2 and a lot on single player I couldnt be any more disappointed.

  18. Great review, Deagle.

  19. SC2 just might have been the best fighting game ever. Man I played that so game so much I probably killed my Xbox early.

  20. The thing about games that concentrate on mp, they’re only fun while there’s an active community. In two months people will have moved onto something else, leaving only so and local. That’s why SC drops in price so quickly.

    • Agreed. But won’t a lower price spur more buyers, leading to a new community of players.

      • You’d think that would be true, but in my experience that’s not always the case.

        Maybe people buy games then don’t play them right away, instead adding them to the backlog.

        Some people might buy them, play them for a bit, then move onto something else.

  21. Good review, DEagle. Might grab this is a few months.

  22. Am I the only one who noticed Ivy sporting a bulge? I knew something was too good to be true.