SoulCalibur 5 PS3 review
Look over the shoulders of people playing Soulcalibur V and you’ll see something worrying. Something that will make you think Namco’s glorious new fighter is, quite frankly, a bit Bethesda’d. At the end of a round, the victor often judders uncontrollably, like a bugged disco android in meltdown. But everything is fine. The reality is that the winner is hammering X so frantically it resembles an attack of the collywobbles. It’s an involuntary action brought on by the urge to start the next round without undue delay – in medical parlance it’s known as the Soulcalibur Shakes.
If you’re a fan of the series this is probably the only bit you need: yes, it’s still great, and yes, some minor things have changed. More on that shortly, but in the meantime please keep reading so you can nod sagely and shout words of encouragement.
This is the real challenge: convincing gamers with a codpiece-piddling phobia of fighters to try Soulcalibur V. I’m talking to the person who’s devoured all of their favourite morsels from this issue and is now mopping up the Crumbs Of Indifference. You know who you are: the ones with unruly thumbs, terrified of getting an ego-wedgie from some dedicated scrapper who’s memorised every glistening curve of their favourite character. It’s time for your donning-armour montage, friend. Soulcalibur
Why? Because, more than ever, this represents the most immediately rewarding entry into a genre that’s inaccessible to many. The gameplay foundations remain rock-in-the-face simple. The 3D environment is still the defining element, around which your character can glide in any direction.
You have three basic types of attack: horizontal, vertical and kick. Horizontal attacks slash enemies to prevent them sidestepping around you, whereas vertical attacks break an enemy’s guard when they crouch. Kicks? They’re for kicking people. Whatever your opponent does, there’s a counter to it. If you can understand that – and you win a custard cream if you got it first time – there’s no reason why you can’t become an effective fighting force in Soulcalibur V.
It obviously gets more complex than that, since every fighter has a weapon with a different speed, strength and reach, but you don’t have to mash buttons or practise for days to get wins. Speculative inputs quickly become deft strokes, and the training mode could scarcely be clearer. Everything is logical – there’s a fluid grace to every fight. Once you learn the simple stuff, much of it becomes intuitive. And no, intuition is not the same as guessing.
This is the bit where we lose anyone uninitiated with Soulcalibur. One of the major changes to the fighting system is to the Guard Impact – the traditional Soulcalibur method of countering or parrying your opponent’s blows. In prior games these could be performed an unlimited number of times, but they now drain your Critical Gauge, a meter that slowly builds as you attack and defend.
If your gauge is empty, no counters for you. The trade-off is that a single input now repels both high and low attacks, so there’s less risk from guessing the wrong move. It feels slightly like an elegant function of the prior games has been removed, but rationing counters also adds another layer of tactical sponge to the cake. Fill your gauge to use defensively, or spaff it all on massive, bombastic offensive manoeuvres called Critical Edges. These replace the flashy Critical Finishes from IV: they’re far more practical, and equally as impressive.