SoulCalibur V Review

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It’s got soul – but is it high calibre?


The SoulCalibur games have always placed an unusually strong focus on story and mythology for a fighting series. Even though that story is essentially “lots of people punch each other’s faces over two mystic swords”, Namco Bandai has done a surprisingly good job of getting players invested in the histories of the characters – so dumping half of them in this fifth entry was a bold move.

While several favourites return – freakish Voldo, buxom Ivy, hulking Astaroth and more – the spotlight falls on a new generation of combatants, chiefly the twins Patroklos and Pyrrha. The single player story mode follows the pair’s tale across medieval Europe and through Asia, serving as tutorial as much as it provides narrative background. By the time you’ve made it through the 16+ chapters, even new players will be competent at the game’s mechanics. However, many of the new characters play almost identically to their antecedents, boasting the same movesets and attributes, which dulls the shine of newness somewhat.

Enhancements to the battle system in SoulCalibur V are subtle yet profound. Simply put, it’s smoother and more responsive than ever, and even button-bashers will notice the improvement. Beat-‘em-up aficionados will find more depth – a super gauge allows you to unleash more powerful attacks, while a new Just Guard system delivers more precise parrying moves. Put time into learning the intricacies of SoulCalibur V and you’ll be well rewarded.

Online is where the game comes to life though, with a host of versus modes to keep you on your toes. Victorious bouts improve your standing while earning you titles and an array of items to use in the already startlingly deep character creation mode.

Factor in huge multi-tiered arenas, a difficulty curve that’s just right and a wonderful musical score and SoulCalibur V stands as a marvellous brawler, robbed of true greatness only by the easy familiarity of the new warriors.