We feel dirty for spelling it as one word like that - but does the game make up for it?
Namco Bandai (US)
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It's back, it's still about fighting with weapons, it's still got some incredibly cheap moves and - yes - it still has dodgy spelling. Folks, Soulcalibur IV is here.
Picking up on the formula that hasn't really changed all that much since the series' inception with Soul Blade (or Edge, depending on where you are) all those years ago. Yes, there's refinement, characters have been balanced and it looks nicer than the PSOne/arcade original, but it may as well still be the same bloody thing. That's no bad thing, obviously.
SC4 comes across as something of a best-of collection, throwing together all characters from previous iterations, slamming in some ridiculous flowchart diagram to explain how the characters are all related to the Soul Edge blades and offering up some fine customisation options, even if they aren't as robust as you'd probably hope when it comes to assigning moves.
Basically, you can make your character look like nearly anyone you want him to (notable 'mad props' go to whomever it was that created the Tobias Funke of Arrested Development fame character). This is all fine, though you can't do much about making them fat - only muscular or less muscular. No biggie. Where things do fall down though is the point where you assign moves - instead of taking a route akin to that of Smackdown vs Raw, for example, you do not choose individual moves for your character. You simply choose an existing template and slap it onto your dressed-up dolly.
Which means you have a thousand and forty interesting characters battling it out online, all using Kilik's fighting style.
Yes - Kilik is still in it and he's still the cheapest excuse for a character since Eddy Gordo first span around on his head and ruined the chances of anyone with only a little bit of skill being able to win any more in Tekken 3. Against the computer it's fine - even on hard everything is pretty simple, but this isn't a game to be played in single player - the story mode is testament to this, offering about five fights for each character before it's over and you get a crappy little animation of what they do with the Soul Edge. Darth Vader (more on him later), unsurprisingly, is pretty funny about it.
No, this is - as it always has been - a game that can only really be played in multiplayer. In a same room situation you can go at it how you would always expect - lay down some house rules, play about three hundred matches, shout a lot of abuse at each other and generally have a great time. It's a formula that can't really be refined past where it is - ain't broke and all that crap. Online is a whole new monster though - and rarely in a good way, unless you take part in organised, friends-only group matches. Or if you face off against someone online who is reasonable, wants to play for the sake of playing and not solely to win, and who doesn't just choose the cheapest technique for victory. In other words, someone you will never, ever face in an online battle.