Soul Calibur IV Review

  • Posted August 1st, 2008 at 06:13 EDT by Eric Blattberg

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Soul Calibur IV

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Soul Calibur IV isn’t a revolution, but it’s one hell of an evolution. Although it does little to redefine the fighting genre, it manages to further advance the franchise with improvements across the board on an already fantastic foundation.

We like

  • The most balanced Soul Calibur yet
  • A plethora of new characters, including the likes of Darth Vader and Hilde
  • Heart-stopping graphics with a flawless framerate

We dislike

  • Slightly lackluster online experience
  • Lack of original single-player modes

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a tale of souls and swords was eternally retold.

Namco Bandai has just released the latest installment in its critically acclaimed fighting franchise, Soul Calibur IV. Apart from getting groovy with the force, the basic formula of the series remains the same. Although it does little to redefine the fighting genre, Soul Calibur IV manages to further advance the franchise with improvements across the board on an already fantastic foundation.

Let’s begin with what’s most pertinent to a good fighting game – balance. After a rather skewed balance in Soul Calibur III, Soul Calibur studio Project Soul sought to equalize the cast of characters in IV, and they’ve done a top-notch job. From veterans like Ivy and Mitsurugi to newcomers like Hilde and Algol, none of the characters feel cheap or severely underpowered.

In order to help regulate “turtles,” people who block excessively, two new gameplay mechanics have been implemented. The first is destructible armor. With this aspect, a character’s high, middle, and low armor may be broken by powerful offensive attacks or extreme amounts of blocking by a defendant. Once a piece of armor has broken off, a character is more vulnerable in that specific area.


Secondly, one hit kills known as critical finishers have been implemented into the game. Performing a critical finisher in battle is actually fairly rare, as it’s usually easier to kill your opponent before you make them susceptible to a finisher. That process involves lowering their Soul Gauge, a jewel next to the health bar, to a blinking red state by attacking them, then guard impacting (parrying) one of their attacks or performing an attack that breaks their guard. If all of the above occur, you’re given about a half-second opportunity to hit all the face buttons at once. If you succeed, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning finishing animation during which you can mock your opponent to no end. Darth Vader’s lightsaber chuck is a strong candidate for the best of the bunch.

Speaking of Darth Vader, the figurehead of the Dark Side is indeed present in the PS3 version of Soul Calibur IV, as is his secret apprentice. Their presence in the Soul Calibur universe seems out of place – and it literally is. Vader’s story episode explains that he crossed over into an alternate universe from his own after he sensed a great power -- of which the Soul Calibur and Soul Edge swords were the source -- emanating from a portal.

Storyline aside, Vader is slightly slow and unwieldy when compared to many in the Soul Calibur cast, though his force moves compensate somewhat. Easy to execute, vast in number and highly effective, Vader’s force powers are regulated by a regenerating force gauge under his lifebar (the same applies to the apprentice). One force maneuver, a grab to force choke combination, is particularly satisfying.


Darth Vader’s apprentice is a more than worthy addition to the Soul Calibur crew. Though irritating to unlock (you must defeat him in Arcade mode with Vader), he’s an absolute blast to play. Featuring more ‘electrifying’ force moves than Vader, the nimble apprentice skillfully twists and turns as he slashes his opponent to bits.

As for the other new additions to the Soul Calibur lineup, Hilde and Algol prove quite versatile and destructive respectively. With the massive contrast between Hilde’s short sword and long spear, those who master her play style will have the best of both worlds at their fingertips. Algol, the game’s ‘boss’ character, has fragmented power of both the Soul Calibur and Soul Edge within him, thus he can perform some unique and powerful attacks. He’s strong, but by no standard unfairly so.

Technically, there are five more bonus characters that must be mentioned. Though they don’t all possess unique fighting styles, each character was designed by a different renowned anime artist. Several, like the mechanical Ashlotte, are downright strange, though a few of the others are very cool, especially the deadly Shura. Regardless of taste though, they add even more variety to the professionally designed characters of SCIV.

When I say ‘professionally designed,’ I’m inferring that the custom character creator previously seen in Soul Calibur III is ... (continued on next page)

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  • Related game: Soul Calibur IV

    Release date (US):
    July 29th, 2008
    Project Soul
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