The fourth chapter of the critically acclaimed Soul Calibur series followed pretty much the same angle as the rest: bash the hell out of your opponent with massive weapons and defy button-mashers with a deep, tactical fighting engine. This time, however, Star Wars fans could recreate fights of fancy by pitting series stalwarts such as Mitsurugi and Ivy against Darth Vader and Yoda.
Soul Calibur IV is an excellent addition to the series, and you can now pick up a copy for under £10 from Play as the online merchant is currently selling the Xbox 360 version for just £9.99, almost £2 cheaper than the nearest competitor (The Hut - £11.93).
SCIV has an abundance of game modes, from a highly useful training simulator to a quickplay Arcade Mode. The Story Mode is slightly longer and, as usual, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and there' s anew mode called Tower of Souls, which sees you fighting battles under certain conditions for glorious unlockables and rewards.
The fighting engine itself is slicker and prettier than ever before, with matches consisting again of judicious blocking, although Namco have attempted to inject the series with a bit of an offensive mentality by introducing the Soul Gauge and the Critical Finish system. By constantly harrying you opponent and not allowing them land a blow you can deplete their Soul Gauge and open them up eventually to instant defeat.
Characters will now take visible damage, there are now online multiplayer modes, and the Star Wars characters are a nice addition, although Yoda is to Soul Calibur what Oddjob was to Goldeneye 64. Character creation is back, although instead of choosing a weapon and class of fighter, you now choose which existing brawler to mimic and then customise accordingly.
Overall, SCIV is a fun little romp. Unlike most arcade-style beat-em-ups, the fighting system in this game is detailed enough that it succeeds rather admirably in making single-player matches bearable, and it's certainly the strategist's series of choice, with little time for button-mashers. If you're a fighting fan, this should definitely be in your game library.
Thanks to soonforgotten at HUKD