Namco Bandai have brought over half a dozen titles to GamesCom 2011, such as Ridge Racer Unbounded and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon; not to mention their venerable fighting franchises, Tekken Tag Hyrbrid and Soul Calibur V. I had time to sit down with the latter, and instead of bombarding us with deafening montages and crash-cut trailers, Namco Bandai slapped a pad in our hands and set us loose on one another.
What strikes you first about Soul Calibur V is just how good it looks. Now SC games have always set the visual bar very high, but the fifth installment - seventh, if you're being picky - is simply spectacular. Each character is richly detailed, lovingly modeled and animates wonderfully.
Jon's already filled you in on what you can expect from Soul Calibur V's new setting, but we were finally granted hands-on this week, with Namco reps grabbing two journalists apiece, slapping them in front of a huge screen and forcing us to do battle, gladiator-style. Sheepish smiles were exchanged, before battle duly commenced.
If you're familiar with Soul Calibur's fast and fluid combat system, you'll be right at home with the fifth game. You can perform a variety of attacks, from swift strikes to punishing blows, and can perform devastating moves with a flick of the analogue stick and a tap of the appropriate button. Each character is packing a different style and weapon, from the samurai discipline of Mitsurugi to the acrobatic flamboyance of Voldo. Who's still as disturbing as ever, I might add.
Namco has added the all new Brave and Critical Edge attacks to Soul Calibur V, that allow you to unleash a punishing barrage of blows without having to memorize complex button-presses. All you need to do is block moves, land successful hits and fill your Edge meter accordingly.
The intention here appears to be easing newcomers in to the Soul Caliber franchise, instead of scaring them off with a slew of opaque combo demands. Make no mistake, Soul Calibur V has combos - lots of them - but it's not as daunting as a Street Fighter or even Tekken.
Overall, we had a great time playing Soul Calibur V. It's slick, it's fun, and it packs one hell of a punch. Namco have added almost half a dozen new characters, like the swift and deadly teenage Leixia and the new villain, Patroklos, Sophita's son.
But let's be honest, we're not that interest in new characters from Soul Calibur directly. We're more interested in what guest characters Namco have licensed for use in the game. Past Soul Calibur's have featured The Legend of Zelda's Link, The Force Unleashed's Starkiller and even Jedi and Sith lords, Yoda and Darth Vader respectively. We attempted to pry an exclusive from the Namco Bandai rep, but she wouldn't budge. Guest characters will be in the game; we're just going to have to wait a little while longer before we find out who!