Soul Calibur IV

Soul Calibur IV Preview for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3
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8Out of 10
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This guy is short, meaning he automatically avoids certain attacks.
This guy is short, meaning he automatically avoids certain attacks.

This guy is short, meaning he automatically avoids certain attacks.

Darth Vader and Yoda from Star Wars are playable characters in the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of SoulCalibur IV respectively. Having sat down for some serious hands-on with both characters at Ubidays in Paris last week, I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around this fact.

It's just so odd. Darth Vader is a large, lumbering, slow short-range character who feels as if he only has three moves at his disposal and none of those involve him jumping. Yoda on the other hand is tiny, as you'd expect, who needs to jump constantly for his lightning quick lightsaber attacks to be of any use. They are as different to use as the Light and Dark sides of the Force are to wield.

Both characters are mechanically SoulCalibur fighters of course, with horizontal and vertical attacks, kicks and guards. And they move across the 3D plane, weaving in and out for side strikes and dodges, parrying for juggle opportunities. They're both incredibly well detailed (Yoda's face in particular standing out) with authentic lightsaber whirs and voices. But they don't feel like SoulCalibur characters.

A lot of that feeling is down to the Force powers they have at their disposal. A small green Force gauge, displayed underneath the main health bar at the top of the screen, diminishes as you use Force powers, but it's quickly replenished as you attack further. We managed to work out a few moves, mainly triggered by use of both vertical and horizontal attacks. Vader has a Force choke move which lifts his opponents into the air from a distance, as well as a Force fireball and a low hitting Force push. Yoda's Force powers are less aggressive, and mainly focus on a better Force push, which he can use to help with ring outs or, more practically, give him some breathing space when opponents get in his face.

It's odd, and a bit silly. A thought strikes me as I pummel my Namco Bandai representative into the ground. Shouldn't Vader's and Yoda's lightsabers simply burn through the weapons and armour of their opponents? "It's for gameplay purposes," he says. "When you think about it you should die from just one sword slice!" Quite.

Practically, we can see SoulCalibur players enjoying messing about with Yoda and Darth Vader and exploring the new opportunities the Force powers bring but ultimately will focus on the more traditional characters for online and competitive play. While Vader and Yoda have their advantages, (Vader can at first seem extremely overpowered and Yoda, due to his short stature, dodges horizontal attacks) Vader's limited number of attacks and slow, grounded style and Yoda's short range make their appearance in the sixth Soul game akin to a cameo.

Yes, characters can block lightsaber attacks.

Yes, characters can block lightsaber attacks.

The addition of characters from different universes is nothing new for the SoulCalibur series. Soul Calibur 2 saw the addition of Nintendo's Link, Image Comics' Spawn and Tekken's Heihachi Mishima across the GameCube, Xbox and PS2 versions respectively. It felt slightly odd then. It feels doubly odd now. Perhaps we just need a bit of time to wrap our heads around the fact that you'll be able to play as Hilde, a German female knight in shining armour who uses a flag pole and a short sword for weapons, against a tiny green gremlin-like Jedi knight who uses a lightsaber in the hanger bay of a Star Destroyer (the game's new Star Wars themed level, complete with Imperial March music) as Tie Fighters and X-Wings battle each other in the distance.

While the addition of Yoda and Vader will get most attention, it's the new armour breaking system which will be of most interest to fans of the series. Every character has three points of armour, defending high, torso and legs. These three areas are represented by three small bars displayed under the health bar. As attacks are blocked armour slowly wears down until eventually it literally shatters. Once exposed, players will take much more damage when hit in that area. The idea is that it's supposed to discourage players from playing very defensively and blocking excessively.

It doesn't end there. An orb at the end of the HP gauge glows as you wear down your opponent's armour. When you destroy a piece the orb will flash black. If you're timing is good enough, you'll then be able to trigger a Critical Finish by pressing all four buttons as the same time. This move will more than likely kill your opponent immediately and is unblockable.

The other characters play far better than Yoda and Darth Vader

The other characters play far better than Yoda and Darth Vader

After we had had our fill of Vader and Yoda we had a play with some of the more traditional players (Mitsurugi, Siegfried, new character Hilde) in more serious matches to get a better idea of the armour destruction. You do find yourself constantly glancing at the armour bars as you fight. SoulCalibur has in recent iterations relied heavily on parrying and, as long as you parry (timed presses of back or forward and block as your opponent strikes) it won't affect your armour. Simply block though, and it will. Players who like to block will find they may have to alter their play style for this one. But, for the most part, both Mitsurugi and Siegfried play extremely similarly to in previous iterations of the series - Siegfried is still a devastating long range character and Mitsurugi is still an awesome all-rounder.

With the game due out very soon, we know there's not much time left for Namco Bandai to make any drastic changes, and thus what we played at Ubidays will be a fair representation of how the final game will turn out. The key point here is that SoulCalibur IV is not a reboot, or a restart, or a re-imagination of the series. It's very SoulCalibur and fans will instantly feel at home. While the armour destruction, critical finishers and the addition of Yoda and Vader as 360 and PS3 exclusive playable characters are welcome additions, neither affect what we know and love about the series, and, as a result, the game will probably win few new fans. But we're most excited about online play, a first for the series. For that very reason SoulCalibur IV is making us foam at the mouth with anticipation. And, if you love the series, you should be too.

SoulCalibur IV is scheduled for release across Europe on August 1 2008 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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schtauffen's Avatar
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schtauffen

limited edition rumours tht u can download extra features and MAY (not certain yet) include yoda 4 da ps3 but no one knows yet
Posted 20:41 on 13 July 2008
Rogue_Soul's Avatar

Rogue_Soul

^I've never thought of it like that. Nice!
Posted 01:20 on 05 June 2008
ghostdog25's Avatar

ghostdog25

yeah... I mean Yoda green (360 color scheme) and darth black (ps3 color scheme)
Posted 22:18 on 04 June 2008
Karlius's Avatar

Karlius

Kinda Ghey but maybe its a dig at PS3 owners being on the Dark Side ha ha!
Posted 09:52 on 03 June 2008
wyp100's Avatar

wyp100

Yoda is on 360 and Darth is on PS3 I'm afraid.
Posted 09:12 on 03 June 2008
Karlius's Avatar

Karlius

It was rumoured that yoda was on 360 and Darth on PS3 is that right or are both on both consoles now that would make more sense!
Posted 23:18 on 02 June 2008
Netmind's Avatar

Netmind

Blocking Vaders lightsaber? No sense!!1 Vader pwns :P
Posted 21:46 on 02 June 2008

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Release Date: 31/07/2008
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: Beat 'em Up
No. Players: 1-2
Rating: BBFC 12
Site Rank: 2,557 295
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