Soul Calibur VI Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
Maths was never my strongest subject in school, nor was it one that got my blood pumping, so you can imagine, sitting in a maths lesson at 3PM on a Friday afternoon wasn’t my idea of fun, and yet, on Friday September 26, 2003, I couldn’t wait for it. Why you ask? Well, because once it was over, my mum had promised that we’d go into town to grab a copy of the recently-released Soul Calibur II on my Gamecube. I was a like a kid on Christmas morning when I finally got home and booted it up, and subsequently spent the next six hours glued intently to my screen.
Soul Calibur II was the game that introduced me to the series, and it is still regarded as the best; often used as the bar upon which the subsequent entries into the series are judged. This high level of expectation means many of the titles since have failed to deliver, but where others failed, Soul Calibur VI certainly feels like a contender for the series’ crown.
Soul Calibur VI features two story modes, Soul Chronicles and Libra of Souls, both taking place in the 16th Century, revisiting the events of the first Soul Calibur, but from a different perspective. Soul Chronicles is the official history of the two swords where you can take control of each character in the game as they set out on an adventure to claim the power of the Soul Edge. Each character’s individual plotline is genuinely interesting, and I was intrigued to find out more about how each character’s quest entwined with the overarching main plotline. That being said, some are better than others, with Geralt’s the standout here. Other plotlines are however dogged by some truly dreadful voice acting, and gameplay quickly gets repetitive during longer sessions.
Libra of Souls offers a different perspective on the Soul Calibur history and is a surprisingly deep RPG-fighting crossover whereby you create your own personal fighter and set out across the world to stop an evil adversary from harvesting Soul Edge shards. During your journey you’ll come across main fighters, in addition to side characters, all of which have missions for you to complete, both optional and mandatory. As you progress, you’ll level up, and have the chance to unlock new and improved weapons, customise armour and mould your character’s fighting style to suit your personal preference. I genuinely enjoyed my 10+ hour journey here, but the structure of fight enemy, read some text, fight next enemy did become a little tiresome during longer sessions, especially when I had to grind some tedious side missions in order to level up enough to tackle the next main instalment.
Despite some questionable voice acting and a rather tedious structure, both story modes are brilliant fun thanks to the excellent gameplay. Fights in Soul Calibur VI are fast, frantic and yet, refined. In addition to some familiar moves, such as the Critical Edge, Soul Calibur VI introduces a "Soul Charge" meter that builds during fights and can be unleashed to increase attack power and unlock more devastating moves. In addition, there's also a new "Reversal edge" which allows you to block an opponent’s attack and strike back in slow motion using a rock/paper/scissors influenced mini-game. Project Soul and Bandai Namco have stated that the move was added to greatly enhance defence, and it works amazing well; even if my heavy attack was often trumped by my opponent's quicker alternative. AIs also feel more intelligent here, gone are the days of spamming one move for a quick win, as most AIs appear to learn your plan quickly and adapt accordingly. As with all previous entries, fighting in Soul Calibur VI is easy to pick up and learn, but hard to master. You’ll really need to take the time to read your fighter’s move list if you want to be successful on the harder difficulties or against human players online. Soul Calibur VI doesn’t particularly shake up fighting in the series, rather it adds a level of polish that elevates it to the best in the series to date.
As well as a beautifully-polished fighting system, Soul Calibur VI also features an abundance of content that is sure to keep fans happy. In addition to the 20+ hour story modes, there’s the standard arcade mode where you select a fighter and compete in eight battles as quickly as possible. There’s also a 1 vs 1 versus mode, a self-explanatory training mode, and excellent online ranked and casual modes. Ranked play was mostly unavailable during my playtime, but the few fights I was able to join were trouble free with little to no lag or connection dropouts, and while matchmaking took a while, this was likely down to the lack of players online before launch. There’s also a deep character creation system bursting with customisation variants (separate to the one in the Libra of Souls campaign) which allows you create your own personal fighters and use them in both offline and online fights.
Soul Calibur VI certainly feels like the ultimate title in the series, and nothing epitomises this more than the roster of fighting characters. The majority of which have been a staple throughout the series, such as fan-favourites: Taki, Talim, Mitsurugi, Nightmare, Ivy, and Kilik. Nevertheless, I felt a little disappointed that only three new characters were included: Geralt from The Witcher series, Grøh, and Azwel. I have no doubt that further additions to the roster will be released via downloadable content, but it would have been nice to see new blood added to the cast. I was also a little disappointed by the lack of fighting arenas available in the game. After a few hours, I had fought in all the arenas, but was aching for more.
Running on Unreal Engine 4, Soul Calibur IV is easily the best-looking title in the series, and perhaps the most visually-stunning fighting title on the PS4. Character models look crisp and detailed, fights pop with a vast array of striking colours, and while the backgrounds suffer from some fuzzy textures occasionally, they’re equally as impressive. What's more, Soul Calibur VI boasts a spectacular backing score that plays during fights and throughout the game menus. That being said, some of the screams would feel more at home on Centre Court at Wimbledon.
The biggest drawback from my twenty or so hours with the game is the long loading screens. Before and after every battle in Soul Chronicles and Libra of Souls, there’s a ten to twenty second loading screen, and you can expect an equally long loading screen between each fight in arcade mode or when switching between game modes. They’re not game-defying, but when fights only last a minute or so, a ten second loading screen before and after each one is certainly noticeable.
Soul Calibur VI doesn’t add anything dramatically new to the series, but it does polish and refine the fighting mechanics we’ve come to love for over a decade now, elevating them to a new level. The two story modes offer a deep and rewarding alternative to the standard gameplay options, while the amount of content on offer will keep fans fighting for hundreds of hours. It may suffer from some questionable voice acting, exceedingly-long loading times and a lack of new fighters and arenas, but Soul Calibur VI is easily one of the best titles in the series (perhaps even better than Soul Calibur II), and one of the most enjoyable fighting games of the year.