'SoulCalibur V' Is a Very Vibrant Game

SoulCalibur remains the most accessible fighting game series out there, but it certainly won’t make anyone a pro.

SoulCalibur V

Publisher: Namco Bandai
Rated: Teen
Players: 1-2
Price: $59.99
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
Developer: Project Soul
Release Date: 2012-01-31

SoulCalibur is a weird series of games. It’s always been popular, but unlike Street Fighter, it’s never been a game that people play in tournaments. It’s the fighting game for the casual fan, and as such, it refuses to take itself seriously. Each game is populated with weird guest fighters and increasingly nonsensical costumes, even for a fighting game. SoulCalibur V continues the bizarre traditions of its predecessors, and it works. It’s a flashy game that’s fun to watch, easy to get into, and lets you fight as Ezio from Assassin’s Creed.

The Story Mode is mildly interesting. The eye-rolling melodrama is appealing as a guilty pleasure, but for some reason, Namco decided to allow the story to revolve around the most boring character in the game, Patroklos. Surely there’s a much grander tale begging to be told, especially when you consider that many fan favorite fighters (Taki, Xianghua, Sophitia, Kilik -- his name is there but that’s not the Kilik I know) aren’t in the game but their children are here. The result is a story that feels pointless, though not awful.

If you’re looking to play offline, you’d best stick with Quick Battle. This mode mimics online play with a ton of randomly chosen AI opponents. What’s great about this mode is that the difficulty of each opponent is broken up into dozens of very specific ranks (this ranking is also used online). You start with a rank of E5, rise to E1, then D5 to D1, all the way up to A1. This allows you to fight slightly more challenging opponents each match until you find a sweet spot. After about a dozen matches, I knew my best fights would be at the C level.

Quick Battle is also a great primer for the character creator. You’ll almost never fight a default character. All of your opponents look like they’ve been made with the creator. It’s a great way of showing off what you can do, and once you start digging, the creator is almost more fun than the fighting. That’s not a bad thing. Instead, it’s a testament to how deep and absorbing that the creation system can be once you start unlocking more and more stuff. If you don’t want to start from scratch, you can just edit an existing character, keeping their body, voice, and fighting style, while adding equipment or switching out clothing to create a new costume. With such an impressive degree of personalization, playing as a default character just seems boring.

Of course, there would be no point in making a personalized character if you couldn’t show him or her off. Online matches are organized into lobbies of varying size. Player Matches put you into groups of six, while the Global Colosseo can have as many as 30. The smaller lobby lets you watch the current match, even if you’re not a part of it. Sadly, though, you can’t do the same with the larger lobby. It’s either fight or get out. Thankfully, with 30 other people playing, it doesn’t take long to get into a match.

The Global Colosseo is my favorite place to fight simply because I’m not very good at the game. Getting constantly beaten in a lobby with only six people starts to make one self-conscious about your won lack of skill, but getting constantly beaten in a lobby with 30 other people lets me comfortably bask in anonymity while still being communal and social thanks to the global chat.

While there’s nothing egregiously wrong with SoulCalibur V, there are parts that feel rushed. The story mode opens with a typical cinematic CG cut scene, and then you’ll get a couple of cut scenes made with the game engine that look great, but then the mode just features cheap looking motion comics for the rest of the story. This isn’t a motion comic in the way that we’ve come to know them in video games -- with lots of dynamic movement. These are just manga style drawings with some voice over and the occasional basic panning shot. What’s stranger is that the game switches between these cheap comic movies and the movies made in engine, but there’s no consistency between them. It feels like every cut scene was supposed to be done in-engine, but for some reason Namco had to ditch this goal for something faster and cheaper.

The Training mode also suffers. You can bring up a tip window that suggests what moves you should practice, and in addition to the button combo itself, the window explains what this move does, when to use it, and even how to defend against it. This could have been a wonderful way to teach fighting theory rather than just button combos (which is arguably more important, since learning combos can make me a fan of the game but learning theory can make me a fan of the genre), but there are only two of these tip windows per character. It’s a painful missed opportunity, and as a result, I had to go online to find information about guard breaks and unblockable attacks.

Still, SoulCalibur V remains fun. The characters and attacks are flashy; it’s a very vibrant game. The moves seem to flow with each other, making every match fun to watch even when you’re getting slaughtered. It remains the most accessible fighting game series out there, but it certainly won’t make anyone a pro.




Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.


A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.


The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.