This isn’t flawless. It only makes a handful of characters playable, and Namco has cut costs by using hand-drawn illustrations for the linking-scenes instead of lavish cut-scenes. The characters themselves are quite annoying, and there’s a lot of dodgy dialogue and a bit too much repetition. If you had a chance to play last year’s surprisingly good Mortal Kombat reboot, then this story mode offers less variety and less excitement. All the same, it provides a good basic intro to the game and the new mechanics, and an enjoyable few hours of brawling before you get your teeth into the other modes.
Here there’s plenty to keep solo players going, with the arcade mode to run through, extra characters to unlock, some superb character creation and customisation options, a sizable challenge in the Quick Battle mode and an even greater challenge in the fearsomely tough Legendary Souls mode; a mode which is, frankly, beyond our modest capabilities. Meanwhile, Namco has pretty much nailed online play, with accessible quick matches and lobbies and smooth, lag-free play. Like all fighting games SoulCalibur V is best enjoyed with a mate on the same screen in the same room, but when that’s not possible, it’s still a very satisfying game,
Graphically, SoulCalibur V is a small step forwards from the already magnificent looking SoulCalibur IV. The animation looks slightly smoother and more natural, while the costumes and armour now exhibit a ludicrous quantity of detail. At first the arenas seem a little underwhelming – even a bit repetitive and gloomy - but on closer inspection they’re packed with little incidental details, making SoulCalibur V an even more spectacular fighting game to play, not to mention watch.
In short, this is an excellent Fighting Game and an excellent SoulCalibur. The only fly in the ointment is that it doesn’t quite feel essential. Both Streetfighter IV and Marvel vs Capcom 3 were easy people pleasers, with as much to offer casual gamers as dyed in the wool fighting game nuts, and with the kind of bold strokes and dizzying spectacle that made every game a thriller. By comparison, SoulCalibur V is enjoyable, challenging and beautifully constructed, but a little tame. It’s the sort of game that will be a hit with fans of the series and the genre, but won’t make the same kind of impact on the masses beyond.
SoulCalibur V is a beautiful swashbuckling brawler that makes some sensible changes to the aging formula and delivers a more satisfying single-player experience than many recent fighting games. If it falls short of greatness, it’s because it doesn’t have the ‘oomph’ of Streetfighter IV and Marvel vs Capcom 3 or quite the same degree of mass appeal.