Using The Force In Soul Calibur IV

It seems almost pointless to write hands-on impressions of a game several of you have already gotten your hands on, by I assure you my hands are professional trained to receive impressions still harboring the faint traces of a spiral notebook I fell asleep on in 1989. Those are lasting impressions right there. Either way, I got a chance to test my Soul Calibur IV mettle against some of the Namco Bandai folk at E3 last week, and boy did I ever fail to kick complete ass. Word to the wise: don't button mash against employees of the company creating the game. They are wise to such tricks. Could I alter my strategy and beat them at their own game?

No. They were very good. After all, at that point they'd been playing the game for three days straight, so I didn't stand much of a chance. Still I took a few swings, only to discover the force isn't quite so strong in this one.

The reps were really keen on showing off the Star Wars characters, so that's what I mainly played. First came Yoda on the Xbox 360, who proved a bit of a nuisance to my opponent's Cervantes, who couldn't seen to land a high attack to save his life. Yes, Yoda effectively cuts the attack arsenal of his enemies by a third, with upper attacks harmlessly passing over his tiny, wispy head. His character model was excellent - in fact the characters have never looked better, but that's the sort of thing you'd expect from a "next gen" game. I was so busy button mashing gawking at Yoda's character model that I was soundly defeated.

Then I tried out Vader's secret apprentice, and proceeded to get pummeled by my opponent's newly useful upper attacks. He did show me some of the special force moves, including a force lightning attack that actually had me win a round before the Namco Bandai rep realized he was better than that and came back strong.

We moved over to the PlayStation 3 then, where another rep had been working on creating a custom character than looked a lot like Jack from the Tekken series. He moved aside to let me try my luck playing as Darth Vader in a match against an AI opponent.

"So who do you want to fight against?"

"Oh, let me fight against Raphael. She's hot."

"Um, Raphael is a guy."

*blank stare* "Riiiight.

Apparently Raphael is a vampire, a fact that I must have completely missed in the last two games? When did this happen?

Confusion aside, I quickly found the one hidden weakness of lightsabers - real swords. If Obi-Wan had just pulled out a scimitar during his final battle aboard the Death Star, the trilogy would have been severely truncated. I decided to forego button mashing and note taking for actually playing the game as it was intended, and Raphael went down like the little bitch he is.

My final match pitted me as the pointy-breasted, anime-inspired Angol against the game's big boss, bird-armored Algol - no relation. Using a secret combination of "blocking" and "attacking intelligently" the boss soon succumbed to my adorably spiky chest armor and I was triumphant.

Force powers aside, the game plays out much like any other Soul Calibur game does, only prettier. The Soul Calibur series has been uniformly excellent for years, and the fourth installment (technically fifth) looks to be no different. Tons of characters, smooth controls, and what looks like one of the best character creation elements ever included in a fighting game - you were expecting anything less?