Soul Calibur 4

a review of Soul Calibur 4
a videogame developed by Namco
and published by Namco
for the arcades, the microsoft xbox 360 and the sony playstation 3 computer entertainment system
text by Remy Cote D'ivoire

1 star

Bottom line: Soul Calibur 4 is “En quoi votre âme est-elle forgée?”

“hey pussy try doin different moves i bet if u did other moves instead of wat u do now or if you picked another person ud get fukn smoked bitch”

A young man sent me that message via the PSN email service earlier today. I beat him five times in a row. I’m almost ready to say that fighting games aren’t ready for online play.

It makes me sad when the rare bluetooth headset owner who doesn’t scream nonsense at me actually says something like “good game” after a match is over. I have gotten my ass kicked at arcades on several occasions, and every time, the guys (and one Japanese girl) who beat me would usually say something. Often times they would say “good game,” sometimes with a smirk on their face, but at least it was something.

It’s just, I don’t know, it’s just that this whole online thing is so hecking mercenary. It doesn’t help that as you beat people you get “points” and gain “levels”. You have a “win percentage”, too, and that’s fine. I mean, there are people who are over level one hundred who have win percentages in the sixties; so, in other words, they aren’t actually very good. They just played and played until they scavenged enough victories to claw their way into the upper echelons. I’ll make an educated guess here and just say that these people play a lot of World of Warcraft. Having a big shiny number next to their idiotic names is obviously a big ACHIEVEMENT for them.

Just get rid of them. The levels. Good god, just go ahead and . . . get rid of them. They’re useless, useless. They bring the game down. Number of wins, number of losses, and winning percentage. That’s all we need. The winning percentage isn’t even totally necessary, but it helps us put the skill of the player we’re about to fight into perspective quickly, without forcing us to do any calculations or any of that garbage. No thinking, just fighting. Fighting for the sake of a good old fight.

No leaderboards. Kind of. Just the names of the top 500 players. The person with the most wins and the least losses at the top, where they should be. Maybe then people would have something to aspire to; they would look at that list and rub their hands together muttering to themselves “I’m going to get you, you motherhecks, you sons of bitches.” That’s when the wins would start racking up. People would start practicing, and playing routinely, and getting good. Or they would play, and lose, and find out they suck, and quit, so as to leave the real fighting to the people who are actually pretty good at the game.

Now, I’m no psychologist, but I reckon that when an Average Joe sees a list with some names on it, he immediately wishes his name was at the top. Unless it was, like, a hit-list or something. I guess I should rephrase that and say that when an Average Joe sees a list with some names on it, and the list represents something that people are good at, he wants in on it. He wants to be the best. So he will practice, methodically. Analyzing his every mistake. Researching new tactics. Crushing anyone foolish enough to get in his way. And when he loses he won’t throw a hissy fit, he’ll shake his head and sigh, and keep playing. That’s the kind of person I want playing fighting games online. Icy professionals.

No voice support. Seriously, people don’t even talk stuff anymore, they just whistle or blow into their headset, or, if they speak Spanish, call me a “punta” (this happened after I beat the asshole in question, so I couldn’t really take him seriously).



While we’re at it, get rid of that stupid Tower of Lost Souls mode, too. Make all the equipment available right from the get go. Although, including the Tower of Lost Souls is actually a good way to pick out the people who aren’t good at the game, the ones who spend all their time unlocking equipment/making poorly designed costumes. And on the topic of – –

Remy wakes up at this point. He’s not fully awake. It could be seven in the morning. He looks at his clock and the time isn’t moving. He picks up his watch, and that’s not moving either. He concludes that both the watch and the clock have run out of batteries. He contemplates the likelihood of this happening. He realizes that the chance of this happening is highly unlikely. He doesn’t like the feeling of not knowing what time it is. He feels like he should get out of bed, but there is a dull throb behind his eyes.

–Remy Cote D’ivoire


11 Responses to Soul Calibur 4

  1. I only played online for the first time in my life a few weeks ago. There’s a lot of rampant idiocy on there, but you can find a few people that live up to the word “decent”. Good review.

  2. The spanish guy didn’t call you a “punta”. They say: “puta” (whore, in english).

  3. The thing that’s missing in online fighting games is real physicality. Back in high school when my friends would sit around and play Smash Brothers for hours, if someone was being a dick, using the same move over and over and over again, or running away to attack from afar or anything like that, a good punch to the shoulder would even things out.

  4. One of the big problems with online competition is that the online nature makes it difficult to make stats 100% accurate. With the possibility of lag and disconnects, the developer has to force someone to pay for a disconnect, or have no one pay, thus allowing someone to cook their stats by leaving a losing bout.

    Of course, the above is a long standing and rather boring issue. I bring it up because it would go away if anyone still had a sense of shame. These days it really is just about having your name on the top of the list. It doesn’t matter to you or anyone else how you got there, just that you are there. I guess it goes hand in hand with people that love saying “first” at the top of a comments list. Some people are so useless that they have to find any way to be at the top of something, even if it that something is meaningless.

    It is one thing to struggle to find a match against a nice opponent. It is another to actually find someone who wants to fight, as opposed to doing whatever they have to to make numbers go up.

  5. Sounds like my choice to ignore the latest entry into the series is justified.
    Introducing levels is probably the biggest mistake you could make in a fighting game. Seriously, unless it’s an MMO (heaven forbid) then why bother with levels? There’s no subscription fee after all…

  6. After dissecting Soul Calibur 4’s online player pretty extensively here, I sort of came to conclusion that aside from all the implementation issues I mentioned in that article, a big problem is that the combat style and design of 3D fighting games just isn’t suited to online play.

    It’s the button mashing aspect, the way, in 3D fighting games, you can cover the entire screen with a really powerful attack or combo in the span of a split second just by slapping 1 or 2 buttons accidentally. As ABN’s Tekken 6 review mentioned, win ratios even in the arcades, with no lag, wallow in the 50% range. I think if you’re good enough 3D fighters do put the more skilled player on top and it isn’t entirely just button mashing, but you have to be on top of your game, there’s no room for split-second errors in timing and execution. When you heap on buckets of latency, which can vary between a few milliseconds and a few hundred milliseconds inconsistently and at random, the precision of the game which prevents it from being a button-mashing crap shoot is completely shot.

    I’d wager that in 2D fighters, where the only really screen covering, powerful attacks are executed with complicated and (relatively) time-consuming joystick motions, lag puts less of a dent in the dynamics of the game. If they game isn’t entirely hinged on twitch, then it shouldn’t fall apart as badly online. Perhaps the only completely successful online fighters will be those based on entirely new mechanics which take latency into account, and not mechanics which were developed in the 90’s for arcade play.

  7. So, let me get this straight. I just wanna make sure that I’m not missing anything, leaving anything out, or somehow misinterpreting things.

    Your primary—no, your only—complaint about the game. The complaint which has led you to award it one of the four stars possible. This complaint, which has led you to abhor this game in such a fashion that 75% of it is entirely unpalatable, unacceptable, unendurable.

    Your complaint is that people on the internet suck.

    Let me first give myself this disclaimer. I do not like Soul Calibur 4. I have never played SC4, and I have no plans to ever do so. I’m not a big fan of the Soul Calibur series, though I’ve enjoyed some past installments to an extent. Not a great one, not a tiny one, just a normal “hey, this is kind of fun for five minutes now and then” extent.

    Your complaint sucks.

    • @Diablo Manuel : it’s Diablolical!!! — who said not having a sense of humour and internet posting were mutually exclusive anyways

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