Soul Calibur 2: played to death!
11th Apr 2003 | 17:41
Since the three console versions of Namco's massively anticipated Soul Calibur II arrived on our doorstep, we've been plundering each version for every last treat it has tucked away, while immersing ourselves deeper in the experience to bring a more detailed idea of what to expect. After all, it's impossible to judge the worth of a game of this nature in the immediate short-term.
It might be flash and have us creaming our pants with glee after waiting for such a long time, but more time is clearly required before Soul Calibur II can be effectively judged.
One important point to make is that one-on-one beat-'em-ups are predominantly a two-player experience. This, in the finest examples of the genre, is where the real fun lies, with single-player acting as a training ground for the main event. But in many ways, the original Soul Calibur on Dreamcast rewrote the rules, providing an amazingly comprehensive single-player section, whixh provided enjoyment for months.
Once again, Namco has delivered a staggering amount of content for the single-player mode in Soul Calibur 2, which, in theory, should provide the same kind of lasting experience as the original. However, we've found the AI in single-player - on the default difficulty setting at least - severely lacking in places. Take Rafael, for instance. If you choose him, you are able to beat the entire game by simply tapping the main attack button. It's rare that you have to change this tactic at any point.
As a result, we've used this tactic to unlock many of the game's secrets without any particular difficulty. It's a shame that this wasn't picked up on in playtesting.
Two-player mode is an entirely different proposition, however, and, as we've said, this game is mainly about the competition between two human opponents. In this way, Soul Calibur II is certainly a great home console beat-'em-up, and one that could end up as one of your favourite multiplayer fighters console.
We should make it clear that, secret characters aside, all three versions are basically identical - and that goes for graphics as well as gameplay. The difference comes in the bonus platform-specific characters. Who's best? Our current fave is Link on GC, who has a cool array of weaponry including a boomerang, bow and arrow and bombs, which can be incorporated into juggling combos. And - let's face it - there's just something ultimately cool about being able to play as Link in a game like this.
But Spawn on Xbox is also fantastic. He looks brilliant and has a range of deeply impressive, very different moves, such as the ability to float or vanish. Heihachi on PS2 is probably the most disappointing of the trio, since he doesn't possess a weapon and has evolved little from his Tekken days. But it goes without saying that the main SC2 characters are all excellently conceived, each possessing an elaborate set of moves.
So far then, we really like Soul Calibur 2 across all formats. As we said, we're disappointed by the one-player side of things, but two-player offers great competitive action. It's still too early to judge what place Soul Calibur 2 will occupy in the fighting hall of fame, but we heartily recommend it to beat-'em-up fans looking for a new challenge.
Now check out amazing footage of Link in action, plus shots of Spawn and others in hardcore combat.
Soul Calibur II movie (GC)
Download here (3.79Mb, WMV)