The Average Gamer

Hands-On with Ezio and SoulCalibur V

At a recent preview event, I was given the opportunity to test out Namco’s latest brawler. For the very first time, I got to go hands-on with Ezio Auditore da Firenze, Assassin’s Creed’s deadly killer who becomes the latest special guest to the SoulCalibur series.

For players new to the SoulCalibur series, this is very much a slower-paced fighter when compared to the Street Fighter and Tekken series. Each character is equipped with a signature weapon, ranging from katanas to nunchucks and staffs. It rewards players for effective use of blocking and a careful implementation of strategy, requiring an amount of tactics and dedication much in the same way as the Virtua Fighter series.

Of course, being the first time that players in the UK were able to try out Italy’s deadliest assassin, I plumped for Ezio, and am pleased to say he fits in very well with the rest of the roster. Namco have effectively utilised his wide array of weaponry. Ezio acrobatically leaps around the screen while dishing out damage via crossbows, guns and his classic sword and hidden blade. Ezio also slots into the series’ over-arching narrative well. Being a renaissance-era assassin, he feels at home with the other characters, except for Voldo, who, let’s face it, doesn’t fit anywhere.

As a fighter, Ezio is best utilised at close-range, due to his quick combos and lethal juggles. He also possesses one of the more impressive supers in the game, combining his weapons to devastating effect, ending with a double dose of his crossbow.

SoulCalibur V feels like a much smoother and more streamlined experienced compared to its predecessors, bringing a welcome change to the series. There have been some new additions to the combat system; new EX-type moves called Critical Edge (differing from Soul Edge’s Critical Edge) and Brave Edge, which are basically powered-up specials, as well as easier executions of combos. Also added is the combo meter next to your character’s health bar, which is consumed for the Edge moves and Supers. Guard-breaking seems a much rarer occurrence in SoulCalibur V, mainly because there is no longer a critical attack which is dependent on it.

The game has been given a new lick of paint to look even more stunning than IV, which is still one of the best-looking fighters available. At this preview, I had approximately a dozen characters to toy around with in five stages. These included some of the stalwarts of the series, such as Maxi and Mitsurugi, as well as new additions Pyrrha and Natsu. I noticed some new characters seemed very similar to some of the older, ommitted characters. Natsu feels like a tweaked Taki and Pyhrra plays just like Sophitia. The introduction of dynamic stages is also impressive with fights starting on the deck of a ship, for the carnage to continue in the hull.

The controls for SoulCalibur V are solid and responsive. With all super move inputs being the same, newcomers will feel less overwhelmed with the number of moves to memorise. Some fighters still need balancing, particularly the overpowered Viola. Her mystical glowing orb verges on the absurd, able to attack from all angles and at any distance.

The game does a great job of creating epic moments in matches. There were many battles which saw amazing comebacks, giving the sense that no battle is ever truly lost until the round’s end. The slower pace of SoulCalibur compared to other fighters does take some adjustment but once settled into its rhythms, I quickly found myself devising new strategies and counters to take on my opponents.

SoulCalibur V is out now on PS3 and Xbox 360.