Life

Games: Soul Calibur VI a ripping reboot that feels like a proper homecoming

Once again, players engage in a symphony of clanging steel
Neil McGreevy

Soul Calibur VI (PS4)

By: Bandai Namco

THE Dreamcast may have been Sega's last throw of the hardware dice but in 1999 the doomed doohicky hosted possibly history's greatest beat 'em up. An illegitimate son of Tekken's fisticuffs, Soul Calibur recognised the pleasure to be had in cutting someone good with a ruddy great sword. And though the Dreamcast went the way of the dodo, Soul Calibur thankfully lived on (proving so popular that Jackie Chan nabbed the rights to a movie version), albeit with diminishing returns.

Six years on from its last outing, VI is a ripping reboot of the franchise that feels like a proper homecoming.

Once again, players engage in a symphony of clanging steel as you twat your opponent in the face with what looks like the contents of Satan's cutlery drawer. There's a furious clash of fighting styles, from samurai and ninja to otherworldly demons, all looking to slice, stab and shank their way to victory in a series of one-on-one battles.

A return to what made the series work, with battles that can be over in a flash and depth aplenty for those seek it, newcomers can still merrily mash the buttons and look like hardened warriors.

The ace in the soul this time is Reversal Edge, a parry system that can be activated for slow-motion standoffs that play out like a deadly game of rock-paper-scissors. Players can cleave a furrow through characters old and new. Favourites such as Mitsurugi, Sophitia, Kilik and Ivy are all up for a scrap, joined by debutantes Groh, Azwel and The Witcher's Geralt of Rivia.

While the focus is on multiplayer, there's a surprisingly feature-rich solo mode here, with Soul Chronicle's storyline focusing on Kilik's quest to destroy Soul Edge. Better still, Libra of Soul lets players craft their own warrior and traverse a map peppered with battles, events and light RPG noodling to level up and unlock better weapons. If only its loading times could be cut down, with at least 30 seconds of limbo before bouts (worse than the Dreamcast original) – and on Xbox it's even longer.

Once was the time when fighting games were the graphical powerhouses of the videogame world, and while Soul Calibur's sweeping design puts nary a hoof wrong, it's the victim of more than a wallop from the ugly stick, paling next to the likes of Tekken 7. But if your screen doesn't come off well, its speakers are treated to soaring orchestral flourishes and dependably hammy voicework.

Harking back to the simple, straightforward brawling of the first two games, Soul Calibur VI is a return to form for the epic franchise, offering that tingle you got from the Dreamcast original. Those after a fast, fluid fighter could do worse than get stuck into this glory Soul.

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