Soul Calibur V 2 © Namco

In this week’s Power Up! gaming blog, Glen Ferris gets his hands on some ridiculously big weapons in SoulCalibur V, takes control of the Star Wars universe and prepares for some automotive action with DiRT Showdown.

SoulCalibur V – Review
While SoulCalibur never quite hit the same giddy heights of mainstream popularity as its Street Fighter/Tekken rivals or attained the same level of hardcore status as Virtua Fighter, for long-time gamers it’s right up there as one of the greatest 3D beat ’em ups ever made.

A brilliantly realised fighter that was way ahead of everything else that was doing the rounds in 1999, it wove a mythical story about a pair of all-powerful swords around bone-crunching arena action and presented a clever balance between beginner-friendly button-bashing and tactical-combo gameplay. Five games on, the legend – just like the massively big weaponry – is as sharp as ever. If we ignore the utterly awful dialogue (the cut-scenes are quite a painful affair), this is a solid-gold addition to a series that has always delivered.

Graphically, it’s blooming gorgeous. The arenas are so lovingly realised that you find yourself marvelling at them when you should be concentrating on the action, while the characters are beautifully drawn and masterfully animated into a succession of unlikely death-dealing contortions.

Of course, none of us are here for the scenery so, quite rightly, the emphasis is on the action - and it really delivers. Accessible to newbies and pros alike (although obviously more rewarding to those who evolve beyond mere pad-mangling manoeuvres), the gameplay comes with the requisite super combos and knockout moves while also finding room for some clever innovations.

One such, implementation is the Critical Edge meter which fills as you give and take hits and can be unleashed in either one-off attacks or more effectively as part of a combo attack. Another is the inclusion of a block button that can be used to both counter attacks and enhance combos. Combined with evade manoeuvres (the use of which really bring those 3D arenas to life), this makes it much easier to fight back when you’re under assault from a more experienced challenger while also intuitively allowing newcomers to pick up some killer moves in quick-fast time.

It’s this accessibility that marks SoulCalibur V out as an essential purchase. In the absence of big-name characters like Street Fighter’s Ryu or Tekken’s Jin Kazama to fall back on (although Assassin’s Creed’s Ezio Auditore Da Firenze does pop up as a playable character), Namco has wisely concentrated on making the game itself great.

What you get for your money then, in addition to a cool create-and-customise your own characters option, online battles and a stat-sharing concept, plus Story and pick-up-and-play Vs. modes, is a game that totally delivers. Whether SoulCalibur V will be the chapter to lure away the Street Fighter faithful remains to be seen, but what we do know is that, for us, this is the first must-own title of 2012.


Byte-Sized Bits

• Since George Lucas decided to sell out his Star Wars characters to whatever advertising executive would pony up the most cash for the privilege (this right here is a lowpoint) , true fanboys have dreamed of wresting control of the space opera saga from the bearded overseer. Well, live long and prosper geeks (whoops, wrong franchise), because it just so happens that such a crazy dream is now possible thanks to Kinect Star Wars. To explain how the game will let Jedis-in-training increase their midichlorian count (or rather act out key scenes from the series without need for a controller), American comedian Chris Pratt, aka that guy from the hilarious Parks And Recreation, has created a handy instructional video… The Farce is strong in this one…

• If you’re hooked up to Xbox LIVE, the gaming drought that made January such a relentlessly dull month is about to be washed away by a veritable cavalcade of downloadable fun in February. Xbox LIVE Arcade House Party! kicks off on February 15 and will introduce a new unboxed title released every Wednesday up until March 7. First up is Warp, a puzzle-based stealth action game in which you play an orange alien imprisoned in an underwater facility (yours for 800 Microsoft Points). Next is the anticipated Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, a return to action for the laconic demon slayer (get involved in for 1,200 Microsoft Points). Then you’ve got first-person shooter Nexuiz (800 of your Microsoft Points) and the long-delayed apocalyptic survival adventure I Am Alive (1,200 Microsoft Points to you). All are worth a punt, and to make the choice easier, everybody who buys all four titles will be rewarded with a bonus 800 Microsoft Points. Click here for more info…

• Those fine folks from Codemasters are kindly inviting us all to get smashed with them later this year when DiRT Showdown is released. A dive-right-in mash-up of speed and side-swiping on Xbox 360 and PS3, the latest addition in the hugely popular series sees a change of focus from the serious business of winning rally championships to a rather more outré mixture of metal-mangling mayhem and crazy challenges. To whet our appetite for destruction, a new gameplay trailer has just been released and the whole shebang is looking wrecktacular…


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