Soul Calibur IV PS3 / Xbox 360

Soul Calibur IV PS3 / Xbox 360
The game’s ads demand to know "what’s within your soul?” but the game’s makers are gambling they already know — an inner Star Wars geek. Why else heap so much hype on the appearance of Darth Vader (PS3) and Yoda (360) as playable characters?

In case you’re wondering, I prefer Vader because a green Jedi master munchkin is still a munchkin and this, my friends, is a serious fighting game. Sure, it would be cool if they could fight each other but that’s not the case —not yet, anyway. Rumours abound that at some point you’ll be able to shell out some imperial credits and download the other Force-fuelled fighter. Oh, and there’s also an appearance by "the Apprentice,” a new character who is really just here to promote his appearance in the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Unleashed game (he’s way over-powered but not un-fun).

While I enjoyed fighting with the LucasFilm refugees and their lightsabers, they aren’t as awesome as most of the series’ regular army of fighters (or the ones you can build in the super in-depth character creator) and totally hog attention in an otherwise stellar game that probably didn’t need to share the spotlight just for some galaxy-far-away marketing muscle.

SCIV is not perfect, of course — the T&A is way silly (I can’t even imagine the amount of time that went into perfecting the boob physics) and the story mode is pretty pointless — but nobody plays this genre for story content anyway. They play for balanced enemies, cool moves, wicked combos and flash graphics, all of which are brought home with abandon.

Fighting games got their start in the old arcades where gamers face off, sweat dripping from brows, while spectators watched and waited for their quarter to come up. So even though Soul Calibur adds online battles for the first time, they simply can’t recreate that vibe, though an in-person versus fight can get pretty intense.

Most importantly, SCIV manages to be ultra-complex for serious fighting fans, with a thousand memorized moves at their fingertips, while still being perfectly fun for the button-mashing masses. So, yeah, the force is strong with this one. (Namco-Bandai)