Soulcalibur VI is bitterly disappointing. It’s clear that the developers at Project Soul have made an effort to course-correct after the bizarre fifth instalment, but in doing so they saddle this entry with an entirely different set of problems.

While the previous game had very little in the way of single-player content, Soulcalibur VI is packed with modes to play through; the issue being that you simply won’t want to. The game has two story modes, Chronicle of Souls and Libra of Souls, neither of which are particularly compelling. In Chronicle, you play as various characters in a canon reimagining of the events of the first game, while Libra follows your own original creation inon a separate new story.

Presumably, there wasn’t money in the budget for cutscene animations and so both stories are told primarily using character portraits pasted onto static backgrounds. Chronicle is the only mode with voice acting to accompany these stills, but it is so painfully bad that it actually makes the narrative segments even harder to sit through. Both modes are cursed with scripts so inexcusably terrible that it feels like the whole game was written in an hour.

The gameplay sporadically dotted between these story beats is for the most part classic Soulcalibur. The fighting mechanics are smooth, easy to pick up and fun as ever, but the long gaps between fights (not to mention some tedious load times) make these two modes almost unplayable.

Taking refuge in the standard arcade mode is an option, but somehow even this ends up falling short. Instead of the brief two-battle contests of the previous games, each stage consists of three longer battles in an attempt to further pad out the single player content. Unfortunately, this ends up turning the mode into something of a chore, particularly for any speed runners out there.

That isn’t to say the game isn’t fun, but naturally playing for long stints as the same character can lead to things getting quite repetitive. This is despite some notable gameplay tweaks such as the brand new Reversal Edge mechanic which is by no means a terrible addition, but equally feels unnecessary and often interrupts the flow of a battle.

Creating some more interesting stages may have been a more valuable use of time. The stages in Soulcalibur VI look nice enough, but some backgrounds feel quite lifeless and the complete lack of interactivity is disappointing (especially when compared to the likes of Injustice and Dead or Alive).

This latest entry offers the same tight gameplay Soulcalibur is known for with a fresh coat of paint, and if you’re a die-hard fan that might be enough to warrant a purchase. However, if the series hasn’t grabbed you before, there’s nothing here that will change your mind. The single-player modes are disappointing and the online is bog-standard. Ultimately, the soul does still burn but it seems to be getting dimmer.

2/5 stars

Image: Soulcalibur VI / Bandai Namco

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