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Hands-on: Soul Calibur V

Back when Soul Calibur V was first announced, there was general disappointment.

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Mainly because we simply got the title and a logo, and not much else.

But since the slow start we've gotten a bunch of new screens, trailers and details and at Gamescom it was finally time for us to get our dirty little hands on the game ourselves.

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But naturally there were a few announcements at Gamescom as well. Four fighters were announced as returning from previous games - Tira, Maxi, Voldo and Hilde. Fighting fanatics may recall that Hilde was considered too strong in Soul Calibur IV and banned from use in tournaments. The developers at Project Soul are confident that their new balancing will sort any issues with Hilde's perceived advantages.

Soul Calibur V

A few additions have been made to the actual fighting system itself. Most notably a new dodge system has been added and if you quickly press up or down you're able to get out of the way of an incoming attack. You will need expert timing to pull it off, but if successful you're rewarded with what basically amounts to a free shot at the opponent.

There is also the Critical Edge, a new and very powerful attack, that single handedly can turn the tide of a battle. It requires a full Edge meter, which you fill up by successfully launching attacks and blocking. Once you've filled it you activate Critical Edge by rotating the stick or pad two quarter circles and pressing the right trigger. This triggers a colourful and well animated attack that robs your opponent of somewhere between a third and a fifth of his or her health bar, unless he or she manages to avoid the attack altogether.

After we've been given this information, the arcade sticks are brought forth - enough talking. It's time to enter the arena.

Soul Calibur V

A small female German journalist is first to go and faces an American journalist twice her size. Predictably she beats him soundly. Then two other journalists follow, before its our turn.

I pick Hilde, a female armour wearing warrior with lance and sword as her weapon, while my opponent picks Siegfried, the classic protagonist of previous titles and a knight with a two-handed sword. Even if it there is nothing at stake except for honour, the butterflies appear as the developers and fellow journalists look on.

The first round goes awfully wrong. It's been a while since we played Soul Calibur, and before we get to grips with the controls Hilde finds herself on the ground. The second round is an improvement, and we begin to show some promise, but my opponent still manages to put an end to round with a finishing blow that splits Hilde's helmet (a purely cosmetic effect, the developers assure us). Two rounds down, but thankfully it's best out of five.

We must avenge the helmet, even if Hilde looks rather spectacular with her flowing hair. Even in losing the first two rounds we managed to fill our Edge meter, and at the start of the third round we unleash a Critical Edge attack that hits home to the delight of the crowd. Aided by her lance Hilde coasts through the remainder of the round and we claw one back.

Soul Calibur V

The next round is off to a similar start as my opponent unleashes his Critical Edge attack, but it misses its target and Hilde jumps in to take advantage of the situation. It's a back and forth battle, but in the end Hilde walks away with a narrow win.

The final round will decide our destiny. We both manages to pull off Critical Edge attacks, but once again Hilde makes good use of her reach with the lance before she closes in and finishes with her sword. Siegfried goes down. Our honour has been defended and one of the greatest comebacks of the show has just taken place. The pulse remains high as we take our seats once again.

Soul Calibur V

The rest of the journalists take turns getting their hands on the game until we're told to leave the room. Project Soul simply allowed the game to speak for itself, and there are no lengthy developer speeches to accompany the action. Apart from the characters announced at Gamescom there is a handful more playable, but judging from the selection screen there will be lots more in the final game. One of the more entertaining characters was Pyrrha, Sophitia's daughter, equipped with the same shield and short sword as her mother. She seems genuinely upset at beating her opponents, and shouts "I'm sorry!" and "Please forgive me!" as she kicks ass.

We leave the Soul Calibur corner of Gamescom with a big smile on our faces. Soul Calibur V acts every bit the champion we expect even at this early stage.

Soul Calibur V
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