SoulCalibur 2 HD Online review

  • Stupendous animation and art design
  • Wonderful full-screen, 1080p conversion
  • Intuitive, deep and intelligent fighting
  • Full home-console standard mission mode
  • A couple of dropped frames here and there
  • No Link and No Wii U version (yet)

Amid the feverish hubbub of next-gen’s arrival, a lone PS2-era game is still managing to make one heck of a noise. SoulCalibur 2 HD Online is an all-singing, all dancing-around-your-feeble-attempts-at-vertical-attacks shout from last-gen. So, just for a moment, wrench your eyes from Killzone, Forza, and whatever is catching your eager eye and take a look at this XBLA/PSN gem.

For the uninitiated, SoulCalibur 2 is a one-on-one fighting game, set in the 16th century. The small arenas have slightly uneven floors with either ring-out drops or solid walls lining them. The fighters carry bladed weapons, which can be used in horizontal swipes or horizontal attacks. They can also kick, throw, and jump. Most liberating of all--even today--an ‘8-way run’ feature allows them to circle each other in the 3D space of the ring. It’s a very traditional setup with no gimmicks. Just fighting. Pure, brilliant fighting.

Matches develop organically instead of becoming a battle of combo recitals. Sure, there are combos to learn and exploit, but I find there’s more fun to be had in relying on reactions, wit and tactics. Second-guessing your opponent’s attack and deftly deflecting it is something Dead or Alive allows you to do far too easily. The window for success here is much narrower, which means it feels way better when you pull it off. For a game over a decade old, the fighting still feels fresh.

But what about the conversion? The first thing you’ll see when you start up SoulCalibur 2 HD Online is that--unlike SoulCalibur HD and its 4:3 aspect ratio--it’s full-screen. And gloriously so. Every single one of the 1,080 lines of vertical resolution is brought out to the edge of the screen without stretching, making this look for all the world like a modern XBLA release. The colours are so vivid, the art direction so strong, and the animation so melted-chocolate smooth, it still stands up as a great-looking fighting game.

If that wasn’t enough of a pleasant surprise, the conversion has cut nothing out. You unlock characters just like you used to, watch museum mode profiles like you used to and--best of all--embark on a full-fledged single-player mission mode. Yep, just like you used to. This single-player campaign impressively augments the one-on-one experience by adding new rules and win states which gives the game more meat than the short-burst, arcade-friendly gameplay of story mode.

It’s a wonderful world in which to immerse yourself. This is SoulCalibur from a time when the primary design brief from the original Soul Edge could still be seen. It’s a world of pirate galleons, libraries full of dusty tomes, and underground caverns lit by flaming torches. The effect is exacerbated by beautiful fonts that display best clear times over a slowly rotating arena. It is probably how you remember SoulCalibur 2 looking on PS2, not how it actually looks today.

But if anything, it’s better than the original. Not only does it look sharper, it sounds better too. Maybe we’re just playing on better set-ups than our old CRT TVs in the early 2000s, but the orchestral score absolutely sparkles, with grandeur and drama that never feels cheesy or over-egged.

You want more? Well, it’s now online too, with both non-competitive and ranked matches. As a result, the package is every bit as fulfilling and meaty as a modern-day release. I just hope the game’s community comes out of the woodwork to keep the lobbies populated. It certainly deserves it.

This doesn’t feel like a modern game. It isn’t bloated or gimmick-ridden. Instead, it’s all about the artistry in the animations, the flourish of a sword, the split-second timing of a perfectly-executed parry. For me it’s a toss-up between SoulCalibur and this sequel as to which SoulCalibur is ‘best’, as both share the same vision and flawless execution. But in terms of the HD conversions, there is no contest. SoulCalibur 2 HD Online is everything SoulCalibur HD should have been.

But that’s OK. At least this exists. And the gaming world, while understandably distracted and looking forward instead of backwards at this moment in time, is all the richer for its existence.

More Info

Release date: Nov 19 2013 - PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Fighting
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Suggestive Themes, Violence, Mild Language

SoulCalibur 2 HD Online is everything the original was and more. Stunning full-screen, 1080p visuals and the inclusion of the full-fat single-player mission mode make this an essential download at $19.99/£15.99 (PSN £14.99).

This game was reviewed on Xbox 360.


  • kyle-eugene-garris-markham - January 12, 2014 12:33 p.m.

    best thing ever I just got a PSN card code and it wasn't invalid! They're giving them away here
  • dvlordofthesith - December 4, 2013 10:10 a.m.

    Still one of my favorite fighting games. Just wished they could have gotten link. The game cube version was so good.
  • MountainKing - November 30, 2013 3 p.m.

    I wish they did a PS4 version. I'm done buying games for the last gen, but I'd jump all over this on PS4.
  • Shnubby - November 20, 2013 5:41 p.m.

    SoulCalibur II, the days before Ivy's tits became ridiculously big.
  • 11samype - November 20, 2013 2:21 p.m.

    This game runs at 720p, not 1080p.
  • GR_JustinTowell - November 21, 2013 1:46 a.m.

    What are you playing on? My TV says 1080p on Xbox 360
  • 11samype - November 21, 2013 4:12 a.m.

    If you go to both the PSN and Xbox stores they each say 720p in the description of the title.
  • 11samype - November 21, 2013 4:21 a.m.

    Your tv shows 1080 because Xbox has a built in hardware scaler that scales the image to 1080. The actually graphics are 720 though. Most games on PS3/360 run at 720 and are scaled to 1080.
  • GR_JustinTowell - November 21, 2013 7:41 a.m.

    Very true. But also it doesn't upscale if it can't. Not all games do. Native resolution may be lower, but the 1080p picture my TV is receiving is beautiful. End of story.
  • 11samype - November 21, 2013 7:55 a.m.

    It is beautiful, but its just misleading to advertise that it runs at 1080p when it does not.
  • mafyooz - November 20, 2013 7:48 a.m.

    This is by far my favourite of the series, if I'd realised the HD update was coming out today I might have held off getting Lego Marvel Superheroes earlier this afternoon
  • shawksta - November 20, 2013 7:11 a.m.

  • J-Fid - November 20, 2013 6:22 a.m.

    Still have my GameCube version, and I still love it.
  • pl4y4h - November 20, 2013 6:09 a.m.

    Hell yeah! Even better knowing that this is before Voldo's moveset went straight to hell. I can't wait to get back to maining him
  • jason-gumshoe-mcdermott - November 20, 2013 6:02 a.m.

    Its between this and burnout 3 for my favourite PS2 game ever. Been playing it since midnight and its still great and the weapon master mode shows that single player can work well in fighters with enough thought. I'm sure I used to be better with Taki though XD
  • GR_JustinTowell - November 20, 2013 6:08 a.m.

    Maybe you're just 'distracted'?
  • jason-gumshoe-mcdermott - November 20, 2013 6:29 a.m.

    By taki's lack of a bra? XD
  • GR_JustinTowell - November 20, 2013 8:18 a.m.

    It wasn't so bad on a 15-in standard-def setup. There's not much you can say to defend her main costume when it's on a 40in TV in 1080p.
  • Swedish_Chef - November 20, 2013 11:32 p.m.

    What costume? With how she dresses she might as well just be wearing body paint. :P
  • rainn'sgaydar - November 20, 2013 5:16 a.m.

    Nice! I'm holding out for a Wii U version though, unlikely as it seems.

Showing 1-20 of 23 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000