Soulcalibur IV - hands-on

We're going to talk about how we got to try out one of the new female fighters, and tell you about the new Soul Gauge system, but let's get two obvious points out of the way: Soulcalibur IV is due out July 29, and it's a very pretty game (look at thescreens). The character designs are covered with details and sparkles and arenas are bright and unusual, even the lightsabers (yes, they have those now) glow like deadly Christmas ornaments. Of course, saying a fighting game for 360 and PS3 looks good is about as unusual as saying that they decided to include a punch button, so let's get on to the stuff that actually matters about Soulcalibur IV.

First, the two bonus characters are Yoda, for Xbox 360, and Darth Vader, for PS3. The reasoning behind who goes with which platform is supposedly based entirely on system color schemes. Other than those two, and Achievement points, the two versions of the game should be identical.

Aside from new fighters, the biggest change in the series is the addition of a Soul Gauge, which is a gem next to each fighter's health meter (you can't see it because we aren't allowed to publish screens with the HUD intact, but we promise it exists). The gem starts out a nice healthy green but as you block attacks it turns redder until it starts flashing. While your Soul Gauge is flashing red, your opponent will have a couple of seconds to perform a strong attack and break a piece of your armor off. Each character has three sections of armor, high, middle and low, and breaking off each will not only remove one of three signifying green dots (also located on the invisible HUD), but will visibly change the character's outfit - outfits that often require the word armor to be used liberally.