It's hard to hate fighting games. For Yahtzee, it's also hard to like them.
I don't really understand fighting games. I don't hate them, but then I've never frosted my pants over any of them either. I just don't get them. And whenever I mention this, people say the same thing: "What's there to get? Violence is cathartic. It's like squeezing a great big stress ball, except you're kicking it in the face and you're a skinny Japanese schoolgirl in your underpants. But if you want to relieve stress you take a herbal bath or bang your head against a wall, neither of which cost $90 at your local electronics retailer. There's got to be more to it than that.
Soulcalibur IV is the latest in the eternally misspelled Soulcalibur series and is a fighting game themed around twatting each other with swords, all of which are apparently as blunt as roofing tiles, because they can't do more than knock people out.
Anyway, the painfully slim justification for the twat-a-thon is that there's a big, evil chap on a tower who has the bluntest and most unreasonably large swords in the world, and everyone wants to have a go with them. Some people want to destroy them, some people want to stick them up their nose, and some people want to cover them in toffee and sell them at concession stands. The motivation and backstory for all the characters is so bloody complex you need a fucking flowchart to get to grips with it, which the game actually thoughtfully provides in one of its many dalliances with total fucking pointlessness.
I've been racking my magnificent brain, going through all the ways a game can make itself fun and interesting to play, and none of them seem to apply.
First possibility: having a good story. Well, that falls at the first hurdle with two broken kneecaps and a fireside poker lodged in its head, 'cause the story mode's a joke. You pick a character, you're given a little scrolly-text backstory straight out of the "what not to do" school of exposition, then you go through five disjointed fights in equally arbitrary locations before taking on the big baddie at the end. Then the character picks up the big swords and does whatever stupid bollocks they had in mind for them. You can run through each character's story in about half a lunch break, and all in all it feels like a flimsy and vestigial addition, included to mollify a sulking story writer who spent six weeks working out a complex epic before anyone told him it was a fighting game and that the story had been mostly cut to make way for more hairstyles and tits.
So let's move on to the next way a game can be good: a feeling of accomplishment. The satisfaction that comes of beating every challenge it has to offer and sitting back feeling faintly superior to all the names going past on the credit roll. But winning a round in Soulcalibur IV doesn't feel like much of an accomplishment at all, at least not as much as popping a difficult sheet of bubble wrap. Frankly, I'm amazed the game even comes with a manual; all you need is a picture of the "Throw" button and a big arrow pointing to it. There hasn't been a single round I couldn't get through by slinging my gormless opponent around like a drunken Amish square dance. Perhaps it was because I was playing on normal difficulty. Hang on, I'll try one on hard. . .(Muzak). . .nope, same result. My point is, no victory can feel satisfying if it could have been achieved just as easily by a piece of electrical tape.
Next possibility: going through the process of developing a character. The creamy filling generally to be found in the RPG cake. Now, there is a character creation mode included, allowing you to make a custom fighter modeled on yourself, assuming you are a cauliflower-eared slab recently transported from somewhere in medieval Europe, where your superhuman physique did nothing to abate the mockery you earned for your terrible dress sense. You have to pick an established fighting style, though, so all you're doing from a practical standpoint is making custom models for existing characters. And you can use all their moves straight off, so there's nothing to develop. There's all this complicated stats business, and you can equip special abilities that might potentially let you break a certain enemy attack on certain days of the year if they're wearing green and they're in a good mood, but none of it seems to have much effect on the "Throw" button, so it can all be safely disregarded.
Custom character creation seems to be the bullet-time of fighting games these days, but it does kind of render all the other characters moot, because everyone would rather see themselves beating up Satan, rather than some white-haired lady in an armoured swimsuit with the voice of somebody's mum. Or, indeed, Darth Vader.
Which brings me to another reason why people might play a game: because Darth Vader's in it! Like the upcoming (and inevitably awful) Mortal Kombat vs. DC, two franchises are climbing into a nice, hot, soapy bath together in a transparently cynical attempt to combine two fan bases into one beautiful pile of money. Frankly, it smacks of desperation, although I can't decide which of the two parties involved is slumming it the most. Let's not pay it any more attention, because like a small child putting the cat in a tumble dryer, that's exactly what it wants.
So by my calculations, I have mathematically proved that Soulcaliber 4 cannot possibly be fun for anyone. When you get right down to it, it's more like a tool set than a game, a disjointed pile of game modes with no real structure, purpose, or clear ending. A bunch of dollies and accessories that you pick up and smack together in pretend fights while doing the voices and throaty a capella sound effects. But like I said, all fighting games bewilder me. They feel like someone took one single aspect of a complete game and tried to pad it into something else they could sell it for full price. I wouldn't buy a big bag of icing and call it a cake, but then it seems like some gamers will buy big bags of rotten abbatoir run-off and call it a cake as long as there's a picture of an attractive woman on the side with Yoda poking out of her cleavage.
It might be cheap but it gets the job done: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
there's online multiplayer now too so if you're desperate to find out if you're better at randomly smashing buttons than some 13 year old in Canberra then go nuts
Don't tell me any of you took last week's top 5 seriously