Since the 2007 Holiday Video Game Frenzy is almost upon us and all heads will turn to the titles that will fight for everyone’s money THIS Christmas, Namco is understanably keeping quiet about Soul Calibur IV, since it will probably be asking for our money (and getting it by default) sometime NEXT Christmas. Still, Team Soul have released a small set of new screens taken for the latest build of the game and, well, let’s just say that things are starting to show signs of real, discernible progress. Nobody will find any unveiled secrets or great revelations in those (it is just a round of sword clashing between Mitsurugi and Cassandra), but the step up in graphics quality is readily apparent. Yes. Things are definitely starting to shape up… and for once, not in the “spectacular curvature” sense.
Looking closely on Mitsurugi’s body and Cassandra’s face, one can easily see that the polygon count of the models is starting to resemble more of what we would expect a “next-gen”, high definition fighting game to look like. The level of detail shown is already higher than that of, say, Virtua Fighter 5 in either the PS3 or Xbox 360 version. The muscle lines on Mitsurugi’s torso are extremely well defined and the body type of Cassandra, even through this rather modest outfit, is differently shaped from that of Taki or Ivy (Cassandra is Greek and we should know): smaller breasts, wider hips, thicker knees and anckles… a more “Mediterranean”, ordinary body type. We like. We do not all live in B&S fantasies with leather clad women and blind gimps. Heh.
One particular element in these new screens had us pleasantly surprised: the eyes. Very few video games have so far succeeded in nailing down a natural, believable “expression” in the eyes of 3D characters, but in these screens, both Mitsurugi’s and Cassandra’s look is not glaringly artificial. It is just… well, more “there”. The glance of Mitsurugi even seems more “focused” and the childish eyes of Cassandra light up her face. We can only hope that Namco will pursuit the depicting of more expressions (like “frowns” in anger or pain, for instance) and try to animate the eyes along with the most important lines of the faces of characters in the final version of the game.
As before, we have no indication whatsoever which format these screens come from – Xbox 360 or PlayStation3 – but then again, it should not really matter at this point. The screens’ dimensions are still 1280×720 pixels, which means that Namco has probably not yet experimented with 1080p. We hope they do so pretty soon because, at the end of the day, by this time NEXT Christmas FullHD res will not be anything exciting to write about. It will almost be the norm.
Ladies and gentlemen who would like to take a look at this new set of screens can do so through this link. And, oh, a friendly advice to our friends in Games Radar. People, when you give a visitor the chance to see a game screenshot in its full-res glory, obliging him/her to go through several hoops in order to get there, you do not compress the hell out of the final picture. You just don’t. It’s idiotic. You do not introduce noise and artifacts to a piece of graphic that the visitor clicked no less than three times to see (not counting the typing in of your URL or the click on the bookmark). You leave the original graphic at peace, uncompressed, for the visitor to admire.
OK, Namco, you’ve got us hooked. We cannot wait for the next batch of screens, especially considering the fact that there is not a single AAA fighting game asking for our money THIS Christmas. Be a darling and let us in on some of the new things Team Soul intends to bring to the gameplay, though, yes? Sometime this year would be nice. Thank you.