It's time to make some new friends. Not only with the new additions to Soul Calibur V's roster of fighters, but also with some real live people — oh, all right, XBLA and PSN friends will do. If you come at this game by your lonesome, though, you'll be left out in the cold.
Despite that Project Soul claims to have been influenced by the latest Mortal Kombat campaign, the single-player story for Soul Calibur V is a devastating, cringe-inducing embarrassment. The plot follows Sophitia's two adult children, Patroklos and Pyrrha, who are competing for the title of Most Irritating Character. An enterprising harlequin named Tira has tricked Pyrrha into murdering hundreds of people, hoping to groom her to wield the supremely evil Soul Edge sword. Meanwhile, Patroklos carries the Soul Calibur sword, which is possessed by the spirit of his disturbingly scantily clad mother Sophitia, who keeps telling him to kill his too-stupid-to-live sister (oh, and Mom's outfit seems even creepier later, once you find out that she was a figment of Patroklos's imagination). The sickly sweet, implied incestuous ending will make you wish you had hit the "skip" button on more of the cut-scenes.
Over half of the scenes in question are poorly rendered motion comics instead of 3D animations, and the stilted voice acting and dialogue sound so poorly pieced together that it's a wonder Project Soul didn't scrap the story mode entirely. Mortal Kombat's dialogue may have been campy, but that game seemed in on its own joke. Soul Calibur V made me laugh a lot harder than Mortal Kombat, but comedy clearly wasn't the writers' intent.
Soul Calibur V's plot does introduce you to most of the roster's new additions, but few have any lines or back-story. Perhaps that's to their benefit, since Patroklos and Pyrrha gained nothing from their detailed depictions. Character development may sound like too much to ask of a fighting-game roster, but even small slices of back-story might have kept the die-hard fans from complaining that they miss the characters that got cut from this game. (Seriously, where's Talim?)
A handful of changes have been made to combat, including a new charge-meter system. You'll no longer have a Critical Finish attack, but rather Brave Edge and Critical Edge special attacks, though neither is designed to automatically finish a round. Parrying has disappeared, replaced with a Guard Impact block that you can only use if you have half of your meter charged, and you'll likely prefer to save your meter for an Edge attack.
Exploring each character's move-set in local and online multiplayer seems to be the sole enjoyment to be gleaned from this game. If you like character creation, this game offers the most comprehensive version to date, but even that feature is a social one, since the real fun lies in showing off creations to friends. If you hoped for a more comprehensive single-player experience, either in a story mode or in something like the now-missing Tower of Souls mode, look elsewhere. Maybe to Mortal Kombat. ^