The fighting genre has experienced something of a comeback in recent times. In the wake of a triumphant return from the likes of Virtua Fighter, Soul Calibur and Street Fighter, Namco Bandai hopes to replicate such success with this latest instalment in the much-loved Tekken franchise. For the first time the series makes its way onto the Xbox 360 alongside the Playstation 3, clearly hoping to extend the fanbase looking to enter the next King of Iron Fist Tournament. Thankfully, eager fans will not be disappointed despite a few obvious wrinkles in this respected and well-established fighter.
Firstly, it’s important to mention that Tekken is a series renowned for extensive combos and a high demand of skill. Unlike some other games in the genre, a rookie will almost never win out against a pro making practise all the more important before taking on a tough opponent. It’s almost required that you learn at least a few combos prior to setting foot in the ring as spamming the Y button like in Dead or Alive will result in a brutal and unceremonious defeat. Be prepared to learn fast or fall hard, especially if you have plans to take the battle online. This doesn’t make the game inaccessible though, as anyone looking to break into the series will find plenty of modes, characters and simple fun to be had without needing to scratch beneath the surface – they just won’t compete well against friends who know their way around the advanced combo system.
As a sequel, Tekken 6 provides fans with the same cathartic thrills they’re used to. Punches and kicks feel as solid as ever and pulling off a successful combo can be extremely satisfying, particularly when an air juggle is used to down a tough opponent. The engine is not nearly as fast as in some games but health bars are short resulting in much quicker matches overall. While the core gameplay remains familiar, combat now features a ‘Rage’ mode that gives the losing character a strength boost once their health is reduced. This results in a last stand of sorts, meaning a good pummelling won’t always result in defeat should you come back presenting a strong finish. A second addition is the new ‘Bound’ mechanic, turning a player who can use it effectively into an air-juggling master; you can kick a character to the ground and spring them up, smashing them into submission before they have a chance to react. It all serves to add depth to an already complex fighting system.
As with any good fighter, the game is split into a number of different modes with Arcade, Time Attack, Team Battle and Practise all focusing on one-on-one matches. Arcade delivers on what it promises, letting you choose a character and take them through a series of increasingly challenging battles. You can earn fight money and increase your rank but the mode ends up playing second-fiddle once you start the console exclusive Scenario campaign standing in as the main meat of the game. Playing much like a 3D version of Megadrive classic Streets of Rage, you can choose your character then make your way through a surprising number of linear levels with android Alisa, taking out waves of generic thugs and robots along the way. There are items to collect such as money bags, chickens that up your level score and weapons including flamethrowers and gattling guns serving as temporary powerups. Each stage ends in a boss encounter; providing some real challenge should you fail to keep a close eye on the sometimes-hectic action.
Character creation factors greatly into Scenario and is absolutely required to progress. All items found in the campaign are ranked with a variety of effects such as increasing attack, boosting your health meter or adding an elemental power. You are welcome to purchase items at leisure but they prove far too expensive and lack any perks at all, making the best method of collection a simple case of trudging through the campaign stages ad nauseam. Customisation itself is fairly robust but don’t expect to stay up all night trying to perfect your character’s look. Soul Calibur IV retains its crown this time.
Should you tire of playing alone you can take the fight online or play splitscreen, the latter being strangely absent from Scenario mode. Taking on gamers from around the world is usually a joy but the online in Tekken 6 is hampered by one serious and crushing flaw. Lag is absolutely rife even with a decent broadband connection running without a hitch in other multiplayer titles. Expect the fight to slow to a crawl as the game jitters and jerks, resulting in a real loss of the ebb and flow that makes the series so appealing in the first place.
Another major problem with Tekken 6 is the presentation. Two years have passed since its release in the arcades and the transition has been unkind with grainy visuals blighting some otherwise impressive artwork. Character models are acceptable on the whole but some have clearly received more care and attention than others. Newcomer Zafina, for instance dons a Butterfly costume featuring superb detail and gloss every bit as impressive as you would expect from a Triple-A title. Sadly, this level of detail is a rarity in Tekken 6 and almost every aspect of the presentation is swamped with inconsistency. Some arenas such as Fallen Colony and High Roller’s Club have been rendered with artistic flair so it’s unfortunate the more urban locales have turned out so generic, bland and uninspired. Music ranges from techno rave to Japanese pop and while some beats may have you tapping your feet, others fall flat and forgettable.
The story is as nonsensical as expected but considering no fighting game has ever succeeded in weaving a compelling tale, the game loses no points there. Even so, the series does retain its own brand of humour and one odd moment in particular sees your character kicking the life out of grizzly bear cubs in order to reach the next stage. The stranger characters, namely the wooden Mokujin, boxing kangaroo Roger Jr and Panda all make their return and still provide a few juvenile chuckles.
In conclusion, Namco Bandai’s Tekken 6 is still the same thoroughly enjoyable fighter we’ve enjoyed for years. There is a deep and rewarding combat system in place likely to please fans and newcomers alike but the series is fraying at the edges due to technical limitations both online and off. Returning fans will find much to celebrate here; just don’t expect it to hit the same highs as previous fighting games of late. Always enjoyable but never sublime, Tekken 6 is simply a good game well worth your attention should you find it at a knockdown price. After all, where else can you see a boxing kangaroo hit a panda in the face?
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