Game Review: Tekken 6

October 28, 2009

Perhaps more than any other fighting game series, Tekken has maintained its popularity without needing to reinvent itself. We're now at the sixth installment, and while there have definitely been a few experiments and changes along the way, not a lot has changed. The graphics have gotten better, there are more characters to choose from, and you can play the game online. Has the series done enough to stay competitive?

For a game with a tight focus on one-on-one fighting, Tekken 6 does a good job of offering various takes on the simple pleasure of beating in someone's face. As always, practice mode is a good place to start. You can look up and try out each character's arsenal of moves, but that's as far as its tutorial properties go.

You'll encounter a standard array of modes in the offline game. The standard arcade mode culminates in a fight with a huge and ridiculously powerful final boss, ghost battle lets you fight it out with AI opponents that do a decent job of simulating human competition, and time attack and survival test your efficiency and record your best scores.

With another human player around, you can get into serious versus battles. Apart from the standard one-on-one match, you can test your mastery of multiple characters with the team battle feature, where losers With another human player around, you can get into serious versus battles. Apart from the standard one-on-one match, you can test your mastery of multiple characters with the team battle feature, where losers are eliminated and replaced by their teammates.

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Online play is in, letting you download ghost data and replays for your personal use or step into the ring for ranked or unranked matches. The feature set feels about right, but at launch, poor network performance on both consoles is making good matches hard to find. The strict timing needed for skilled play is severely compromised, and in the worst cases, lag Online play is in, letting you download ghost data and replays for your personal use or step into the ring for ranked or unranked matches. The feature set feels about right, but at launch, poor network performance on both consoles is making good matches hard to find. The strict timing needed for skilled play is severely compromised, and in the worst cases, lag can make the game almost unplayable.

Aside from the crucial versus mode, none of the options are particularly essential to a good game, but there are enough options to choose from to suit your preference. There are 40 fighters in all, and the roster exhibits substantial variation in style and personality. It also pulls from the series' entire history, so expect to see old favorites interspersed amongst the new blood. The selection is vast, and you'll always feel like you have a new character to master.

Piled on top of everything is scenario campaign mode, which in theory is an entirely different game that plays like a beat 'em up and uses every character in the roster. It sounds like a great extra, but while it is basically a standalone experience, it's not a very good one. The incompetent camera is mainly to blame, though the characters movesets just don't function very well as a whole in their new context. Goofy enemies and gimmicky weapons are among the only draws, but you may be willing to subject yourself to it anyway, since it's the easiest way to earn the accessories and cash that let you customize your characters in every other game mode.

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Like other games in the series, Tekken 6 strikes a good balance between accessibility to newcomers and the complexity that competitive players demand. You'll have fun either way, as long as you're playing with opponents that are on your level.

Tekken assigns four buttons to each limb of your fighter, which sounds deceptively intuitive. In reality, you'll need to hit specific button sequences to fight effectively and keep the punches and kicks flowing. You'll ideally want to memorize different combinations and figure out the right situations in which to use them, but mashing buttons and hoping for the best is fun, too.

Like other 3D fighting games, Tekken balances horizontal attacks which can hit sidestepping opponents with vertical attacks that typically pack more speed, range, and power. Mixing up high and low attacks and going for throws also factors into the system, and so does doing damage to downed opponents. The more intensely you get into Tekken's fighting system, the more tricks emerge to show off its depth.

Combos are hugely important, and typically involve knocking your opponents into the air and keeping them there with repeated attacks. Tekken 6 puts an emphasis on bounding moves, which let you slam opponents into the ground for lower-altitude juggling. Either way, you can do a ton of damage with the proper sequence. Mistakes are costly against skilled opponents, and matches tend to move very quickly compared to other fighters.

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The actual 3D movement in is a bit stiff, and the emphasis on juggles means there's less back and forth than other fighters, but Tekken 6 offers a type of fighting that's undeniably its own.

If Tekken has one thing, it's style. Sure, that style might be a bit ridiculous at times, but it undeniably gives the series a distinct look and feel. Tekken 6 puts its long history on display with its motion-comic recaps of the entire series storyline, and places considerable effort in creating impressive CG sequences for its opening and ending movies.

When you're actually fighting, the game has no trouble projecting its personality though it doesn't quite have the chops to blow away the competition on a technical level. The underlying game is about two years old, and it shows. The game also cheats a bit with recycled animations and weird background scrolling, and it looks downright silly when you're keeping someone suspended in mid-air by repeatedly whacking them in the ankles. Finally, it has to be said: scenario campaign mode looks so extremely dated and downright ugly it's almost embarrassing.

If you're familiar at all with Tekken, you probably already know how Tekken 6 will strike you. In some ways, it's a love it or hate it kind of game, but the series has maintained its popularity for good reason. Though the modes and extras in the console port aren't solid gold, they still add a good bit of value to an accomplished fighting game. Like your nose, neck, or kneecaps, if a fighting game isn't broken, there's not really any need to fix it.

Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 3.

Source: Namco

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