Review by Shirow
"Bury me deep!"
What should have been a dream never reached the level of any of its predecessors. This sentence clearly and accurately resumes Tekken 4, the latest installment in Namco's famous fighting series. This title suscitated incredible craze and even pictures of Heihachi's goofy albeit funny outfit never changed anything to the hype around this title. In the past, Namco never deceived its fans and always knew how to improve upon the prequel. Ironically, Tekken Tag Tournament was never really awaited and turned out to be Namco's best effort yet. Surprisingly, the one which was talked about a lot is a huge disappointment and fails to improve upon its prequel (Tag).
The main innovation in this title concerns the limited arenas. Tekken's infinite battlefields now belong to the past, the time has now come to limit them. Of course, this doesn't just mean that your character cannot move as much he wants. To stop at such a blatant statement would be ludicrous. Among other minor ones, this change does tend to make the game deeper as you can try to block your opponent against a wall and juggle him from here (as shown in the sample combos available in the movelists). Otherwise, all the main ideas of the whole series have been kept with all the running, side-stepping, multiple throws.
The cast itself got a major change. Most of the superfluous characters have been left out (Eddy, Jack, etc…). Of course, Jin, Kazuya and Heihachi are still here as the story revolves around them. And this is another big flaw of this installment. The story concentrates mainly on these three and doesn't even delve more into the other characters' motives. Fighters like King (who got most of Armor King's moves too), Paul and Lee could have benefitted from excellent backgrounds but it just seems as if Namco never cared about them. Among the new characters, only Combot is worth talking about and that's mainly because it is extremely funny in its endings.
With all this in mind, Tekken 4 sure sounds promising. However, the inclusion of the walls itself is more than enough to make the game a step-down from its prequel. It just doesn't add anything to make the game better and while this presence of walls do contribute to render it more strategic, the bad outweighs the good by far. The fact that certain designs hamper the camera angles at times can also be a drawback although the camera thankfully quickly rotates to avoid any quirks. The designs of certain stages themselves make the game somewhat frustrating due to various levels within, the jungle stage being the prime example here with its trees and subsequent roots.
I'll say this though, Tekken 4 is visually impressive. However good Tag was graphically too, it is nowhere close to the masterpiece that 4 is. The character animations are smooth with no slow-downs and the characters themselves are incredibly realistic. I still don't know what the hell Namco was thinking with Heihachi's outfit (which is a must-see for a chuckle) but in every single case, the fighter just seems to breathe and to live on its own. It's practically as if you are that fighter. The girls will make you horny too…as long as you don't stare at Christie's handicapped face which seems to be constantly twitching à la Blade.
The sound is another big disappointment. Every single track sounds repetitive and fails to suit the atmosphere of the game. The music in Tekken 4 simply doesn't live up to what the prequels had to offer. The dubbing is absolutely top-notch though (Japanese version). What little voice-acting there is in the game is well done with good actors and all the dialogues are well-timed. Of course, it won't take much to destroy everything in the NA version and I'm pretty sure Tekken 4 will be added to the long list of games that got disastrous translations.
Tekken 4 seriously lacks in both gameplay and replay value though. The shortened cast drains away some of replay value although, true to Tekken tradition, each character takes a lifetime to master. The optional Training Mode, which is just taken from the Street Fighter EX series, is pathetically easy and fails to entertain for more than one hour. Add to this the fact that the game is nowhere as exciting as one would expect and you have only half a game.
In addition, Tekken 4 is exceedingly tough. Long-time Tekken players will have no trouble understanding the subtleties of the AI and will without doubt develop their own strategies to counter everything but this is still a huge drawback. Moreover, at the highest difficulty setting, the CPU almost always develops overly-cheap patterns and abuses you. Again, expert gamers will find it more challenging than anything else but newcomers will very likely give back after barely two days. And what's with the absence of the usual mini-game ?
Overall, Tekken 4 is a sad step-down from its prequel and I wouldn't even hesitate in claiming that it is easily the worst (see more rushed too) in the series. This doesn't mean it's a bad game on its own ; it's just that it doesn't provide the same thrill and is never as entertaining as you would expect, being the fifth installment in Namco's series. If you are intent on getting only one Tekken title on the PS2, Tag Tournament is a much better option. Otherwise, getting this one may prove quite cool too, but for how long ?
~ Score : 5~
King doesn't talk !
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 06/23/02, Updated 11/09/02
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