Review by Blactor

"Easily the best in the series."

Released in the arcades late last year, Tekken fans have waited anxiously for the PS2 release of what many consider to be the best entry in the Tekken series thus far. The wait, as they say, is finally over; Namco has definitely gone the extra mile, as Tekken 5 is definitely a gift to Tekkenites everywhere.

GRAPHICS

You'll look at the game first, obviously. So what does it look like? Well--this is certainly one of the finest looking games on the PS2, easily. The problem is that being the best-looking game on the PS2 is like having a V8 engine in a Geo Spectrum. I suppose I've been spoiled by the gorgeous Arcade version, as there's a noticeable drop in resolution on the console, at least as far as the character models are concerned. They are, however, extremely life-like, beautifully motion-captured, and are very colorful and expressive, all at a steady 60fps clip. The special effects (each character has their own "impact flash" when they strike an opponent) make the fights look more exciting and extra painful, exuding a flair only matched by Namco's other franchise, Soul Calibur.

The arenas in particular look VERY crisp, and sometimes just watching them is a joy, whether to see the heat distortion on the Burning Temple arena, the chicks in the Poolside arena, or the amazingly lifelike vegetation (coupled with a softer focus camera) in the Secret Garden. When characters are smashed against the floors and walls of these arenas, the damage is noticeable (though you'll notice that cracks created in the ground, while immensely cool, only appear one-at-a-time...once a new one is created, the old one disappears), and it only adds to the visual flair of the game.

The CG animation in the game is also impressive; some of the character models still look sort of iffy, but most of the time they're still so life-like and expressive that you'll overlook that small detail easily.

SOUND

For me, sound in fighting games is usually an afterthought--I never pay much attention to it. However, Tekken 5 boasts some satisfying new thuds, whether on a counter-hitting gut-punch or a nasty crunch into a wall. When bodies get smacked or joints get popped, IT IS LOUD, and sounds painful as hell. The obligatory shouts and grunts of the fighters are also in the game, drawing the player further into the Tekken world...standard stuff.

Some argue that the best soundtrack in the series appeared in Tekken2 (I disagree, citing Tekken3 as having the best soundtrack, though both games had some memorable tracks). Whereas Tekken4 was a little rock-electronic-techno heavy (the game's artistic design was very futuristic), Tekken5 boasts a more varied soundtrack. The music definitely enriches the experience, but I can't say that there are any particularly memorable tunes.

Tekken5 also sports a hefty amount of voice acting. As expected, most of the English voice-acting is mediocre at best, at times laughably melodramatic and at other times embarrassingly monotone. There are also some really bizarre choices happening here--Bryan at one point slips into a Southern drawl for approximately NINE words. Steve Fox's English accent comes and goes. Lei Wulong, Chinese, is voiced (poorly) by an American actor, and it doesn't fit at all. It's pure comedy to listen to the obviously Asian Marshall Law speak in a manly, perfectly articulated American baritone during a cut-scene right before a fight, only to have him revert to his famous high-pitched wails during the fight. The nationality wouldn't matter if all the other characters DIDN'T speak in their native tongues. The Japanese characters speak Japanese, Feng Wei (who, ironically, is also CHINESE) speaks Chinese; even Roger the kangaroo and Kuma the bear get their own languages. So why the inconsistencies? Obviously, none of this really takes away from the game; it's just the odd inconsistencies are puzzling.

EXTRAS

You want 'em, you got 'em. This is the best set of extras since Tekken3 on the PS1. There are some new costumes, a new arena or two (there are rumors of console exclusive characters), that standard stuff. There's the uber-helpful practice mode (which harkens back to the old-school practice modes, with its formatting and beeps and boops), the VS. Mode, Time Attack, Team Battle, Survivor, and Story Mode (beat the game, watch the endings). Again, pretty standard stuff.

There's a side game called "Devil Within," starring Jin Kazama, which is a beat-em-up with platforming elements. You can also earn money from this mode to use in customizing your fighter (more on that later). Honestly, outside of earning money and some hard-to-get custom items, there's really no reason to play this mode. It's a good novelty for about 10 minutes, but it's not necessary to play it (although one character can be unlocked by beating it, you can do it in other modes as well). It's frustrating, the enemies are cheap (even on the easiest setting), and playing it is like sitting in a 3 hour lecture class on the history of book-binding. It's BORING. But hey, some people might like it--and for those of you who want to take a crack at it, or take a break from the main game, it's in there for you.

But the BEST...I mean BEST...extra is immediately available from the start. "Arcade History" mode lets you play Tekkens 1-3! You get 3 extra arcade-perfect games with NO loading time. It's simply a blast to play, if only to see how far the series has come in 10 years. For guys like me, though--who lost their Tekken 2 disc and whose Tekken 3 disc has been played so much that my console refuses to read it anymore--it's a REAL TREAT. THANK YOU Namco.

Tekken5 is also the first in the series to feature customizable characters, though the console version is admittedly not as exciting as the arcade counterpart. In the Arcade, you purchased data cards that held your rank, win/loss percentage, and how you had your character "Pimped Out." It was a status symbol--reaching higher ranks and acquiring the cooler costume pieces required a LOT of playing, and generally the players with the highest ranks were among the best in the area. At home, Memory Cards store your profile, and money for costume pieces can still be earned in different modes, and you can save your customizations, but the ranks are gained by fighting the CPU. Any true fighting game fan knows that beating the CPU is never indicative of your true skill, therefore rank doesn't matter anymore. I suppose it's the best way that Namco could've handled it, but it's still a bit of a shame.

THE GAME

Alright. Nitty-gritty time.

I've always thought that Tekken3 was the best in the series. It introduced tech-rolling, attack reversal reversing, side-stepping, some powerful and interesting new characters, great upgrades to returning characters, and it capped it all with a new visual concept and a great soundtrack. It literally took Tekken to a new level, deepening the gameplay and drastically increasing its speed, while bringing to the table some of the best graphics of its generation.

Tekken5 is the new best in the series, though it's nowhere near as revolutionary as Tekken3 was.

You'll notice right off the bat that the fighting is FASTER. Blink and there goes half your life bar. It's also more BRUTAL (when this game was first released in the Arcades, some gamers complained that matches were over too quickly), as many characters have the ability to effectively end a round in a few hits. Add in some walls (though, thankfully, no juggle-ruining obstacles or uneven surfaces), a renewed emphasis on damaging juggles, and a plethora of characters with impressive offensive options, and you have a VISCERAL fighting game that is Tekken at its very best. Some hate Tekken for the fact that one ducked jab can cost you an entire round, but it truly raises the stakes in the gameplay, and the best (fighting) games always make the stakes seem high at all times.

Although there are still definite "top tier" characters (Steve, Nina, and Bryan have a lot of advantages and few weaknesses over other characters), each character has been tuned to the point where they are viable contenders. Asuka Kazama, for instance--who is nearly devoid of damaging power hits or ultra quick pokes--can still pack a serious punch when played with integrity. The new characters, Feng Wei and Raven (Asuka is basically Jun with more moves), are FANTASTIC additions to the game, and are true contenders (some, including myself, would even go as far as to argue that Feng Wei is also top tier) with unique styles, adding to the already-overflowing melting pot of 30 characters. There is literally something for everybody, as far as characters go.

The game itself is highly responsive, and needs to be so--at 60fps, a single frame can determine who has an advantage, which move will beat out another move, or whether or not your move will execute correctly. The fighting itself is still the simple yet pyschological game of mix-ups, hopefully leading to nasty juggles. In Tekken4, juggles were noticeably toned down, adding to many people's dislike for the title. This is not the case in Tekken 5, as many characters can and will keep you in the air for considerable damage. Walls also play a part, and some characters can really take advantage of them (Bryan, Steve, and Feng are great examples). My one gripe with the game is that Wall-Teching has been removed--this would have balanced the game a little more, IMO, because some characters would be less devastating if they couldn't freely juggle you at a wall for INSANE damage.

Overall though, it's classic Tekken. And it's FUN.

OVERALL

In summary, my main complaints about this game boil down to graphics that are SLIGHTLY less impressive than the arcade, some "blah" voice acting, the Devil Within side-game, the basically useless rankings, and the lack of a wall-tech. Those are really pretty nit-picky complaints, folks. GET THIS GAME. If you're a hardcore fan, you'll love it. If you're not, learn to love it. It's that simple. You get great graphics, great sound, great extras, exciting and complex gameplay, and THREE EXTRA GAMES TO BOOT!

There is no reason you shouldn't own this game.

This is 9.7 out of 10. It's not absolutely perfect, but it's close enough.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/01/05


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