Review by materlink

"An average game, but a lack of innovation"

Two years after Tekken Tag Tournament spearheaded the PS2's initial assault on the Japanese market, its successor (and first true sequel to the peerless Playstation conversion of Tekken 3) has also come home - but oh, how things have changed. In the wake of the fanfare for the visual intricacy of Dead or Alive 3, the newsworthiness of Sega's flagship arcade franchise, Virtua Fighter 4, arriving on Sony's machine, and the under whelming response to its arcade incarnation, Tekken 4 faces the prospect of being a nonevent.

It's experimental - just a little; pretty - but not strikingly so; and, overall, a more solid and thoughtful proposition than its predecessor - but still not different or accomplished enough to threaten making much of an impact. As with Virtua Fighter 4 and Dead or Alive 3, this latest Tekken is more a consolidation of past of past innovations than a revolutionary new step and as a trio, those market-leading hand-to-hand 3D fighters form a powerful case for the argument that the genre is running out of new gameplay avenues to explore.

Tekken 4 does implement significant gameplay changes, but to call them 'new' would be misleading. Its uneven floors resemble those of VF3tb, while its oversized arenas and interactive walls, fences and destructible decor recall those of the DoA series. The incorporation of these extended, interactive backdrops may be belated, and their integration is the defining feature of this instalment. In the jungle stage, tree roots provide a trench-like defense for the better positioned combatant. During fighting in the underground car park, the roof-high walls can be a brutally effective accessory for the aggressor.

Changes elsewhere in the game system appear to have evolved out of his additional dimension, too: a reliable push move - often the last line of defense in a cramped, walled-in beating - is now to hand at the press of square + X, and the game's camera has a more sedate, less central focus now that it must see through scenery and maneuver around obstacles. Both function adequately enough, but don't always feel like worthwhile recompense for what has been lost, and - Tekken 4 lacks much of the gladiatorial purity and intensity of the earlier versions' old-fashioned, flat-floored showdowns.

There's no true tag option this time, but Team Battle joins Arcade, Story and Survival modes and a relatively lavish - but ultimately mindless - 3D reprisal off the scrolling Tekken Force sub game from Tekken 3. Another bonus in relation to its arrival in the home is its origin in the System 246 arcade board.
While PS2 Virtua Fighter 4's graphical compromises rendered it a poor relation of the Naomi2 original, Tekken 4 has arrived all but intact, and (on the default Smooth visual setting), effectively jaggie-free. There are none of the bifurcated arenas and few of the other rough edges that blighted Tekken Tag, and a new, rounded Street Fighter EX-like cartoon clarity to the game's visuals. There are some well-implemented reflections, shadows and smoke effects and more meaningful roles and behavior for the crowing onlookers introduced in Tag, it never feels like a great leap: there are too many bland, flat surfaces and great lengths of grey wall and some character models appear less detailed than their Tag equivalents - but it's an understandable trade-off. What's less clear is where 3D fighters go next. How far can combatants be allowed to roam freely before man-to-man becomes hide and seek? How much interaction with scenery can realistically be expected before the genre's intensity gets sapped by having to navigate one too many pieces of furniture? Tekken 4 is further evidence that the terminal limitations of the traditional 3D fighter are already becoming apparent. The good thing is that, when the latest specimen feels as over-familiar and curiously uninspired as Tekken 4 does, it's difficult to care.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 08/02/02, Updated 08/02/02

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