Review by hangedman

Reviewed: 02/04/03 | Updated: 02/04/03

Kick, punch, it's all in the.... limbs.

Behold! My brilliant rebuttal to those who say that this game is just a lightweight Virtua Fighter 4:

Shut up.

But seriously, I’ve read the same crap in almost every magazine I’ve bothered with on this. I can paraphrase about fifty sources with the following sentence:

“Pretty and instantly gratifying, but not as deep as Virtua Fighter 4.” **** that; it may not be as “deep” as Virtua Fighter 4, but it’s a hell of a lot better: in my experience with the Virtua Fighter series, “deep” translates to an arsenal of slow and uninteresting moves that counter other moves of the same caliber, save for the other guy’s three-hit punch-punch-punch combination. I’m washing my hands of it, and I’ve always been a Tekken devotee. Not a fanboy—a devotee.

And I’ll try something new here: I’ll list the game’s few faults first. It’s essentially Tekken 3. Namco claimed that they added a new dimension to the gameplay by including fixed arenas, where one can be knocked into a wall, prompting stun damage and combo opportunities. “They’re making it more like Virtua Fighter,” people claimed. I shuddered. Thankfully, the new gameplay “gimmick,” and that’s really what it is, as it doesn’t change much of anything, is unobtrusive and understated. Tekken 3 was an awesome fighting game, however.

So was Tekken Tag, which was also Tekken 3. Nobody really seemed to mind. Tekken Tag Tournament is widely considered more enjoyable to many people than Tekken 4: it has more characters, and you can continually tag in and out fighters. That was very cool, but let’s face it, I’m a little tired of every game incorporating a tag feature. I swear to god, if things keep up like this, Metal Gear Solid 3 is going to have Snake shooting a Russian soldier with a tranquilizer dart, then tagging out for someone new to come in and drop kick the sleepy enemy. I’m glad Namco took a stand and said, “listen, not every game has to have this tagging ****,” to be perfectly frank.

So, let me tell you why you should buy this.

The graphics are drop-dead gorgeous. Half of this is sheer technical accomplishment, as fighters are brilliantly motion-captured at a high frame rate as they attack each other and flinch realistically, each attack infused with the spirit and demeanor of the combatant throwing it out. The fighting styles are not flawless reproductions of their real-world equivalents, but they’re close enough to fool you. The other half comes in the character design, as every fighter looks brilliant. Both the abnormally high polygon count (yes, better than VF4) and the masterful design of the combatants (again, something Virtua Fighter could never have picked up on with their nauseatingly plain and stereotypical characters) put this game over the top.

I’d feel guilty if I didn’t mention my favorite character: Violet. Imagine, a man in a white-and-purple vest, pinstriped slacks, patent leather shoes, and giant aviator sunglasses walking up to a fight with black fingerless gloves, and then in a slightly suggestive manner saying, “Come on…!” A sleeper character indeed; the other guy never thinks that such an unabashedly flamboyant fighter would be able to wail on his ass so bad with a bunch of brutal jump-kicks to the face and devastating smashes to the ribs. Compare this to the lifeless VF4 cast: you’ve got a Ryu that can’t throw fireballs, a ninja without a sword, and 4 separate “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” dork-asses.

My other favorites are equal punishers. One of the new guys, Steve Fox, has no kick attacks (think Balrog). Instead, his kicks are ducking evasions, as he lurches back and forward much as a real boxer would do. This compliment to his already impressive array of punches works wonders, as he bobs in and out to smash the guy with a no-nonsense hook as soon as his guard lets down—that is, if you see the opening for it. Other moves look wincingly painful: the new Vale Tudo fighter Craig Marduk elbows a guy in the skull, then knees him in the face when the first blow knocks him over, Bryan Fury throws lightning-fast straight punches, and Kazuya specializes in electrically charged uppercuts.

That’s what Tekken 4 is all about, too: showmanship in ass kicking. Dismiss those cop-out VF4-loving remarks about Tekken 4 being “instantly gratifying,” as if you’ll love the game for 5 minutes and then be done with it. Take the high road on this as much as you want; I’m telling you that it’s got such a good learning curve that you’ll like it as soon as you start fooling around with it. You’ll find a character that you instantly gravitate towards and enjoy using, simply from the personality of the moves. Most attacks are easy to execute, just back or forward and one or two buttons. The skill is that there are hundreds of moves beyond the normal array of universal attacks.

Knowing when these moves are useful, how much stun they cause, how much you’re left open, and how much damage they do is something you must constantly size up. If someone is attempting a certain style of attack, you need to figure out whether you should be playing offensively or defensively, and decide on how to attack or defend from there. The balance of speed, stun, and attack power are all balanced very well among the characters’ attacks; although are some issues in a few characters being better than others, for the most part it’s not nearly as obvious as you might think.

And if you’re going to give me that line of BS about Tekken 4 not being deep, I’ve been at this game for months, and I’m still learning. It’s more polished than Tekken 3 was when it came out, and the new characters fit right in. The game has style—that’s something that the Virtua Fighter series has never exhibited from day one. Tekken 4 is fighting the way people who want to be entertained by fighting prefer it: fast, brutal, and flashy. Tekken 4 lets you feel the power behind an attack, and does away with all this new-school tag-in / constant-reversal / hyperrealism that I never much cared for in my 3d fighters.

So, if you want to take my word on things, this is better than Virtua Fighter 4. The constant comparison is almost irritating to me because both games are staunchly different in presentation; if Virtua Fighter 4 is Rainbow Six (which is a very kind analogy given my thoughts on VF), then Tekken 4 is Quake III. Still, because of the proliferation of the comparison, I need to weigh in on it.

Tekken 4 is better than Virtua Fighter 4.

Take it for what you will.

Largely unchanged from Tekken 3, though that's not a terrible problem to suffer from.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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