Review by Allyourbase

"For the sixth time around, it's still pretty awesome"

Tekken has been a video game franchise that I have consisted enjoyed, from the first games on the original PlayStation to the recent iterations on PlayStation 2. But the latest, now the sixth canon game (Tekken Tag Tournament doesn't count as a storyline game.) dives into two uncharted areas -- online play and the Xbox 360.

For years, Tekken has consistently been a PlayStation-only game, so I was beyond ecstatic when I heard Namco would be making an Xbox version. It's always nice when you don't have to shell out big bucks for a new console just to play a certain game (cough*MetalGearSolid4:GunsofthePatriots*cough).

But that left a nagging question: Would it be any good?

And the answer? Absolutely, but not without some big gripes.

Jumping into the burning question on everyone's mind -- How's the multiplayer? -- I'd have to say it left me wanting in a big way.

You hop into a lobby with up to three other people and you can go about your business setting up matches. Any customizations you made with your characters' appearance offline (more on that later) carry over online and the game tracks your wins and losses. Your record directly correlates with your rank and as you accumulate victories, your rank goes up as well.

The big issue online has to be input lag. It's not terrible to the point where it's unplayable, but you will notice a considerable delay from when you perform a command to when your character actually carries it out. In a game where frames can mean the difference between blocking a hit or eating a combo, that's definitely not good. Casual players might be able to overlook this deficiency, but it's absolutely critical to higher-level play.

One of the more interesting features of online play is the ability to download “ghost data” of your friends and favorite players. The ghost data is an AI approximation of how you play that particular character. Sometimes when you hanker for some good competition and you can't get people to come over or no one's online, playing against ghost data can be a pretty satisfying substitute. On top of that, there's also the option to upload and download match replays. Watching a little game film on how the pros do it goes a long way toward becoming a better Tekken player.

At the end of the day, there's just no substitute for having a few buddies over and duking it up for bragging rights.

Before I continue, I have to say this is one of the prettiest Tekken games I've ever played. The backgrounds are vibrant and detailed. Some of them have a lot going on. You'll be fighting in the middle of a rainstorm in one stage or in the middle of a war zone in another! Characters' animations are spot-on and fans might notice some of their favorite characters' signature attacks may have been redone. Playing on an HDTV is recommended primarily because in-game text looks microscopic without it and obviously the game looks stunning.

Overall, the game moves at a brisk pace, although meaty load times mar the experience. I haven't experienced much difference between playing from disc and installing the game on my hard drive, other than my Xbox making much less noise than before.

Offline play has the usual modes from past games. Survival pits you against a gauntlet of competitors to see how many you can defeat before you're KO-ed. Time Attack is a race to complete the Arcade Mode in the fastest time. Ghost Battle is a continuous battle against downloaded ghost data.

Practice mode provides a chance for players to get a feel for the characters, perfect their combos and setups. It's not as good as Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution's practice mode, but then again, are there any fighting games that can top that? Tekken 6's practice mode can toss you a few combos to chew on VF4:Evo dove into tutorials on basic game mechanics and even explained key setups for all the characters, skills essential becoming a better player. I just wish Namco would put as much thought into their practice modes as Sega did.

Fortunately, Tekken is still as accessible to newbies as it is to grizzled veterans as it has been in the past. And there's a huge diversity of characters, meaning there's someone for everyone. Whether playing as a Fembot with chainsaw arms(!), a bear with a killer uppercut or any of the other characters from Tekken's sprawling cast of characters, there's bound to be one that fits your playing style.

The only other offline mode is the Scenario Campaign, which follows the story of two new characters, Lars Alexandersson and Alisa Boskonovitch (the aforementioned Fembot with chainsaw arms). Scenario Campaign's pedigree stems from Tekken 3's Tekken Force and Tekken 5's Devil Within minigame , which were kind of like 3D beat-'em-ups in the vein of Final Fight or Streets of Rage. You control your character as you unravel the plot of Tekken 6.

Scenario Campaign isn't really a simple minigame -- it's got quite a bit of substance to it. Playing through the entire thing takes about five hours if you just plow through the plot. But what adds to the replay value is that defeated enemies drop loot in the form of custom items for your characters. Not only do these items change your characters' appearance, but they bestow bonuses such as increasing the health meter, improve the rate at which items drop, boost attack and many other effects. On top of that, you also earn money, which can be used to buy custom items for other characters. Considering how little money you earn playing other offline modes, playing Scenario Campaign is an absolute must to fund character customization.

So if you've always wanted to know what Yoshimitsu would look like in an all-yellow outfit, or wanted to put a tutu on Kuma, there's plenty of customization to go around. Half the fun is jumping online and seeing just how wacky some people's customizations are.

I'd have no problem for playing Scenario Campaign and farming for money if it weren't for the wonky game mechanics and the lack of a co-op mode. Targeting enemies can be iffy at best and when you're surrounded by a horde of them all at once, which happens quite a bit, it can be difficult to get them out of your face. I really think that Scenario Campaign would have worked much, much better as a side scrolling beat-'em-up. How a beat-'em-up minigame doesn't have any kind of co-op mode is beyond me, especially when the CPU-controlled partner has the AI of a can opener some times.

For fans of the Tekken series, this latest go-round is a must. And to get the total experience, picking up the joystick -- which runs for a cool $150 -- isn't really optional. Unless you're a total fighting game junkie that craves precision inputs, this isn't a deal breaker. Chances are, if you're a fighting game fan, you've probably already picked up a stick. Let me say, the difference in how the game plays is amazing.

If you're on the fence, I would strongly suggest you pick up a copy. If you've got a few amigos online or in person that you can play against, you won't regret it. And there's a good balance between accessibility and expertise that appeals to both Tekken vets and newbies alike.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/11/09

Game Release: Tekken 6 (US, 10/27/09)

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