Ever since its phenomenal third installment Tekken has been regarded as one of the top franchises in the fighting game genre, however the series has been on rocky ground ever since. Tekken: Tag Tournament was almost a port of Tekken 3 but with upgraded visuals (due to it appearing on the PS2 rather than the PSone) and a new Tag-Team element, Tekken 4 took things further down-hill and was a slow-paced, clunky embarrassment which under-performed in every aspect. It wasn’t until Tekken 5 that the series managed to climb back up (Heihachi style) and reclaim dominance. Now almost 5 years later, with the power of the PS3 and Xbox 360 at their disposal can Namco manage to keep the franchise relevant, especially with great fighters like Street Fighter IV already on shelves?
My first impression of the PS3 version of Tekken 6 was far from pleasant, after forcing me to update to Sony’s “optional” 3.01 firmware I then had to sit and wait for the game to patch itself which altogether took roughly 20 minutes. Once I finally reached the main menu things didn’t get any better, as soon as it loaded I was bombarded with a wealth of information and unnecessary distractions that I quickly had to wrap my head around. On the left were the usual selections (Online Mode, Offline Mode, Gallery, Options etc.), on the the right was my “profile information” which displayed my won/lost ratio, my fight money and my report rank, while in the background a character from the game was moving around in his fight stance while tanks drove by behind him shooting and causing mulitple explosions. This was by far one of the most clunky main menus I have ever seen and navigating through it was a pain until I learned where everything was.
Once I entered the Arcade mode and saw the huge array of fighters my heart began to warm-up. There are over 40 characters available from the start including 6 all new combatants. Arcade mode in itself is a severe disappointment though, forcing you to fight against a seemingly unbeatable robot, an overpowered Jin Kazama and a cheap, larger than life final boss. If you do manage to make it through this torture-fest your sense of accomplishment will be instantly shot down as the credits roll as soon as the final match is over without even so much as a “Congratulations”. Another reason why you may not want to bother with the Arcade mode is the fact that it is no longer the home of the games story, If you want justification as to why you’re going around punching people, robots, panda’s and kangaroos’ in the face you’ll have to consult the awful Scenario mode.
By now fans should be used to Namco’s failed attempts to inject third-person brawler modes in to Tekken games but usually these modes were considered mere extras and playing through the arcade mode provided you with the games story. However Tekken 6 takes the complete opposite approach and now the Scenario mode is the place to go if you want to learn what’s going on and unlock most of the titles achievements/trophies. Here you play as newcomer Lars Alexandersson fighting alongside an AI Controlled Alisa Bosconovitch, as a pair you run around uninspired 3D environments beating up hordes of enemies and collecting loot. I’m not going to waste time trying to explain the illogical, convoluted story but it involves Lars attempting to recover his memory and discover his roots. Early on in the campaign you can choose to play as any other character from the roster but whoever you chose will be replaced by Lars during the cut-scenes with no explanation what-so-ever which just serves to make the terrible story seem even more disjointed.
Like all good fighters Tekken 6 really comes to life when playing against other human opponents and you can choose to do so either locally or online. Local VS mode can be incredibly fun and the game does an excellent job accommodating for both newcomers and series veterans. As the button layout and move lists are relatively unchanged from previous installments I found myself able to jump in a whoop ass with no problems. Newbies will also find themselves pulling off several moves and basic combos simply by mashing on the four face buttons. While this may sound like a bad thing, all bashing mashing can be countered using perry’s and well timed side-steps so if your girlfriend manages to beat you in a round or two you’ve only got yourself to blame. When you feel like you’re good enough to take on the world you literally can with the excellent online mode. But be warned, as the fighting system encourages you pummel your opponent while their defenceless via air juggles and ground attacks, playing online against skilled players can at times feel extremely unfair and one-sided. Also present are all the game modes you’ve come to expect, namely Survival, Time Trail, Team Battle and Practice. There is also a new Ghost Battle mode where you can fight endless streams of opponents to earn cash (used to customize your characters appearance) and quickly upgrade your rank from a Beginner to a Tekken God.
As long as you have a decent Internet connection or similarly skilled friend to play with Tekken 6 is a fantastic game but the disappointing single player offerings, terrible story and the re-use of animations and voice work from previous games in the series hurts the title overall. If you’re a Tekken fan you’re probably going to buy this game regardless of what any reviewer has to say but for everyone else I suggest you consider purchasing Street Fighter IV, Soul Calibur IV, Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe or even Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection on the PSN before you put your money on the counter and take this game home.