Namcoís Tekken 4 has to rank as one of the
most-anticipated PS2 titles of the year. While it doesnít radically change the
formula, fighting game fans should love all the changes such as walled arenas
and graded floors that keep things interesting. Typically manic gameplay has
returned, with the massive combos and crushing speed players have come to
expect. Tekken 4 also sports an improved graphics engine that marks huge
improvement from the previous games. This is a solid step forward for Tekken,
but is it enough? The Laser finds out if these changes enough to keep up with
the advances the other major fighing series have made.
though itís been one of the longest-running and most popular fighting series
on the market, Tekken has never received the respect that other series get. The
knock against Tekken is that itís just a mindless button masher, with little
in the way of depth in its gameplay. This was true to some degree with the
earliest installments, but the last few installments were really excellent.
Namco has worked hard to change this perception, so while on the surface, it may
seem to be more of the same, major changes, tweaks and new features have been
added to make Tekken 4 easily the deepest and most satisfying in the series to
date. Featuring both minor and significant changes, the gameplay is still
familiar enough that veterans can jump right in. Set 20 years after the
original, itís surprising that most of the cast from the original games
returns, though they look a little older now. For example, Law has grown facial
hair, while Paul looks a little older. Unfortunately, Heihachi also returns, as
do some of the lamer characters. Luckily, the giant pandas seem to be a thing of
the past this time around. Surprisingly, itís the new characters who seem to
be the weakest entrants in the latest King of Iron Fist Tournament because they
lack the style and pizzazz of the original cast.
Contrary to the seriesí reputation as a mindless button masher, Tekken 4 has a surprising amount of depth and strategy. While some players will find the standard four-button layout limiting, you can configure the buttons to your liking, adding single touch combos to your arsenal. As always, the game play is much improved if youíve invested in arcade joystick, but Tekken 4 still plays well with the d-pad. Itís still easy to get into, but thereís a lot more underneath, especially when you factor in the combos, throws, chains each characterís unique attack styles. These strengths and weaknesses, differing attack styles and combos makes things interesting. Playing as different characters really helps you appreciate these differences, with some characters having stronger kicks, and some who are better at punching.
There are also innovative moves implemented for the returning characters, which should please veterans such as new kicks and throws, though thereís still an excellent balance between the characters. As usual, when youíre knocked down, you can perform a quick attack when you get up, which is pretty cool. You can also put an opponent off guard by changing your position, a process which has been vastly improved since Tekken Tag Tournament. Most attacking moves remain tied to the series famous multi-string combos. Tekken 4ís depth really becomes evident when you factor in throwing a and blocking maneuvers as well, which makes mastering the game require more than hitting buttons at random. Tekkenís trademark fast & frenetic gameplay remains largely intact with this new installment, which means most battles are over quickly. As is the tradition of the series, most matches are games of momentum. Once you string together a devastating series of attacks you seriously deplete the opponentsí energy bar, leaving them little room to recover.
While itís not as deep as other fighting games in
terms of moves, thereís still plenty to like abou the game. There are nine
different modes of play including Story, Time Attack, Arcade, Team and Vs.
modes. Story mode is the most interesting and provides the player with a strong
motiviation to keep playing. Time Attack challenges you to off a series of
opponents as quickly as possible. There is also a straight-forward Arcade mode
which is cool when you want to blow off steam in a quick match. These modes are
all nicely tied together and add more to the experience. Tekken 4 also has some
quite useful training and practice modes, which allow you to refine your
strategies in a safe environment. This single player modes is excellent and
allows you to concentrate on your timing, skill and overall technique and should
make you a better player overall. A big help is that these modes display the
name of the move and the damage percent on screen when you perform them, which
is a cool feature other games have utilized.
Tekken 4ís graphics and presentation are excellent
and youíll immediately notice the improved visual appearance of the game. In
addition to featuring breakable objects and walls, there are now rising floors.
This is implemented beautifully and adds to the realism of the arenas. The look
of the characters has been vastly improved, with upgraded models used to make
their movements and motions appear even more lifelike, and bigger. Subtle
effects such as realistic cloth movement, facial expressions and muscle
structures make for some stunning character models and make for a vastly
improved aesthetic experience. The fighting takes place in both in-door and
outdoors environments. When you fight indoors, in levels such as malls, airports
and other urban areas, youíll see silky smooth lighting effects. The outdoor
arenas look fantastic with excellent sand and water effects. The level of detail
is quite impressive throughout and the lack of the dreaded aliasing effect only
adds to the smooth production values making Tekken 4 easily the best looking PS2
fighter to date, outclassing Segaís jaggie-intensive VF4 with a smoother,
cleaner appearances. Itís not quite as stunning as Dead or Alive 3, but that
game was done on different hardware, so thatís not a fair comparison.
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