Tekken 4
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
Namco
Developer
Namco
Genre
Fighting
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Lots of variety in fighters and styles
• Easy to pick up and play
• Great Graphics

The Bad

• Practice and Training could use some work
• New features don't add much to game play

 
Grade
B+

Tekken 4 is the fifth entry in Namco's flagship fighting series (Tekken Tag Tournament being the fourth), and while not quite a huge leap forward, there are enough new additions to make this more than just "Tekken 3.5".

The first and most noticeable new additions are the completely 3-D movement and the enclosed arenas, both a first for the series. Previous versions allowed limited movement in 3-D by way of the sidestep feature, which is still in place here, but now you can move about freely in any direction a la Soul Calibur or DOA 3. The new arenas are mostly small and compact, with various walls, pillars, statues, railings and other objects to smash your opponents into. Fortunately, wall-reversals were also added, keeping players from exploiting endless wall juggles and combos. Also new is the addition of different levels of ground, making certain moves more or less effective, depending on where you are standing.

Of course, no fighting game sequel would be complete without new characters, and there are three additions to the Tekken roster. Christie Montiero uses the Capoera fighting style, seen first by Eddie in Tekken 3, but with a few new moves thrown in and easier on the eyes. Craig Marduk uses the brutal Vale Tudo style, and is the requisite "big slow powerful" character. The most interesting new addition comes in the form of Steve Fox, a boxer who has no kicks, but more than makes up for that with quick punch combos and the ability to duck and weave around enemy attacks.

Namco decided to cut a lot of the series' similar-style fighters from this game, but make up for it by adding new moves to each of the returning characters. The roster has been trimmed to around 20 characters, with a couple of hidden, costume-swap characters. Each fighter has a distinct fighting style, and most have well over 100 different moves. The game comes with a helpful practice and training mode to teach you those moves, although both could have been improved a bit. Training mode gives you 20 moves to complete in the shortest time possible, but there is no real incentive to use this mode, as nothing is unlocked by setting records. Practice mode has all the moves available to view and a handy demonstration of how to perform each one, but you must pause the game to view them. It would have been best if Namco could have combined both modes, allowing you to practice moves with the help text on-screen.

Other modes include the standard Arcade, Time Attack, Survival, and Versus. New to the series is Story Mode, which gives you a small back-story on the fighters told through hand-drawn cutscenes, and ends with a full CG ending for each character. As with past games in the series, the end cinemas are well done, and serve to give you a reason to play through the game other than a simple high score. Also returning from Tekken 3 is Tekken Force Mode, which is open from the beginning. Playing like a cross between Tekken and Streets of Rage, you choose from any of the characters in the game and fight through 4 side-scrolling levels. Each level throws waves of enemies at you, but you can collect food in the form of chickens to stay alive. If you can manage to finish all 4 levels, a new arena will be made available for use in multiplayer matches. Not much of a reward, but since the entire mode is an extra anyway it isn't a huge issue.

Graphically, Tekken 4 is quite good-looking. The character models are all well animated and their moves link together seamlessly. Clothing and hair move realistically, and many levels have great water and lighting effects. Namco has always delivered quality cinemas, and Tekken 4 is no exception, with an action-packed opening movie and individual ending movies for each fighter.

Sound effects and music in the game are well done. Throws are delivered with bone-crunching sound effects, and the trademark Tekken "smash" sound accompanies each kick and punch. The music is quite varied, with tracks ranging from rock to jazz to techno, and many of the characters have been given voice taunts for pre and post match poses.

There are a few problems however, and a couple of them may be enough to turn some gamers away. First, the basic game really isn't much different from the last games in the series. Second, the new characters really aren't that great, aside from Steve Fox, you've got a slow powerhouse much like Jack, and a prettier version of Eddie. Lastly, the walled arenas and the uneven surfaces don't really add much to the game, they seem to have been included simply to add something new to the series.

Overall, if you are a fan of past games, you will most likely enjoy this new addition to the Tekken series. There are plenty of returning bits that you'll enjoy, and enough new features to move the series ahead, if only a little. Those who have never played the series before will also find plenty to like, as the controls are easy to learn and there are enough options to keep you playing for weeks.

- - Darken Rahl

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