Tekken 6 Review

By Daniel Boutros - Posted Oct 26, 2009

The venerable fighting series debuts on HD consoles with Tekken 6. Boasting 40 characters, six new fighters, and the sharpest visuals in the series, it's a big sequel. Unfortunately, underneath the facade, it's also a game with some big issues that prevent it from reaching the heights attained by past Tekken games.

The Pros
  • 40 characters
  • New characters are memorable and fun
  • Best looking Tekken to date
The Cons
  • Gameplay has gotten stale
  • Game overall feels rushed and sloppy in places
  • Horrifying load times unless you install to HD
  • Lag online play

Tekken is the 15 year-old fighting series that helped cement Namco as one of the best fighting game developers on the planet. Whereas Virtua Fighter emulated the delicate and graceful feel of martial arts, Tekken had the dynamics and balls of an anime action movie mixed with Hollywood flash. Now, six ‘official’ installments in, it turns out the "King of Iron Fist" could just be a self-proclaimed champion.

Tekken 6
It’s All the Rage, You Know
This time, in Tekken 6, Namco has added a "rage" mode.  When your energy bar is at 20% or less, the character decides it’s time to get pissed off and deals double damage, while simulatneously absorbing less damage.  On paper, it sounds cool, but in practice it makes comeback wins feel cheap. The other labeled innovation is the "bound" move; in which you slam someone into the floor so they bounce. But wait a sec... you could do that in Tekken 3!  The real news of this feature is that you use the move to smash your opponent through a breakable floor in multi-tiered stages.  And that’s still not very exciting.  Ah well.  They tried.  Or rather… didn’t.

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Tekken Forced
There’s a single player adventure, which returning Iron Fisters will know as the much-criticized Tekken Force mode.  The gameplay hasn’t changed, save for being able to play co-operatively online with friends when Namco Bandai's post-launch patch hits.  There are roughly 40 levels, made up of forgettable punch-bag enemies and a boss – a character from the versus roster, usually comically shoe-horned into the story.  Case in point: capoerista Eddy commands an army squad for a living. It’s like watching Street Fighter: the Movie all over again. It definitely makes the action more fun, but only in the same way being poked in the eye once is better than being poked in the eye three times.  If you’re playing with a stick, I suggest you place the ‘Switch Target’ command to one of the main buttons, if only to make it more tolerable.
A One Night Stand Story… [SPOILER ALERT]
Tekken 6's story features a newly discovered Mishima half-brother who has amassed an army against the G Corp armies of Kazuya and the Mishima Zaibatsu army of Jin.  Apparently, they’re trying to awaken a pure embodiment of evil called Azazel who lies dormant in an Egyptian temple.  You’ll be happy to know the story is "so-bad-it’s entertaining"-level of cheese.  It's like a straight-to-DVD Mark Dacascos movie, complete with an unexpected twist at the end. 

Tekken 6
Newcomers to Iron Fisting!
Excluding the two over-sized, cheapest-ever boss beasts, Tekken 6 also features six new characters, and newbies from Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection.  For me, they were the highlight of the game. They're well thought-out, fun to use, and rich in personality.  The majority of the new cast felt unique, with Bob, Lars, Alisa and Miguel rising to the top of the class for me.  Alisa is my favorite however, for the simple fact she can pull her head off and beat you with it, or just throw it at you.
Online and Out of Line
Online modes include the typical ranked and player match modes that work only for pure versus mode play.  Tekken 6 doesn't support online team battles, and the touted co-op Tekken Force campaign will be patched in later.  Though with how awful one-on-one versus plays online based on our reviewable pre-release discs, I wonder if it’s even worth it. Myself and X-Play's Matt Keil, who were likely the only players on the servers at the time, both had four green-bar connection ratings and we still encountered stutters, terrible input command lag and freezes in every one of our matches.  It’s inexcusable when Namco stablemate Soulcalibur IV did it much better over a year ago. But even if the online experience works better on launch day, it can't single-handedly make up for the other deficiencies in the overall experience.

Chuck Norris vs Ronald McDonald

After the excellent custom character builder in the Soulcalibur series, I was expecting more of the same functionality to build silly characters and pit them against friends.  Sadly, the custom options – ripped directly off Virtua Fighter 4 – are incredibly limited. You can’t change the color of clothing items, and the same item has to be re-bought for each color. Annoyingly, the best items are saved for unlocking through playing Tekken Force mode. In Virtua Fighter games, the custom clothing items were designed specifically around Japanese arcade culture, and every piece embodied a player achievement.  A blue cowboy hat might mean you’ve had 10 wins in a row, while a green one could mean you won a match without blocking. The idea of custom items just falls flat in Tekken 6; a franchise made popular by the PlayStation generation, who are likely now itching to slap internet humor all over it.  It's a hugely missed opportunity.

Tekken 6
More of the Same But… Better?
In some regards, Tekken 6 overcomes its similarity to past games, and in others, it makes the same mistakes. The new characters are memorable and have likeable movesets and personalities that set them apart from the rest of the cast.  Personally, I’d favor them above any new character introduced since Tekken 3. The rage mode doesn’t improve the game and in my experience with it, actually makes it worse.  While an earned win still feels good, a comeback in "rage" mode feels cheap to both the winner and the loser. Additionally, the classic "Tekken feel" now feels outdated.  While Street Fighter IV stuck to its roots, it at least added a new central feature in the Focus Attack, which worked well and added something new to the classic gameplay.  Tekken 6 just feels like the same game.  And that's fine if that’s what you want. Had an optional "Tag mode" been included –- the same from 2000's Tekken Tag Tournament -– Tekken 6 would feel less outdated and it would’ve raised Tekken 6 above just a passable "more of the same" sequel.

The Tekken Force mode has been attracting attention thanks to the online co-op feature -- again, coming post-launch via a downloadable patch.  Sadly, Namco has failed to make this mode –- at least in single player -- anything more than a tolerable experiment in using a full one-on-one moveset in a fixed-path, level-by-level environment. In this third incarnation of the idea, it’s slightly better thanks to your AI-controlled co-op teammate, who reduces your likelihood of being attack-spammed on the floor, but the camera still seems ADD-rattled, the awkwardly-implemented controls make free movement clumsy -- you'll attack enemies you didn't target -- plus, the level design is forgettable at best and cheap at worst.
Also, load times are painfully long.  If you've got nearly seven gigabytes free, you can install Tekken 6 on your hard drive to reduce the wait to passable, but for Xbox 360 Arcade owners, the load times are near-unbearable. PS3 owners, it's worth unloading some bloat on your drive to make room, as well.

The 40-strong roster should satisfy die-hard fans, though your satisfaction depends on whether you want to playing a largely unchanged game since Tekken 3.  Based on our experience with our reviewable discs, online matches are horribly laggy and single player value is thin, since Force Mode is little more than a mediocre design experiment.

In conclusion, what can you compare Tekken 6 to? Take the PSN-exclusive Tekken 5: Dark Ressurection, add six new characters and Tekken Force, and it comprises this sequel. If it were comparably priced to that downloadable game, I’d recommend it, but at full-price, it's a harder sell.  If you’re looking for something new and innovative in the fighting games you play, steer well clear.