Itâs been more than four years since we last saw Tekken on the consoles. Just for nostalgia alone it was great to see the series back outside of the arcades; but more importantly, for the first time on next-gen consoles. Tekken 6 marks another new era for the franchise too, controversially appearing on a non-Sony platform this time around with an Xbox 360 version.
Itâs note worthy though that Tekken 6 isnât exactly a new release. In fact is has been around in Japanese arcade parlours since late 2007. However, last year an updated version known as Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion was released which introduced new characters, stages, items and the customisation feature. The console version of Tekken 6 on shelves today is based off this new more balanced update, but also includes a new game mode that the arcade version has never seen.
This extra mode is entitled "Scenario Campaign" and shares similarities with the "Tekken Force" and "Devil Within" modes from previous instalments. When first launched, the campaign opens up with a cinematic sequence that tells the story of Tekken right back to the very first King of Iron Fist Tournament, tracing the main storyline between Heihachi, Kazuya and Jin. The history lesson will be appreciated by Tekken fans and the whole story is recreated in a black & white hand-drawn style that reads like a violent soap opera. It covers the Mishima family feud, the Devil Gene and the introduction of the G Corporation but clocking in at nearly ten minutes long, many people will feel compelled to skip it.
Immediately after this though, the real next-gen cinematics kick in with an action-packed movie that introduces a new character, Lars Alexandersson. Lars is a young soldier in the ranks of the Tekken Force who has been sent in to dismantle the Mishima regime and the G Corporation. Immediately you know Lars is one kick-ass dude as he struts onto the screen with armour that has a lionâs head on his chest, a scar above his right eye and a haircut that defies gravity. To confirm this, you then see the guy block rockets with his forearmsâŚ just like how a real man defends against bazooka attacks. The Scenario Campaign is based around Lars and incorporates two different modes of play â one being the traditional Tekken of round by round duals and the second a third-person beat-âem up game.
The Devil Within and Tekken Force gameplay modes from previous instalments proved to be a huge success and offered fans the chance to use their fighting skills in a 3D âDouble Dragon-esqueâ arcade mode. Players would battle their way through waves and waves of bad guys before encountering bosses (other characters from the game) at the end of each stage. In Tekken 6 however, this mode has been expanded to incorporate role-playing elements and allows for flexibility in changing characters.
Firstly, there is a greater focus on the story-telling side of things. Unfortunately this means a lot of cinematics. In between fighting you will find yourself listening to plenty of mindless drivel between characters and although the script ainât great, at least itâs pretty to look at. Especially considering your partner is Alisa Boskonovitch, a new character introduced to Tekken 6 who is as cute as a button. She also has a strangely mismatched wardrobe and chainsaws that come out of her arms though so the jury might be out on that one. Without giving too much away, the Scenario Campaign lets you learn more about Alisa, a cybernetically-enhanced daughter of Doctor Boskonovitch; and Lars, who appears to be an unknown descendant of Heihachi Mishima himself.
As aforementioned though, you can switch out characters as you unlock them in the game. Every big boss defeated becomes a playable character and makes for a welcome change to a relatively uninteresting Lars in terms of combat. However, the story and in-between cinematics donât change, making for some strange inconsistencies at times. Despite this, players will still appreciate the opportunity to pick their favourite characters and plough through waves of enemies. Running between waves of enemies is best controlled via the analogue stick and the combat controls are slightly simplified from the traditional game.
Other changes from the Devil Within mode include a âpick-your-pathâ map navigation that lets you explore areas in your own order. One of the most noted additions though are weapons that you can pick up and use through the game including lead-pipes, machine guns and even flamethrowers! Alisa accompanies you throughout the campaign and is helpful except for the fact that she is close to brain-dead most of the time. Sheâll fight and beat up her fair share of the enemies on screen, but sheâll fail to collect health when running low (forcing you to lure her into the path of health supplements) and will often just fall off the edge of something and instantly die. As you progress, Alisaâs AI apparently upgrades through levels although at level 5 I still couldnât notice any improvements.
Speaking of health packs, it was great to see the return of chickens and eggs to pick up. I was saddened though at the lack of âCHICKEN!â being yelled out every time. In typical zany Tekken style, there are also funny large-headed aliens that can appear at certain stages of a level and hop around in an irritating fashion. If you manage to smack him before he disappears again, youâll be rewarded with treasure and money. I still have no idea why heâs there but it is fun pummelling him every now and then. Playing through the Scenario Campaign and earning money can be used to unlock or purchase clothing and accessories for your characters.
Tekken 6 includes a ridiculously awesome array of customisations with thousands upon thousands of variations that mix in hats, glasses, haircuts, face-masks, trousers, skirts, armour and plenty more. Players can also gain new moves and taunts that can then be used during gameplay. This will make a huge impact with online multiplayer as fans kit out their favourite characters with stunning (or maybe hilarious) attire and make them their own. The only criticism in the customisation area is the lack of a preview and the time consuming loading with every change.
Moving on from the story campaign, the other half of Tekken 6 is of course the traditional side-on fighting game. On top of the stunning high def graphics, all of the animations have been updated making it the best looking Tekken game to date. There is a whopping 42 characters making up the roster of fighters and as usual, each one is diverse and carries their own distinctive style. Familiar faces like Capoeira mistress Christie Monteiro, mentally disturbed wrestler Craig Marduk, spirit samurai master Yoshimitsu, the sassy Nina Williams all make a return. I have to admit though, despite Tekkenâs brilliant cast over the years there has always been something a bit odd about the inclusion of animals like Bears and Kangeroos. Beating the living hell out of a fat Panda just doesnât sit right to me. It doesnât stop me from doing itâŚ but I canât help but feel a twinge of guilt that even though I donate to WSPA, here I am pile-driving the face of an endangered species.
The selection of characters is great, but as usual, the game still contains plenty of exploits that players will no doubt take advantage of. Unlike other fighting games, there is no dreaded fireball spam but fighters such as British boxing geezer Steve Foxâs barrage of punches followed by a reverse upper-cut can still take down most opponents quickly. Also zombie-cyborg-guy Bryan Furyâs brutal strength and speed make him an easy candidate for quick and easy KOâs.
The controls havenât changed at all since we last saw Tekken and the four face buttons still correspond to high punch, low punch, high kick and low kick like normal. The D-Pad is usually the best way to trigger moves and allows for rapid double forward like controls efficiently. Combinations of buttons, such as high-punch + low-kick activate moves as well and these can be programmed to the left and right triggers and shoulder buttons for quick access to your liking. These attacks can range from throws through to powerfully devastating punches or kicks depending on who your character is.
Working your way through fights in the King of Iron Fist Tournament puts you up against a random assortment of rivals who gradually get harder as you progress. Each fight takes place in an inviting backdrop as well, with interactive environments including flaming carparks, breath-taking snowy plains and what looks to be a cemetery. Although the levels are flat, some of them are collapsible and can give-way to another arena below where the fight continues. Each one is also walled off by a boundary where players can get pinned and easily finished off unless you know how to evade when on the ground.
Towards the end of the tournament, players will get presented with a Bonus Round that pits you against a robo-Godzilla type thing known as NANCY-MI847J. His comedic name is ironic though as the sucker takes up half the screen and looks like he eats tanks for breakfast. I still donât know what you get if you manage to defeat him as the bastard is nigh-invulnerable and has a huge assortment of brutal weapons such as rockets, laser-beams and such like. Thankfully losing to NANCY doesnât affect your progress. The last two fights however are reserved to set characters, Jin (the new owner of the Mishima Zaibatsu empire) and a new unplayable character known as Azazel.
Azazel is âthe embodiment of the ultimate evilâ and the source that created the Devil Gene within the Mishima bloodline. Azazel looks to be inspired by an Egyptian God but resembles a dragon with ice or crystals growing out of his forearms. Just like NANCY, Azazel towers over your puny fighter and has an insane amount of ruthless attacks at his disposal. Personally I found the sudden hike in difficulty to be extremely frustrating. It was possible to get through six fights with perfect scores, but then get absolutely dicked by NANCY and Azazel in a completely one-sided contest. Of course, true-fans will find weaknesses and exploit them appropriately, but I guarantee they will end up repeating the same move routine over and over like clock-work in order to beat him.
Coming up against these big bosses will definitely be a turn-off for the more casual player. Personally I canât help but think itâs a carry-through from the arcade version where those crafty developers lure you in with easy wins and then rob you of all your money in order to clock the game right at the end. But Tekken fans will embrace the ruthless challenge and should be able to master their favourite characters for leader-board domination. Tekken 6 is definitely a worthy return for the series and incorporates plenty of online action as well with versus and team-matches all available via Xbox Live. The only thing youâll need after this is an arcade stick controller to really show off your chops. Highly recommended if you have a serious grudge against grizzly bears too.