Overall Rating

Tekken 4 (PS2) - story1It has been eight years since the launch of "Tekken," and Namco's flagship fighting series has made some great strides, providing stiff competition for Sega's "Virtua Fighter" series. Following on several installments (and a spin-off or two), "Tekken 4" is now out for the PlayStation 2. This week on "Extended Play" we look at this new episode and find out if this sequel is worthy of the "Tekken" name.

Fighting games have never been known for well-thought-out, let alone believable, story lines. "Tekken 4" is no exception. Every fighter has his or her motivations, but the game really centers on the absurd relationship between Kazuya and Heihachi. Heihachi resurrects Kazuya after throwing him into a volcano. Yet things don't work out quite as planned as Kazuya escapes from Heihachi's lab during a spell of insanity. Heihachi then tries to get Kazuya's attention by instigating another tournament. Kazuya expectedly obliges. This story line is a perfect example of why fighting game developers shouldn't bother with plot anymore. Moreover, there are some glaring inconsistencies in the way the characters age, seeing how this is based 10 years after the last "Tekken." Marshall Law, for example, has aged quite a bit while Ling doesn't seem to have aged at all.

New and reused characters
The game has 19 characters and a selection of modes. As with any fighting game sequel, a few new characters are mixed in with the meaty core group seen in the previous installments. The new fighters are Craig, Steve, and Christie. Christie isn't exactly a new character. She's just a female equivalent of Eddy, the Capoeria specialist who is omitted from "Tekken 4." Despite the large character roster, half the characters still need to be unlocked by meeting certain criteria throughout the game.

Added modes
The game's modes make up the typical fighting-game shopping list. These include practice, time-trial, and survival, as well as the expected arcade and story modes. We were disappointed to find that the story mode is simply an arcade mode with still illustrations and FMV cut scenes that go into the chosen character's plot.

The two new modes are Training and Tekken Force. Training doesn't so much train you as require you to pull off a menu of moves. Tekken Force is a "Double Dragon"-type beat-'em-up. You take a fighter of your choice through a gauntlet of baddies. Naturally you're able to use the available moves of your character, and you don't have to unlock Tekken Force to play the mode. Tekken Force also makes for a good diversion, especially when you think of how side-scrolling beat-'em-ups are lacking in today's gaming libraries.

Tekken 4 (PS2) - story2Back to story and arcade modes. Some changes have been made since the last "Tekken" outing. No more do the levels reach out endlessly on either side. Now you must consider obstacles such as staircases, walls, and breakable statues. This opens up a new element to the game as you now run the risk of getting cornered. No worries, though; a counterbalance maneuver has also been added.

Familiar control
For "Tekken" veterans, the gameplay will feel like an old pair of shoes. As always, two buttons control the fist attacks while the other two handle the legs. Side-to-side movement has significantly improved in "Tekken 4," allowing for more movement. This helps add depth to a franchise that's in trouble of getting stale. Speaking of stale, the combos are back as well, and they're as cheap and unbreakable as ever. Yet despite this predictability, the overall controls of "Tekken 4" still respond solidly.

"Tekken 4" has graphically improved over "Tekken Tag Tournament." That's not to say the visuals are perfect -- far from it. While the anti-aliasing is noticeably smoother since "Tekken Tag Tournament," the "Tekken" character models look inconsistent. Sure, they might be detailed, but the actual character animations are very choppy. This is especially clear in Christie's jerky Capoeira animation.

"Tekken 4" fulfills bare minimum expectations of the typical fighting game sequel. It delivers more of the same with slight tweaks in the character roster. The fans will be pleased, though don't expect it to win over any new ones. The Tekken Force mode is a nice touch, but in the end it isn't more than a second-rate side-scrolling brawler.