OK, we promise this is the last Tekken 4 preview. Seriously. The game's going to be out in a month, so we just wanted to sneak in our impressions of this PS2 game before the review hits.
Yep, we got a look at a near-final version of the American game. At the core, not much has changed since Tekken 3 (let's all try to forget about Tekken Tag Tournament for a while, shall we?). But the huge graphical jump, quality-over-quantity roster and smart gameplay revisions make Tekken 4 a strong update to an aging series.
The game has two new additions to its original cast: The first is Christie Montero, a student of Eddy Gordo's Capoeira style who plays a lot like her teacher. Second is Craig Marduk, an ex-Vale Tudo champion with a strong grappling and ground-attack game. These included, we found a total of 19 fighters--that's nine untockables in addition to the 10 who are available right off the bat. And Namco tells us the final version may have a couple more hidden characters.
Every fighter has two costumes (or in Kuma's case, a Panda alter-ego) that contribute a great deal to the vibrant style of the game. Watch Lei's open shirt or Christie's long hair animate and you'll see what we mean--everything looks just as good as it does in the arcade version of Tekken 4. It doesn't have the fluidity and depth of Virtua Fighter 4--it's a bit clunkier on the control. But its crisp visuals and interactive arenas are the best on the PS2 thus far.
The huge playing fields are fenced in for the first time in the series, though you might not even notice for several rounds--they're that big. But objects like trees, phone booths and statues make handy strategic blockers in almost every stage. Using these obstacles and the new grab-and-shove maneuver (see sidebar on previous page), you can set your opponent up to take major damage. Every time you land a punch or kick on an enemy who's up against one of these barriers or the wall of the arena, he'll take extra-impact damage when he hits it. It works especially well for catching an opponent in a combo string, juggling an airborne fighter or inflicting extra damage on one who's down for the count.
Tekken 4 is all about the two-player game, obviously, but an updated version of Tekken 3's Tekken Force minigame gives you something new to do when you're light on competition. It's a singleplayer, Bouncer-style beat-'em-up that lets you use any of the tournament fighters you have unlocked to inflict pain on jumpsuited grunts and bosses in a race against time. Pick up time and health bonuses (represented, for some reason, as little chickens and eggs) along the way to keep your energy and clock counter up. Yeah, you've also got your obligatory Time Attack, Survival and Practice modes, but those come standard with any 3D fighter nowadays.
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As fans of Namco's games will attest to, not an arcade-to-home port comes out that isn't enhanced by the inclusion of an extra mode or two, and Tekken 4 is certainly no exception. Fighting-game veterans familiar with the progression of the series will recall the Tekken Force mode included in the PlayStation version of Tekken 3. Tekken Force let you pick any of 7ys characters and sent you on a side-scrolling Final Fight-style beat-'em- up adventure. Movement into and out of the 3D plane was featured but extremely limited.
In Tekken 4, Namco continues the theme with the Tekken Force Assault mode, but this time the battle is fought in full 360-degree 3D. As evidenced by these screens, over half a dozen enemies will attack you at any given time, unlike the one or two opponents who would pester you in Tekken 3. Once you've beaten down the waves of hooligans on each level, you'll encounter a boss who's waiting around to hand you your ass and show you the door. Naturally, your only recourse is to kick boss butt and emerge victorious. Tekken 4 comes out in Japan this March, and the U.S. later this fall.
Tentatively scheduled to arrive this spring, the fourth installment of Namco's Tekken series (not counting Tekken Tag Tournament or Tekken GBA) will soon make the trip home from the arcades to the PS2. Regarding Tekken 4's newly interactive 3D backgrounds, director Masahiro Kimoto says, "Depending on the character you choose, a stage can give you an advantage or a disadvantage." Sounds good to us.
This month we sat down with a playable version of Namco’s Tekken 4 for PS2. While certain features weren’t available for us to play, like Tekken Force Assault mode (revealed last issue), we still got to see what sort of strides Tekken has made since T3 and Tekken Tag Tournament. A nearly perfect port of the recently released arcade version, Tekken 4's main enhancement over previous installments is the addition of interactive environments. Get your opponent up against the wall, then drive his head into it.
The fighters look great and the control is tight, but getting used to the severe character tweaking was the hard part. Bryan Fury, for example, has been totally neutered, with his once-formidable cannon punches and wicked sidestep attacks now nearly nonexistent. One of the new guys, Craig Marduk, is so tall, it seems like all he’s good for is taking shots in the groin. Thankfully some of the new characters like Steve Fox (the boxer) and Christie (Eddy Gordo clone) add energy and variety to T4. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Tekken 4 won’t hit the U.S. ’til about September or so. So break out Tekken Tag and practice!