Tekken has been running in arcades since before the dawn of the first PlayStation that, arguably, catapulted it into greatness. Being one of the earliest 3D fighting game series around, for many, Tekken fits like a well-worn glove or sock: It’s comfortable, not too restrictive, and you know what you’re getting – even if some of the seams are fraying a little. It’s chunky combat with animation gaps the size of the grand canyon suited many, allowing for planning counters and moves that other fighters require you to do near instinctively. You may be able to tell that I was never the biggest fan of the Tekken series, with Tekken 3 being the last game in the series I bought and Tekken 5 being the last one I played. The thing is, with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 I may have just found my love for Tekken once again.
The original Tekken Tag Tournament felt like something of a misstep, a stop gap until Tekken 4 reared its head. It was essentially treated as a spin-off and has largely been swept under the rug, except for that rather disappointing HD revamp that was churned out. Now though Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a fully fleshed out sequel to TTT and a worthy successor to Tekken 6; this isn’t just a Tekken game with a tag-team ability tacked onto the side like someones glued angel wings onto a rat in an effort to improve it. This is a deadly Tekken dove delivering delicious fighting justice.
Straight away you’ll be swamped at the sheer amount of content on offer here. You’ll hit the Offline mode and find that everything is present and correct, a crushingly hard Arcade mode – with a boss that literally makes you want to tear your face off, then everybody else’s faces off in rage as they spam you with lightning fast moves; a verus mode, a team battle mode, practice and so forth. Hit up Online and you’ll be able to engage in some reasonably silky-smooth combat, be it in ranked or unranked matches, and thanks to the World Tekken Federation you can keep track of your stats, leaderboards, online competitions and all the teams you’ve created too.
A rather extensive customisation mode is also included, which improves upon the already extensive mode found in Tekken 6. Now you can make your characters look even more badass – or utterly ridiculous – and apart from items of clothing you’ll be albe to use some props in battle and find that special effects can also be placed onto your characters. It’s pretty impressive stuff, but in all honesty the biggest – and best – feature of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the Fight Lab mode that’s been introduced.
Fight Lab is a story driven addition to the Tekken series that does an absolutely fantastic job of introducing new – or rusty – players into the basics of gameplay. It also gives you all the skills you’ll need to go out and find new moves and really make Tekken your own. Seeing as I’m frankly abysmal at all entries into the series I decided that it was time to hit the virtual dojo and, other than hand drawn cutscenes over the lavishly animated ones found in Arcade mode, I wasn’t disappointed in what I found. Taking on the role of a ‘Combot’ you need to fill it’s head with combat knowledge to turn it into the deadly King of the Iron Fist Tournament competitor it needs to be. You’ll do this in a theory, practical, test structure where each area of combat is introduced, from various punches and throws to blocking, countering, ‘punishing’ and so forth. When you’ve worked your way through one chapter and it’s boss you’ll get some new moves or parts to buy and customise your Combot with, building up it’s move set along with its looks. It’s a surprisingly addictive and involving mode that really will change the face of tutorials in games, and at the same time introduces new players without boring or patronising them in the process.
In terms of gameplay Tekken has remained largely unchanged from what you remember, except those gaping gaps between moves have been smoothly shortened so combat flows gracefully and juggling an opponent has never been so fun – except for when you’re on the receiving end of things (perhaps Namco could have learnt a thing or two from SkullGirls). As mentioned before, this feels much more like a full Tekken entry so much so that you could just go toe to toe in a 1 on 1 match rather than a 2 v 2 tag, and with a roster that tears past the 50 players mark you’ll never run out of people to square off against. Multiplayer can also be enjoyed as a four-player tag-team co-op so you can hold some big Tekken nights in your living room or join up with a group of mates online.
Just like Tekken 6 was an impressive looker, TTT2 is a beauty to behold. Not only are its cutscenes photorealistic to the point where you want to touch them to make sure they aren’t actually real, but gameplay visuals are incredibly detailed and move silky smooth you’ll think it’s witchcraft that’s graced your consoles graphics chip. While there’s the typical addition of some fantastic looking new stages, each with Dead or Alive style tiered sections and environmental damage effects, what’s more impressive is what the environment actually does to your fighters.
Thanks to the introduction of something Namco are coining as ‘Environmental FX’ characters clothing actually alters in real time depending on the environment they’re in. That pristine white dress that Lili’s rocking wont be so white after she takes a tumble to the dusty ground, stepping up with dirt or sand on her backside. Maybe you’re fighting in the fountains of Italy, your trousers will become wet and clothes too as you roll around and get tossed about; it truly is some fancy stuff going on and only helps heighten the immersion and realism found in this entry – something that comes rarely in fighting games.
All in all Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a pretty decent offering. If you’re new to the series or fighters in general it’s going to be accessible and still deep enough for you to plunge hours into be it through the online modes or just offline with friends and the hunt for unlockable characters. As with many fighting games, it’s really the difficulty that mars this experience, and the lack of offline game modes in comparison to previous entries – however that could always be added via DLC. If you like, or love Tekken then it’s worth snapping up, if you’re only mildly curious – and like me absolutely terrible at Tekken – it’s worth finding a way to give it a go before you quickly make up your mind to part with those notes.
Audio/Visual - 4/5: Visually stunning and the Environmental FX adds a lot to the experience. Voice acting is done well – with occasional terrible lip synching – but level tracks are still your eurotrashy techno besides a few beautiful numbers.
Gameplay – 4/5: Vast improvement over previous efforts and Fight Lab is a fantastic addition but it’s reliance on juggling and unblockable combos means it’s still a pain to play against anyone who knows what they’re doing.
Value – 4/5: For what you pay you’re getting a lot of fun but the lack of non-multiplayer modes means those without online access might feel a little hard done by.
Innovation -3/5: Not much has changed, but the innovations that have arrived have definitely improved the game, even if they are only tweaks of previously existing systems.
Final Score: 4/5