Tekken is one of the most venerable franchises in the world of fighting games, with it initially appearing on home consoles way back in 1995. Fourteen years on, the King of Iron Fist Tournament is still throwing its weight around, but with a vastly expanded roster of fighters, all of whom wish to take the crown and become the new head of Mishima Zaibatsu.
Whereas most fighting games just give players a roster and put them up against other fighters one-by-one, Tekken attempts to change things up by letting players play through a mode that was initially called Tekken Force Mode. Nowadays it's just called Scenario Campaign, but it essentially allows players to take their favourite characters through levels more akin to a beat 'em up. At the end of each level, they then get to square off against one of the main characters in a more unconventional fight than traditional fighting fans will be used to.
It's a mode that helps to change things up, but as when it was initially debuted in Tekken 3, it still feels really rough around the edges. Nothing seems overly tuned, and the controls feel quite clunky and awkward. If playing single-player, the AI partner is generally quite useless too, and unless they are literally forced to walk through health pick-ups, they won't, causing them to die quite frequently on the harder levels. It can become incredibly frustrating because not only does the player have to worry about what they're doing, they also have to worry about keeping the AI alive.
There are actually quite a lot of stages though, and players even get the chance to play as a huge mech, wreaking havoc. They can also use an assortment of weapons, and completely customise their characters with stat-enhancing items. However, what will actually keep players playing is the story, which follows the adventures of Lars Alexandersson and Alisa Bosconovitch as they look to stop the maniacal Jin Kazama from destroying the world. If this wasn't present, it might be difficult to continue playing the mode, as it does get a bit boring and repetitive after a while.
The crux of the game comes in the actual Versus modes though, and the standard modes are all available. Arcade Battle offers the generic experience, whereby players choose a character and fight against random opponents until they get near the end. Here, they'll face off against the 'boss' characters, which pose a distinctly different challenge. There's also Ghost Battle, which puts players against an unlimited number of opponents, Team Battle, Time Attack and Survival.Choosing any of these modes will place players in a one-on-one encounter. Tekken uses a combat system which allows players to control different limbs, so players can choose to use their left and right arms or legs, or a combination of the both. It's a system that's worked for many years now, and it's one that works really well. It means that combinations are a lot easier to figure out and they're the key to success in Tekken. Many of the older characters will have some very familiar moves, and characters like Paul literally haven't changed much since the days of Tekken 3. It means that players of the older games can instantly get back into the game, but the system is simple enough for new players to be effective pretty quickly. It's a system that has a lot of depth though, with there being a huge emphasis on juggling - the act of hitting the opponent as many times as possible while their feet aren't rooted firmly on the ground.
Tekken 6 looks and plays extremely well in its core modes. Combat is exceedingly fluid, especially when fighting against Azrael - a huge colourful monster - and it makes the whole experience much more enjoyable. The sound design is also pretty good, and the Scenario Campaign offers some interesting vocal choices, with the characters all speaking in their native languages. However, in Scenario Campaign, the graphics seem to have been toned down somewhat, which is a bit of a shame. It's disappointing that the same fluidity couldn't be present in this mode too.
To compliment Tekken's offline modes, there is a fully integrated online mode, which allows players to search for similar players and square off. Unfortunately, the search algorithm doesn't seem overly fair, or there simply aren't that many people playing, as the match-ups don't seem that equal very often. There's also a lot of waiting around, as the game attempts to figure out what it's doing, which can make the experience feel a bit disconnected. Fortunately, the customisation options seen in the Scenario Campaign are available elsewhere though, so some entertainment can be brought back by seeing what concoction other players have come up with. There's also a huge gallery section which contains various movies for each of the character.
Tekken 6 is really fun to play in its core modes, and it remains a very slick and smooth fighter. The addition of Scenario Campaign helps to give the game some legs, but unfortunately the mode still feels very rusty. The story is good, but the actual gameplay really needs some refinements if they're going to include it again in the next addition to the franchise. The online play could also do with some work to make the experience more fluid, but overall, Tekken 6 is still a serious contender in the fighting genre.