Monday, September 24, 2012

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Review

Written by Xav Perez

The original Tekken Tag Tournament debuted in 2000 as a PS2 launch title and whilst it wasn't a numbered title in the series it was very well recieved by fans. Now 12 years later, we find ourselves playing the sequel to that game. After spending some time with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 I can honestly say that I have no interest in playing regular Tekken anymore.

Tekken Tag 2 isn't a main entry in the series, in fact in terms of story it's not even really part of the series cannon but don't be fooled in thinking any less of Tekken Tag 2 because it's actually a better game for it. Tekken Tag 2 isn't here to impress you with it's gimmicky extra modes, its story, unlockables or customizing options but instead with its huge roster of 50 plus characters, tag team element and generally balanced gameplay. 

Upon booting the game and exploring the menus you won't find anything beyond the usual as far as the genre goes; the usual line up of arcade, ghost battle, vs battle, team battle, time attack, survival and practice modes all show up and are all pretty self explanatory. Pair play however is a mode that allows up to four players to get in on the action with teams of two going at it or even two on one matches if someone in the room is feeling brave.

There's also the expected online component to the game and thankfully it's nothing like the horrible one featured in Tekken 6. Instead Tekken Tag 2 borrows the SoulCalibur V netcode to ensure that online battles are as smooth as possible and I'm happy to report that it works just as great as it did in that game. You'll no doubt run into the odd lag-ridden match here and there but generally speaking your online battles won't differ too much from your offline ones. 

Something the Tekken team have added over SoulCalibur V is the ability to do a little sparring whilst the game searches for an oppponent, once it's found someone you'll receive a pop up showing you the opponent's connection strength and disconnect history. 

The game can also linked to the website "World Tekken Federation", which is something similar to the Elite service offered by Call of Duty, it's basically a glorified stat tracking site but only the more hardcore Tekken players will find any use for it.

Perphaps the main new mode of Tekken Tag 2 is the Fight Lab where you play as android robot by the name of Combot and tackle various challenges designed to teach you how to play the game. On paper it sounds like a great tutorial mode to help new players acquaint themselves with the series but in reality it's useless as it's more interested in telling an amusing short story than it is actually teaching the player anything to help improve their game knowledge and skills.

It's a missed oppourtunity as the fighting genre is one that isn't very friendly to newcomers and a mode like Fight Lab done right could of helped remedy that. As far as Tekken Tag 2 is concerned you're better off reading forums, watching YouTube videos and getting your ass handed to you online.

Visually, the game is actually somewhat of a mixed bag at times as image quality hurts what is otherwise a fine looking title. Maybe just a personal opinion but for me the character models in Tekken 6 just looked off, in particular the faces looked a little odd to the point where I actually prefered how they looked in Tekken 5 even if they obviously were not as advanced. Thankfully Tekken Tag 2 "fixes" this issue and now characters actually look how I expect them to look and by that I mean they look much closer to their promotion art renditions.

Tekken 6 vs Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Tekken Tag 2 animates beautifully and unlike Tekken 6 the motion blur effect no longer kills your resolution so you might as well keep it on this time round. What is strange however is during online battles all animated background details are gone instead leaving a static version of what is sometimes a lively environment. If this somehow removes Snoop Dogg from the background then I can't help but think of it as a blessing in disguise.

The technical shortcomings continue revolving around the image quality the game outputs. Any time a character outside the original two joins the fight on screen the resolution drops on the fly to help keep the framerate locked at 60. To be really honest most players won't even notice it intially but once you do it's one of those things that can be a little distracting.
Speaking of distracting Tekken Tag 2 also takes another shortcut when it comes to anti aliasing in that there isn't any. If anything damages the visuals most it's this. There isn't a single fight that goes by where I don't notice my Jun's jagged looking hair, which is a shame because outside the resolution drops and aliasing issues Tekken Tag 2 is a nice looking game.

So what do you do when your engine is already taxing the hardware?, well you add support for 3D TVs of course. Yes, Tekken Tag 2 features a 3D mode which actually looks pretty cool but you lose the motion blur and the framerate likes to hover around the 40-60 range so think of it as nothing more than a peak into the future.

In terms of sound and music Tekken Tag 2 fairs much better than it's visuals though as usual it's the sound effects that steal the show. Outside Dej Jam Fight For New Year you won't find a fighter with more impact than Tekken and that's directly due to the sound effects, moves and strikes just have a very satisfying "smack" sound to them. The music is basically what you've come to expect from Tekken, a couple of catchy tracks but nothing that rivals Tekken 2 & 3. 

This is where Tekken Tunes comes in, it's a mode that allows you to take music stored on your hard drive and select it to play in whatever stage you wish. It's custom soundtracks but embedded directly into the game so it plays in all the right spots rather than constantly over the whole game. The soundtracks to earlier Tekken games are expected to make an appearance via DLC in future so you'll be able to cherry pick all your favourite tunes to make Tekken Tag 2 the ultimate Tekken game as if the 50 plus characters wasn't enough.

By the time all the character DLC is out Tekken Tag 2 will actually feature 60 characters, pretty much everyone outside the stupid Nancy robot and silly dragon no one liked from Tekken 6 return. Well the little dinosaur Gon from Tekken 3 is also missing but if Goldeneye 007 taught us anything it's that no one likes the midget Odd Job characters, besides Gon is a licensed property to those not in the know so it's not worth the effort anyway.

Going all the way back to the start of this review I mentioned that after playing Tekken Tag 2 I don't want to go back to regular Tekken so allow me to tell you why this might be my new favourite entry in the series.

Tekken Tag 2 is a fighting game, you press buttons, cool stuff happens, people get hurt, good times. Tekken Tag 2 sticks to the usual formula of having buttons represent your character's limbs so two buttons are left punch & right punch while the other two represent left kick & right kick. You combine these attacks in certain combinations to create combo strings, ideally whilst your opponent is in the air to create juggles and on a basic level this is how Tekken works.

What Tekken Tag 2 does is make things more interesting by having a tag partner with you meaning you no longer have to master one character but two. In addition you'll also have to learn how make use of the tag system in order to maximum your combo damage potential and this alone will lead to hours of fun just experimenting with all the different possibilities. 

There are some tag features added in such as tag throws which allows you to perform a double team attack on the opponent but if they are fast enough they can call in their partner to make the save which is always entertaining to see. Direct tag assault calls in your partner after performing a bound move which bounces the opponent into the air so they can land a couple of hits before you return in order to land the final blows of the juggle.

Should you decide to dive deeper you'll notice the rage system from Tekken 6 makes a return though it's a little different this time round. Because it's a tag team based game the rage system is now activated at different times depending on what team you've decided to do battle with. If two characters like each other in terms of the story then if one of them is getting damaged badly then rage for the other will kick in sooner. Should two characters hate each other then they will wait until the partner is almost dead before they start to care, it's a little small touch but it's things like these that make Tekken Tag 2 a more interesting game than the regular Tekkens. 

Finally, tag crash allows you to call in your partner at in an attacking state in order to break up the action but both players lose the amount of red health they can recover so obviously only resort to this when you really need it. Basically, when you're getting wall combo-ed to death. As you can see there's just more to consider in Tekken Tag 2 than regular Tekken such as when do you tag in: do your characters get along, what's their combo potential, will the tag crash pay off?

Despite the extra features mentioned above Tekken Tag 2 still plays like Tekken at it's core and if we go by releases rather than names this is actually the 8th Tekken game. One can't help but feel that Tekken Tag 2 is about as good as the current Tekken formula is ever going to get so for the next entry in the series the team should really look into taking some risks and stop playing it safe.

When all is said and done however, your enjoyment of Tekken Tag 2 will be based on how much you like the series. If you're a fan then consider it the ultimate Tekken game. There's so many characters and tag team possibilities that I can see this one being played even after Namco release future Tekken titles. If you're not a fan of the series then it's not going to win you over but even then I doubt you would pass up the chance to play a few casual matches with the 4-player pair play mode.

Reviewed on: Xbox 360