Tekken 4

Release date: 13 September 2002
Developer: Namco
Publisher: SCEE


Take up the ultimate fighting challenge - the Iron Fist tournament.

The costumes have been ordered, the invitations have been sent - Heihachi's throwing another Iron Fist tournament! The seemingly eternal baddie who must be drawing his pension by now, has hatched a very strange plan to obtain some DNA from his son, Kazuya, and use it to help fuse his own DNA with that of his nemesis, Ogre. Unfortunately for our ancient anti-hero, getting within swabbing distance of Kazuya could be difficult, following a disagreement that ended up with father throwing son into a volcano in the original Tekken game. The only solution is to throw yet another Iron Fist bash, in the full knowledge that Kazuya won't be able to resist the opportunity to humiliate Daddy in public.

So, once again we see a procession of familiar faces (and a handful of newcomers) locked in visually stunning hand-to-hand combat, set in a number of beautiful locations. The gameplay will be familiar to Tekken veterans, but there have been many subtle changes to the game mechanics to make the sparring more fluid. Throw in the new sideways scrolling Tekken Force mode, tighter levels that require you to use the scenery to your advantage, and a sprinkling of next-generation graphical magic, and you've got the makings of a classic beat 'em up experience. Round four.... FIGHT!

Tekken veterans will be pleased to see the introduction of three new characters to the Iron Fist arena. There's Craig Marduk, a mysterious Vale Tudo fighter; Christie Monteiro, master of Capoeria; and Steve Fox, a British boxer. They all pack a mean punch, and line up alongside familiar names such as Yoshimitsu, Jin Kazama, Paul Phoenix and Nina Williams (among others) in an impressive roster of 19 playable fighters.

The actual business of getting stuck in is still achieved with the four face buttons, each corresponding to a fighter's limb. Within that structure, however, there have been significant changes to the way some characters respond, meaning that experienced players will have to relearn a lot of their skills. The game also has a new emphasis on enclosed areas, with some of the levels taking place in small walled-off environments. New dodge moves have been included to help you manoeuvre effectively at close quarters, which can be absolutely devastating in battle - if used properly.

Another welcome addition is the Tekken Force mode, an upgraded take on the side-scrolling beat-em-up game found in Tekken 3. Choose your character, and enter a 3D arena littered with enemy grunts, followed by a battle with one of the main Tekken characters. Although not that spectacular to look at, it's great fun and a useful way to sharpen up your pugilistic skills. This can also be done in the option-heavy Training mode, which can be tailored in a myriad of ways to suit your training needs. The other play modes consist of Story, Arcade/Time Attack, Team Battle, Survival, Practice, and Theatre mode, which allows you to view all the movies for each character (once unlocked, of course).

Tekken 4 leaves little to be desired. It's got new characters, new visuals, new play modes, and beat 'em up gameplay that's been carefully refined over the last seven years; the end result is a complete package that looks superb and plays to match. The new, claustrophobic level designs add a fresh tactical dimension to the gameplay, and there are still plenty of sprawling, open ended arenas to fight in, should the new style not be to your taste. No matter how you like to fight, you'll find a character to suit your style, and with the extensive training and practice modes, there's plenty of opportunity to get to grips with their myriad special moves. All things considered, It's the perfect refinement of the Tekken fighting blueprint - until Tekken 5 comes along, at least.

  • 19 playable characters, including old-favourites and some new faces

  • Take on multiple opponents at once in the 3D side scrolling Tekken Force mode

  • Stunning new level backdrops add a new tactical dimension to battles