More noise than signal

Tekken 5 — Playstation 2

Within around four minutes of loading up Tekken 5 on your PS2, at least assuming you skip the traditional impressively rendered and entirely pointless intro sequence’s attempt to graft a semblance of storyline onto a genre that really doesn’t need it, you will meet with the inescapable, title case demanding thought that, “This Is Certainly More Tekken“.

Not that “More Tekken” is necessarily a terrible thing, but I can’t help but wonder exactly who was hanging on tenterhooks for another minorly updated revision of Namco’s long running, bafflingly popular pugilist simulator. ‘Popular’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘best’ and it’d be a brave man who nails their colours to the Tekken mast for the latter. It retains the usual spit ‘n’ polish the series normally has lavished upon it, with the exception of the rough-around-the-edges Tekken Tag Tournament, and carries out the usual incremental upgrade threat of being slightly prettier, slightly shinier and a few more characters slapped into the box.

If I’m going to have the nerve to call this a review, I suppose I’d better at least mention the game mechanics. You select a character and punch, kick and throw an opponent character in a vaguely unsatisfying way while trying to ignore the silly translucent explosions of colour that accompany every hit to mask the fact that it still doesn’t look like characters are making contact even after umpteen years of development. If you hurt your opponent more than they hurt you, you win and go on to the next round. Repeat this often enough and you win.

Surprising, this is not. Also, Yoda, I am not so why write I this like know I not. Anyhoo, why do we play fight-o-games? As much as we’d like to think of it as a pure test of skill and reflex, really it’s all about the staisfying crunching of bone and skelping of the head. Thing is, Tekken 5, in common with all of its predecessors, has an annoying, floaty, indifferent fight engine that never looks, sounds and thus feels like there’s any pain being dealt out which really stymies proper bloodlust. The entire series has never once made me dole out a sympathetic “ouch” on behalf of my poor little pummeled avatar, something even games as geriatric as Last Bronx can achieve.

I am not, I suppose, the best person to tell you about any intricacies and tweaks made to the game engine. I’ve long considered Tekken to be Virtua Fighter‘s clunky, unwieldy, sluggish, tactically naive younger brother and Tekken 5 proves not to make much of a dent in that opinion. Hell, Tekken even struggles to make it into my top 3D fighters, with VF, Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive all being a damn sight faster, fluid and fun. It’s probably better than King Of Fighters: Maximum Impact and Street Fighter EX. Just.

What colours my judgements on this game more than anything else is that after two hours of uneventful, uninspiring play I felt I’d seen quite enough of it. A few more hours confirms this. It’s just More Tekken, and by this point in my life I think I’ve seen Enough Tekken. Unless the inevitable next-next-next generation Tekken 6 does something radically different, I suspect that this will be my Last Tekken.

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