Admittedly, hearing the words ‘free-to-play’ and ‘Tekken’ in the same breath felt like cause for concern, but whilst a few upset fans seem certain that the franchise is ‘doomed’, there could well be more to Namco’s latest PlayStation 3 exclusive than first meets the eye.
Tekken Revolution comes just ten months after the EU release of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which was this year revealed to have fallen 200,000 copies short of its 1.7million unit shipping target. Ten months leaves little time for any development team to create a game their company can be proud of, and much to the disdain of the hardcore among us, it shows.
With the knowledge that Revolution relies primarily on ferrying network data all about the place, an internet connection is a necessity regardless of the selected mode. After scrolling through (and probably ignoring) a lengthy agreement, players are greeted with the familiar presence of a ‘press start’ screen which feels notably more nostalgic than those of games gone by. No special effects, no sparkly bits, do not pass ‘GO’, do not collect £200 – yet it somehow puts a smile on your face.
Following that is an attractive piece of seemingly-unofficial Lars Alexandersson artwork. Lars and his gravity-defying hairdo would purport to be a bad omen in this case however; many players have reported struggling to pass the dreaded ‘data upload’ box on top of other various connectivity issues. This one in particular appears to be the most common and, as a result, the most irritating. With a bit of luck (and patience) the menu should make an appearance, but this problem has also been known to occur during game play. When you consider the implications of a failed data upload – a loss of Arcade or Battle Coins, which are required to play the game in the first place and are very limited – this is an issue in dire need of being fixed, which has the double issue of hammering home the idea that, no, we’re not sitting in front of a PSOne preparing to while away the entire day playing Tekken 2 with our bestest best friend. Online problems and hoo-hah aside, it’s time to take some names.
The game is structured primarily around gaining experience and increasing stats, character by character, with a playable roster of 12, 4 of which require unlocking – nothing new there. The roster should notably vary in terms of tier, but their move lists have now been tweaked to optimise play for newcomers and fans-of-old looking to rekindle their love for the series. Powerful signature moves are equally easier to input yet fights can feel unusually sluggish from time to time. When you peel back the ‘everyone loves a freebie’ façade it doesn’t take much to realise that worryingly-missed sales targets for TTT2 could have been the reason for such a drastic change. Again, the hardcore gamers don’t seem to be so accepting.
Arcade mode is just that – Arcade mode. Only this time you cannot play an unlimited number of games. One Arcade Coin is required to play a painfully easy set of eight traditional two-round matches against the computer, and no, you cannot change the difficulty setting.
Players are able to hold just 2 Arcade Coins and 5 Battle Coins at a time. Here’s where the game doesn’t feel so ‘free’ any more; achievement tokens called Premium Tickets can be used in place of Arcade and Battle Coins when none are available, but are only obtainable by winning bouts. Otherwise in true free-to-play fashion, Premium Coins can be purchased from the PlayStation store. They work in the exact same way and reward players with an EXP boost if matches are lost or additional coins or tickets if they are won. Don’t worry – it’s not as confusing as it sounds. If spending money to play a game that yourself or your friends may well already own isn’t your thing, though, Arcade and Battle Coins replenish once every hour and every thirty minutes respectively. You’ll just have to sit tight.
Playing for the first time is like physically visiting an arcade with a few quid in your back pocket, only to find that unlike the Tekken of old, the new AI will do anything but hand your arse to you in the closing stages. Even Ogre’s lost his mojo – what’s up with that? Nonetheless, Namco have been courteous enough to grace players an entirely new set of trophies to unlock.
Player Match and Ranked Match modes also make a comeback in this instalment. Like Arcade mode they require coins – Battle Coins this time – to go a single match with another player. Luckily the watered-down input system can occasionally have matches swing either way regardless of one’s prowess. It feels less segregatory and much, much friendlier than the norm, and the servers look to be holding up swimmingly with very little lag even when battling folks from across the pond.
Another move towards opening the beat-’em-up floodgates to a wider demographic is the direction in which the soundtrack has wandered. Tekken has always been renowned for its quirky audio, but Revolution sees that edge somewhat filed down to a blunt collection of tracks that feel a little stunted and pop-esque, more Bieber than Beat ’em Up with a little Skrillex thrown in for good measure. Whilst the soundtrack certainly isn’t downright bad, it’s arguably the worst of the series. Then again, Namco clearly aren’t looking to win any awards here.
Graphics-wise almost nothing has changed. In fact, Revolution recycles stages and animations from TTT2 with the occasional overlaying colour filter, a little reminiscent of Instagram, to stir things up. The game boasts something of a kind-of Street Fighter style outline to its animations and characters, too, and Motion Blur is still an option when fiddling about with the game’s settings. That said, there’s nothing here to write home about.
Overall, Tekken Revolution is a nice little gift for gamers that have never found the franchise nor genre especially interesting. The title is apt in that, yes, it is the first fighter of its kind and, yes, rival companies are following suit in the months to come (cough, cough – Tecmo). Namco have been lucky and innovative enough to test the waters first, but innovation can be risky. Whilst the game has worked well in introducing newcomers to the series, it’s floundered in other aspects where the development team has previously been praised. It would be wise to purchase an older, deeper, significantly more affordable entry from the series and give that a shot first, or if you already own a more recent Tekken title, play that instead.