After spending time with Tekken Tag Tournament 2 over the weekend I have come to this conclusion: I suck at Tekken. I love fighting games, and every time a new one hits the market, I am the first to go running out to purchase it. I will admit Tekken has never been on the top of my list as a favorite, though I adore Tekken 2 and the original Tekken Tag. That said, I had gotten pretty excited about the arrival of TTT 2. The sheer amount of content and levels of customization sounded spectacular, plus the addition of Fight Lab to teach you the ins and outs of the combat, this game was packed.
What excites me the most every time I boot up the game is just how much there is to see and do. As someone who loves playing fighting games offline as much as online, titles like Mortal Kombat really spoiled me on the amount of content that can be packed in. While TTT 2 lacks a proper story mode, it makes up for it with a bevy of other options that will keep you busy for months.
For example, the arcade mode once again features straight-up CGI endings that wrap up each character’s story. I loved these in previous Tekken games, and felt they got away from it too much over the past few years. The fact that there are over 50 characters, each with their own ending means you will be unlocking these for months on end. I wasn’t able to see if they unlock over time much like the arcade version’s method of unlocking, but I certainly wanted to collect them all. They are gorgeous and highly entertaining.
Customization also plays a large role in the game. You have Tekken Tunes, which lets you change the music for backgrounds and such. You can also customize loading screens to the standard CGI portraits, to more stylized drawings of the characters. Speaking of characters, the full on customization mode from Tekken 6 returns with plenty of new options to dress up your characters. It is evident that they expect you to play a lot to earn money to purchase these items. Some of the prices are insane. You could literally spend 3-4 hours at a time earning enough money for one or two outfits, and that is just for one character.
Fight Lab is a new addition that teaches you the entire spectrum of Tekken’s combat model. You will take Combot through five stages, with each one focusing on a specific game style. For example, one focuses on movement, another attacks and yet another on defense. It really does a great job of teaching you the basics of Tekken. Considering the level of skill the game requires at higher levels, it is imperative to not go in just mashing buttons. This is also one of the downsides for casual players. Whether you drop the Arcade difficulty down to Easy, or try to hop online, this is one fighter not built for simply mashing buttons. The depth here is astounding.
At first glance, TTT 2 is definitely intimidating. The amount of stuff they throw at you in Fight Lab is impressive. Learning how to juggle, bound and string combos together may seem daunting, especially when you consider they are imperative to success. However, after only a couple hours, the basics just clicked. TTT 2 is a tightly knit machine that is balanced extremely well. I am sure exploits and overpowered characters will be found, but on the surface, the team has done an outstanding job of making every character competitive; and with 50+ on the roster (and more planned as DLC) plus a few hidden surprises, that is an impressive feat.
If all that isn’t enough, there are also 25 stages on the disc, so locales are never an issue. Combine all of this with the fact that the developers have promised much more DLC (for free) in the coming months, and you have one hell of a package. Not to mention the pre-order DLC such as the exclusive Snoop Lion stage and song, the extra costumes and early access to the new characters: Kunimitsu, Angel, Michelle Chang and Ancient Ogre. There is more than enough to keep offline gamers playing for a long while.
Of course, what fighting game is complete without online? TTT 2 delivers that experience with your traditional ranked and unranked matches online. In our playtests, things ran buttery smooth with no signs of lag whatsoever. The net code seems optimized, and it will be great to see how it holds up as more and more users start to get online. Probably the biggest addition to the online functionality though is the new website tracking system. Dubbed WTF (World Tekken Federation), this online service allows players to create communities and view their stats from any online-enabled device. The service is a welcome addition and helps players keep tabs on their performance, both online and off.
The game looks good. The variety in stages is impressive, and now characters will collect oil and mud and water on their costumes. There are still some jaggies on the models and weird hit detection on certain objects, but in the heat of battle it is less noticeable. Playing the game in 3D was a neat touch, but the drop in frame rate and resolution really wasn’t worth it. I love the little touches though, such as watching the snow part while also seeing Santa dancing in the background. The stages are truly unique and a lot of fun to play in. Sound is good, with the standard Tekken themes accompanying the game. Voice acting is manageable, but nothing to write home about. Sound effects are pretty much what you have been hearing from the series for years.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is definitely a solid package. The robust cast of fighters, ample amount of stages and sheer plethora of content make it worth the price of admission alone. Factor in the depth of the fighting and promised DLC, and you have a game that could occupy you for a long, long time. The only drawback is the barrier to entry. This is not a game you can jump right into and be successful; dedication is required to learn its ins and outs. Thankfully, it is as rewarding as it is deep, and when it finally does click, the game gets even better. Fighting game fans rejoice; yet another fantastic entry has been thrown into the mix. Even if you have stayed away from the series recently, it is definitely time to jump back in.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.