How Tekken 4 is underrated, 20 years on

In the early 2000’s, the consoles were transitioning to a next-generation. Sony had been hyping up the ‘PlayStation 2’, and many were wondering what Nintendo were going to bring to their ‘Dolphin’ console after the third-party failure of the Nintendo 64.

With 3D graphics now the standard in consoles, it was up to developers to see how they could move their brands from introducing 3D graphics, to working on refining the gameplay, and using the new hardware to its advantage.

A great example of this was Tekken. Tekken Tag Tournament was a launch title, but everyone was waiting for the true next-gen sequel, and in 2002, it arrived in the form of Tekken 4 to muted reception.

It’s hard to follow up on a classic like Tekken 3, but in recent years it’s time to give it another chance. Here’s why.

King of Iron Fist 4

Alongside Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid, Tekken had a storyline which many, including this writer, followed. Tekken 3 ended with Devil Jin flying into the distance, and we wondered whether we’d finally have a playable Devil character again in the fourth entry.

However, as press shots from the arcade version followed throughout 2001, the message seemed to come across that this wasn’t your usual Tekken. Gone were the flat stages, and it was uneven hills and next-gen environments that wouldn’t have been possible on the original PlayStation console.

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Fast forward to its release on the 13th September 2002, and Tekken 4 had a significantly different feel to it. Alongside its uneven stages, the UI looked basic, Tekken Force felt like a downgrade, and there simply weren’t enough characters, especially after having Tekken Tag and its 39 or so characters. Here, just 23 characters, and 17 of these were existing ones.

Reviews at the time weren’t particularly kind. Official PlayStation Magazine had said: “Maybe "Virtua Fighter 4" spoiled things for us all, but there's no arguing that the bar was raised back in March, and Tekken 4 has failed to jump over it.”

READ MORE: Why Tekken Tag 2 should see a remaster on Switch.

A Combot of Tricks

Looking back almost eighteen years on, you only had to look at the quality of games that were being released at the time.

  • Metal Gear Solid 2.
  • Halo.
  • Onimusha 2.
  • Elder Scrolls III.
  • Zelda: Wind Waker
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

The above isn’t a comparison; it’s merely highlighting the calibre of games released at the time. With games taking full advantage of the newer consoles in scope, graphics, AI and gameplay, having a fighting game which improved upon Tekken 3 but in different ways, made it forgotten about. It didn’t have that 2002 ‘Wow Factor’ that many were clamouring for. It was merely refinement. It wasn’t until 2005 when Tekken 5 was released, that critics saw it in a different, and better light.

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Playing it back now, everything just works. The satisfaction of Heihachi, the innovative moves of the boxer Steve Fox, and the music is unparalleled.

Granted, there’s not much innovation on the characters, but every one has had their moves expanded, the detail and animation on each character model greatly improved since Tekken Tag, and with minimal latency between the Dual Shock 2 and Kazuya’s ‘Devil Uppercut’, it all feels tight and fast to play.

It’s a game that I have in my original PlayStation 2 in the office when its a break now and again; out of the three Tekken games that are on the system, Tekken 4 is the one I go back to most.

Of course, I’d love for this and other entries to return in a remastered edition with online versus modes, but for now anyway, Tekken 4 is an example of its time, and has only gotten better with age.

READ MORE: Cadburys Heroes; meet the fighters.

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