Quite often we talk about sub-HD resolutions during these face-offs, and usually when one version is running with fewer pixels than the other it is an obviously noticeable bad thing. Tekken 6 is the exception to the rule, and one of the most intriguing cross-format games we've studied in depth for quite some time. On the Xbox 360 at least, you can choose between sub-HD (1024x576) and a native rendering resolution of 1365x768. All you need to do is choose whether you want motion blur active or not.
The PlayStation 3 version of Tekken 6 on the other hand is sub-HD regardless, although you do get bonus anti-aliasing added if you forego the blur, and you don't get that on 360. The full ins and outs of this bizarre situation can be found in this earlier DF blog post, but suffice to say, Tekken 6 goes to show that in very, very rare cases, image quality isn't always just about the resolution. Tekken's additional texture filtering actually gives the sub-HD look on both platforms the edge over the 360 version when it's running in excess of 720p.
For the purposes of the face-off, we'll be sticking to the game's default graphical modes. That means it's motion blur all the way for the comparison video.
While the actual graphics and game content are basically identical across both platforms, Namco does deserve credit for acknowledging and making use of the additional storage offered by the Blu-ray disc format. A lot of the multi-platform releases we cover in the Face-Offs usually fit quite nicely onto a dual-layer DVD. Not so with Tekken 6: the game is a whopping great 20GB up against the more usual 6.7GB of the Xbox 360 dual-layer DVD. So, with an additional 13 gigs used up, where has it gone?
The answer is fairly obvious: Namco has provided two different encodings for its video content depending on the platform. The DVD gets less bandwidth for the video, and a correspondingly lower quality. More than that, on some of the videos (for example the Tekken timeline recap at the beginning of Scenario Mode), frame-rate has been upped from 30FPS on 360 up to 60FPS on PS3.
It's really nice to see some kind of acknowledgement for the storage capabilities of the Blu-ray disc, but it should be stressed that the differences are not hugely significant in the greater scheme of things. Increasing bandwidth on video encoding introduces a law of diminishing returns: doubling the bitrate doesn't double the quality. But regardless, having seen so many games appear in these features with inexplicably lower video quality on the PS3, seeing Namco take the time to make its impressive CG all that it can be is a refreshing change.
There's also another nice touch: similar to Namco's Soul Calibur IV and Ridge Racer 7, PS3 owners get the ability to install the crucial game data to hard disk to speed up loading times. Around 3GB of space is required, and while the install is optional, it's highly recommended because the loading times on both Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are something of a drag.
Gameplay-wise, as someone whose gaming career has encompassed every single Tekken released game to date, I have to admit that it's difficult to find much enthusiasm for what Namco has handed in here. Don't get me wrong - there's very little to choose between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, they're effectively as good as one another, but the palpable lack of innovation is beginning to grind.
The Tekken series used to be an accessible, special-effects fuelled alternative to the more po-faced, ultra-hardcore Virtua Fighter series, and for that we loved it. However, from Tekken 3 onwards the game's focus appears to have narrowed and narrowed - each sequel effectively a revised version of the last with very little in the way of progression, and new features that only the ultra-committed enthusiast is going to get excited about. The refinements and new elements are great for the series' long-time fans, but the actual gameplay itself hasn't really moved on that much. It feels old and moribund, even with the graphical facelift.
Soul Calibur IV managed to get away with the same approach with the inclusion of a powerful, fun character-generation system, but Tekken doesn't even have that, with a customisation system that is pretty limited in comparison. Instead, Tekken's approach has been to pave the way for cheap comeback KOs via the new Rage system. It's also "borrowed" the multi-level stages from Dead of Alive and, um, let you bounce your opponents off the floor for further juggle combos that you can do nothing about if you find yourself on the wrong end of them.
All of this, combined with the clumsy-to-play and graphically quite ugly Tekken Force element (aka Scenario mode) makes this something of a disappointing release. However, if you like the old-school Tekken approach to the fighting game, it's difficult to argue that you won't "get your kicks" from this one - it looks better, the additional fighters are actually new and interesting, all the characters are unlocked from the beginning, and in a genre so bereft of support from the major publishers, Tekken's arrival does feel oddly comforting.