• Platform: PS3 + Xbox 360 (PC version tbr Autumn 2012)
  • Reviewed on:Xbox 360

Two battle-hardened warriors step into an arena. In one corner is Street Fighter, Capcom’s tough-as-nails brawler, one of the best-selling game franchises of all time and celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012. Opposing it is TekkenNamco’s younger, darker, more fluidly styled series – lauded by gamers and real-life fighters alike for its realistic appraisal of the martial arts. With Street Fighter X Tekken, the two most established daddies of the combat world cross swords in a hyperactive, over-the-top thrill ride; the question is, however, will either escape with their dignity intact?

PhotobucketIt was certainly a ballsy move on the part of both Capcom and Namco to allow two of their most prized possessions to meet in such a way. Surely pitting two distinct franchises in direct competition will showcase the weak points of one against the other. It’s a decision of mutual admiration and respect, though; first there is Street Fighter X Tekken, designed by Capcom in the 2D style of the former, while sometime in the near future, Namco will take the reigns of Tekken X Street Fighter, using the engine they developed for Tekken 6 in 2009. But, it’s the Capcom iteration that we’re dealing with for the time being…

And what an enticing package it is. You begin the game with an overwhelming selection of 38 different fighters to choose from, and with 12 more downloadable characters available in the near future and a further 5 exclusive-to-PS3 combatants on offer too, there’s little chance you’ll be running out of brawling options anytime soon.

There’s also not much of a likelihood you’ll get tired of seeing all the fighting either. Every bulging bicep and bloody recoil is gloriously animated in a distinctly cel-shaded manner, adding a cartoonish joy to the ultra-violence engulfing your screen. The backgrounds are just as lovingly crafted. Whether you’re battling in a skate park covered in neon-tinted graffiti or under the bright lights of a Japanese carnival, every feature is eye catching to the extreme. The attention to detail is also staggering and there’s even room for cameos in stages from the many minor characters of either series – keep an eye out for Tekken 2’s infamous fighting dinosaur Alex in the backdrop of the Dino Crisis-themed stage. Combine this with a soundtrack that’s equal parts head-banging metal and pumping, lucid techno, and you’ve got, potentially, one of the most absorbing, sugar-fuelled fighting games of all time.

PhotobucketHowever, there’s nothing more integral to the make-up of a good fighting sim than its actual gameplay. So, with this in mind, how does Street Fighter X Tekken handle once you’ve delved beneath its blaring soundtrack and dazzling visual design? Well, sadly, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

On first inspection, the controls for most fighting games are likely to feel alien and unfamiliar – these are, after all, complex combat sims that take a good while to fully understand – and Street Fighter X Tekken is no exception. It’s also an uneasy sensation feeling Tekken characters adapted to the Street Fighter way of doing things; they suddenly feel far clunkier and less realistic than they do in their native franchise. Fortunately, the game’s arcade mode offers a variety of difficulties, from the inherently simple ‘easiest’ level through to the brutal ‘ultra hard’; so, there’s something for everyone here.

The arcade mode’s re-playability is hampered though by ungodly loading times and a distinct lack of unlockables. As mentioned earlier, all the available combatants are either offered to you from the beginning or can be downloaded. So, where is the sense of reward for all the blood, sweat and tears spilled across numerous ruckuses? Truthfully, it’s sadly fleeting. While it may be unfair to expect a masterpiece of storytelling to keep you involved – let’s face it, in most fighting games a plotline is just a thinly-veiled vehicle to accommodate the brawling – it would, at least, be nice to have something more gripping than what is on offer here. It’s as if the mere thrill of humiliating your opponent on the battlefield should be enough to sustain your interest. And there aren’t any better proving grounds for this than in versus mode. After all, what could be more satisfying than pounding a friend to within an inch of their life through a few placed combos and Hadoukens - in the game, that is…

The bread and butter of any good fighting game is found in its multiplayer mode, and it’s ultimately where a lot of its replay value can be extracted from. This is of particular importance in a title such as Street Fighter X Tekken where there’s a distinct lack of unlockables to extend the lifespan of the single player experience. The problem here though is that the game’s multiplayer options are marred by a notable absence of variety; it’s likely to offer a few hours of passing entertainment with a group of friends, but ask for any more and you’re likely to be left disappointed. The limited set of options - which barely pan out beyond simple tag team fights - mean things quickly become repetitive and unsatisfying. Re-playability is slightly improved by a wide selection of characters for each combatant to choose from, but again this can only eek out a bit more enjoyment, and is not enough to redeem how underwhelming it all feels.

Within a few hours of playing Street Fighter X Tekken, it quickly becomes obvious how shallow of an experience it is. A great deal of priority has clearly been placed on the game’s visuals – which are exemplary – but in many other areas, it’s far from fleshed out. The huge character roster isn’t enough to distract from an uncomfortable and clunky control system, particularly when using the Tekken fighters. The storyline – while somewhat excusable for a fighting game – fails to compare to the more subversive experiences available in other recent brawlers (see the astounding Dead or Alive: Dimensions for 3DS). It ultimately feels far more rooted in style than in substance, and when you’ve got two such respected and established franchises involved, this just isn’t good enough.