It's all downhill from there, though. Via some silly, very Japanese Metal Gear Solid-length cutscenes, all using the in-game engine, a story of sorts unravels. New character Lars Alexandersson - the emo - bangs his head and loses his memory while infiltrating the Mishima Zaibatsu. Then it's on to the mode proper, in which you battle waves of generic enemies in inane stages with only clunky, frustrating and fiddly controls for company. The camera's a git, the targeting system's a joke and the environments are dreary - as they were in Tekken Force. Unlike Tekken Force, however, you can pick up and use weapons, like gatling guns - a first for the series - and fight huge, screen-filling robots. They do little to improve matters, though. Some will love Scenario Campaign. Obviously, I do not.
Fans of the traditional Tekken experience will be pleased to learn that "item moves" (character specific moves that use items equipped in the customisation mode) hardly affect the one-on-one game at all. In fact, they're more like elaborate taunts. Some fans had been concerned that Brian Fury shooting a shotgun, Bruce unleashing baby chicks, Asuka using a fan and Paul growing his already spiky blonde hairdo even longer, for example, would be game breaking abilities. Thankfully, item moves do so little damage that they're almost inconsequential. Expect opponents to bust them out online, though, just to take the piss.
Of more consequence are the improvements made to character customisation. You can still dress your favourite Tekken character in ridiculous outfits, change the hairstyles and equip accessories (expect to see some abominations online) as before, but now even more parts of a character can be equipped. While it's never been my cup of tea, fans should find much to fuss over here.
The six new playable characters are largely successful, and bring the total roster to an eye-watering 40 (picking out your character of choice from the tiny mug shots on the player select screen exercises those eyeballs). Bob, a grossly overweight American, is surely a dig at US consumerism (as was SF4's Rufus). He's surprisingly fast and well animated: his karate moves are satisfying and powerful. His massive popularity in arcades should translate to the online arena, where I'm sure he'll quickly establish himself as top tier.
Zafina is another new character who should prove popular, not least because she's gorgeous and the spitting image of Casino Royale starlet Eva Green. Her fighting style is a mesmerising combination of spider-like movements and stiletto jabs. She's got a number of stances, too, which add depth to her repertoire. I found her a tad slow for high level play, but by all accounts she's worth the time to master.
Other new additions fall flat. Alisa Boskonovitch, a cyborg with jet wings, chainsaw arms and a head that can be detached and thrown as a grenade, seems at first overpowered but upon closer inspection lacks the essential Tekken tools to ensure long-term usefulness. The aforementioned Lars is yet another Mishima clone, but less useful than his kin. The feminine Leo (is it a boy or a girl?) and matador Miguel (like most video game Spaniards, he's a bullfighter) are destined, unfortunately, for fighting game obscurity.
As a fan who adores Tekken's superb fighting game system, I can excuse Tekken 6's lack of innovation more readily than others. This is the crux of the matter: if you love Tekken, there's nothing particularly wrong with Tekken 6. It's just that it builds upon the return to form that was Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection (the less said about Tekken 4 the better) so slightly that it's hard to see that it has done so at all. It has the fundamentals down: online play; an impressive set of offline modes including arcade, time trial, survival, practice and ghost; loads of customisation options and, though it pains me to say it, fan service via Scenario Mode. It's got everything required to pass, but nothing required to excel. The graphics are starting to look dated (is noticeable clipping acceptable on Xbox 360 and PS3?), the additions to the system mechanics are uninspiring, the loading's abominable, and it's all too familiar. Even the menus bore.
This does not make Tekken 6 a bad game. It just makes it a tad disappointing. It still soaked up hours of my time as I wrestled with the changes the development team made to my go-to characters: Ling Xiaoyu, Paul Phoenix, Lei Wulong, Asuka Kazama and Heihachi Mishima. Newcomers will still find the game accessible (more so than almost every other fighting game on the market, including SF4), and might even enjoy spectacular success, especially with characters with special moves receptive to button bashing. And veterans will still find the nuanced fighting system rewarding to master and, essentially, pixel perfect. But in a year destined to be remembered as the one that saw the resurgence of the fighting game, Tekken 6's star is too dull to shine brightest.