Back when 3D adventure games were still relatively revolutionary, stealth games weren't just innovative, but extremely fashionable. Thanks to Metal Gear Solid nearly every third-person action game to this day features at least a few moments of sneaking along walls and learning enemy guards' movement patterns.
But long before stealth had been milked dry, there was Tenchu, a PSone adventure set in the mystical world of feudal Japan. Rather than exploring the role of the Ninja through the bloodshed and bravado heavily featured in martial arts movies, Tenchu instead focussed on the Eastern assassins as silent and deadly creatures who move only in the shadows.
The result was a game packed with tension, drama and atmosphere, all of which are lacking terribly from the dreadful Tenchu Z. The pretence of a next-gen Tenchu is an enticing one, so it is a real shame that the latest in the series is such a poor quality game.
The first part of the game that is striking is the visual style. A tired and lazy front end acts as an ineffective buffer to the in-game graphics, which shock with their low quality. While glossy and shiny on the surface, every character is lacking in detail, and is completely devoid of both quality textures and believable movement. The levels - which are sparse, banal and unchanging - are no better, and at best the whole game has the look of a middling quality PlayStation 2 release, coated in a hastily applied layer of varnish.
The gameplay is no better, and completely undermines the concept of stealth as nail biting and exciting. Waiting in the shadows for your moment to pounce seems too much like a game of luck, and a limited combat system means that other than the stealth kills, most of the offensive moves feel clumsy and clunky.
The HUD has some very tidy elements, such as the light meter, that lets you gauge the worth of your current hiding place, and a counter that lets you keep a covert eye on the distance to your nearest enemy, but they are nothing fans of stealth won't have seen elsewhere.
Sadly the action is continually repetitive and constantly marred by the potency of the game's weak points, which plague you from beginning to end. On occasion the more considered stealth kills, which might see you striking your katana sword through a lightweight screen into the silhouette of an unwitting foe, can be thrilling, but those moments are all too rare.
A sloppy co-operative mode adds little to the overall experience, and a laughably restrictive customisation mode is the final nail in the coffin for this dreadful game. If you're a die-hard Tenchu fan, or happen to have never played a 3D stealth game before, there might be something here for you, but otherwise steer well clear.