If you were to ask me what my favourite fighting franchise is, I’d be hard pushed to give you a definite answer. Whilst I gushed about my love for Street Fighter in my review of the latest one, I’ve got as much love for Tekken too. I wonder if this is what being a parent is like, having to choose…
Anyway, Tekken 8 is here, Bandai Namco’s latest, current-gen offering into the also-long-running franchise. Bringing that solid, impactful fighting with a huge roster, new tweaks and the ongoing Mishima/devil story arc, Tekken 8 is showing us that it’s still got the chops.
So, is it worth it for those that know their King’s from Kazuya’s, can pronounce Hwoarang properly, and prefer aerial juggling over hadoukens? Let’s find out.
Rule With An Iron Fist
If you’re not up to scratch with what’s been going on in Tekken games, don’t worry: neither am I. Oh sure, I love the fighting but stories in beat ’em ups have got so muddled and messy over the years they almost make Metal Gear Solid look like a simple tale.
In the broadest terms, the Mishima’s are at it again. But rather than this be over something petty like a Christmas argument, this is international and supernatural. Kazuya Mishima, Jin’s father and son of Heihachi Mishima has gone full devil mode and waged war against… pretty much everyone.
The intro battle sees Jin getting his ass kicked by his pops, because we need somewhere to start a new story. Kazuya then threatens the world to send its best national fighters. Why, you’re wondering?
Well, because of the King of Iron Fist tournament, of course. The whole framing device for the series. The catch this time is should a country’s fighter lose, that country gets wiped out. Oh yes, the stakes for beating the shit out of each other are even higher now.
Am I generalising and being glib about it? Yes, of course. But at the end of the day, it’s a fighting game. Stories are always daft, secondary to the fighting and who’s doing it. So let’s look into those bits instead.
Who’s Tekken The Crown?
The measure of any decent fighting game is the roster, and over the years Tekken has always fulfilled. From cyborgs, demons, dinosaurs and bears, it’s been no slouch when it comes to creativity. Sadly, there’s no Gon in 8’s stable, but there’s more than enough to pique anyone’s interest. Thirty two fighters right off the bat is a good start, with more planned over DLC. But don’t worry, I’m not getting on my soapbox… yet.
For those of us that grew up with Tekken, most of the old gang are here. Paul and Law, the Williams sisters (the assassins, not the tennis players), funky ninja Yoshimitsu and, because why not, both Panda and Kuma. There’s a new version of the Jack robot, whilst Alisa still looks like the same model.
Later series stalwarts like Dragunov, Feng and Raven are here too, for those who cut their teeth late and prefer these. But it wouldn’t be a fighter without new blood, with Tekken 8 introducing:
- Victor – a French spy armed with sharp weapons and sharper suits
- Azucena – a Peruvian ball of enthusiasm
- Reina – an unknown figure with mysterious glowing hand
Victor plays as a sort of mix between John Wick and Christian Bale’s Preston from Equilibrium, Azucena fights similar to BJJ athlete Laura from SFV (now absent in 6), whilst Reina is… all spooky and mysterious. I haven’t sank much time into her, but I’ve come up against a few online. Can confirm: her Rage Art is super cheap.
Of course, there will be more fighters along the way. Eddy Gordo is coming as the first Year One fighter, so who else might be back? Dr. Bosconovitch, Marduk, someone entirely new…? We shall see.
The Glory Of Destruction
The other thing that needs to convince us is just how visually appealing the fighting is. Yes, I know graphics aren’t everything, and we’ll look at the actual fighting too, but it helps. If this was just Tekken 7 again, we’d wonder how much bang we were getting for our buck. Fortunately, Tekken 8 is a step up in the visuals as much as it is the kick-punching.
Bear in mind I’m playing Tekken 8 on a 50-something inch Philips Ambilight TV, which has all the 120hz and 1440p settings on. Again, this ain’t Digital Foundry so don’t expect intricacies. In short, this game is bold. Bold as in “bright, colourful and sharp to look at”.
Scenery destruction looks fresh, muscles are taut and clothing flows as… well, it should. But it’s not just the objects together that pop, the actual fighting looks beautiful too. Trading blows is all well and good, but hitting a nicely timed counter, causing that zoomed-in slow-mo is a visual treat. As are the Rage Arts and newly introduced Rage Splashes, which we’ll look at now…
Channel That Rage
Compared to the likes of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, Tekken’s special moves have always been a bit… well, grounded. Oh sure, there’s charge punches and technical throw combos, but never much in the way of projectiles. Well, at least not in the early days. Alisa throwing her robo-head is certainly a more recent addition. As are Rage Arts, a super special move that can be activated when health is sufficiently low enough. These are the spectacle, the cutscene-triggering moves that deal heavy damage when they land.
But now that these are a staple, something new has been added: the Heat System. Similar to the Rage Art/Drive system, Heat instead starts as a full bar under the life gauge. When triggered, Heat enhances certain attacks and moves. Or, if one is feeling saucy, hitting the right input (or R1 for ease) sets off a mini Rage Art, of sorts. King’s, for example, is a nice little air smasher than can be linked to a launch move. It’s not as brutal as a Rage Art, but it can tip the scales a fair bit.
Rage Drive is more passive, dealing more damage per attack when health hits 25% or lower. If you’re clever, one can hit a few attacks and then use Rage Art, or even link that after a Heat Smash for some proper punishment. Again, the best thing to do is play around with it.
King Of The World
So, you’ve got the Rage and the Drive and all the fighting game lingo down, what else is there to do with it? Besides play out the scripted story mode, where can one show off their pugilistic prowess? As with any fighting game, the real mettle is tested against other players. Player Matches are there for those that want different opponents without worrying about skill level too much, whilst Ranked is bragging rights territory.
Those familiar with Tekken ranks (or from Virtua Fighter as I remember it) will know the drill: earn points, have a better sounding word under your profile header. Fortunately, players can add some restrictions to online play. Searching a similar rank field is nice, as is disabling crossplay for worry of any input/format lag. Not saying there is any to my knowledge, but I’m sure someone will blame losing on that.
There’s also practice modes, for the obvious. But weirdly making its return, from Tekken 3 [at least to my recall] is Tekken Ball! That’s right, that quirky volleyball mode is back, because… I’m sure someone missed it? The caveat for those that haven’t played it: it’s not traditional volleyball. Instead, attacks power up the ball and it causes damage on impact. The harder the move, the more damage the ball does. Try it, it’s infuriatingly fun.
These Streets Look Familiar…
If there’s one mode that didn’t interest me in the slightest, it’d be the Arcade Quest mode. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re back in my Street Fighter 6 review, this is a shot from Tekken 8. Yes, it looks like someone on the development team saw World Tour mode and thought, “Hmm, we can do that too”.
Except, they can’t. Whereas World Tour is a fleshed out, Shenmue-esque affair, Arcade Quest is all the extras without motive. Dress up however you want, cool. Run around a bit and go to the shops, or sit at an arcade cabinet and play someone. It’s novel, but it’s the exact same thing you can do from the main menu. The shops literally take players to the same customisation pages, there’s no difference in just doing that.
You don’t even have to approach an arcade cabinet to challenge someone. Fights can be started anywhere, which again begs the question of why we need to come here in the first place. Oh, you spent all of your fight money on a chibi Nina Williams costume? Alright, good for you, eh?
But then, that’s just curmudgeonly old me. I’m simple, I like simple fight modes. Arcade Quest is completely optional and free, so the least one can do is have a pop at it.
Pound That Iron Fist
To wrap this up, because more fools need to feel the wrath of my King online, Tekken 8 is absolutely fantastic. It is Tekken in its purest form: the fighting is as refined as can be, the match-making fair and the roster diverse enough to attract new fans and the old from the woodwork.
In terms of any setbacks or technical issues, the only noticeable moments were a few stutters on character selection, when loading the 3D player render. Otherwise, netcode seemed stable enough, no crashes and bar the odd international moment of lag, the process was flawless.
The core gameplay is solid, and I’m sure the story is equally fulfilling for if/when I get around to it. There’s the usual insane amount of character customisation available, and I’ve already seen some “interesting” ones online. I said I’d get on my soapbox about paid DLC characters, so I will: it’s still a bullshit practice, especially for recurring fighters. But then, I am but one person, this will never change.
At the end of the day Tekken 8 is fantastic and, dare I say it, better than Street Fighter 6 for me. Whilst SF has changed this iteration for better, the fact that Tekken hasn’t, only improved, feels like lacing up an old boxing glove. The only punishment in Tekken 8 is what you put yourself through. Easy options for story and fun are there, but those who seek challenge will meet their match(es).
Tekken 8 is the pinnacle of series progression: it’s not trying to reinvent in the wheel, just make it shinier and a smoother ride. With absolutely gorgeous visuals, punch-perfect fighting and a huge roster to play with, this is GOTY for beat ’em ups already.
Tekken 8 is available now on PlayStation 5 (review platform), Xbox Series S|X and PC via Steam.
Developer: Tekken Project
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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