When a new fighting game in a series comes out, it has the universal burden of introducing enough new additions that justify the new installment while still giving its fans the feeling that they’re playing the same game they’ve been playing for years. It’s a tough equation to balance, but when done just right can make that new fighting game feel like the best the series has ever seen. Street Fighter did it last year, and now it’s Tekken’s turn.
- Heat system adds dynamism to the game’s already strong combat system
- The game feels, sounds, and looks amazing
- Arcade Quest, Special Style controls, and robust tutorials make it accessible to the masses
- Character Creations should have been expanded upon
- Tekken Ball is just there
It’s about time, too, as Tekken is a series that has kept dishing out new titles for years, and while each entry has seen its set of improvements and tweaks, none has achieved the same level of refinement as Tekken 8. Add in a new fighting game mechanic, a solid roster of 32 characters, and new modes that make the game accessible to the masses, and you have a game that not only provides the quintessential Tekken experience but also gives series veterans something new to swoon over. Not to mention, it looks beautiful, plays smoothly, and gives you so many ways to leave your own mark on the game.
A Fresh yet Nostalgic Tekken
Tekken 8 feels like Tekken—and that's a good thing. If you’re new to the series, the game features the same combat system that previous titles have perfected meaning you’ll still be dishing out combos, moving in all directions around the stage, punishing your opponents against walls, and juggling them to eternity with a fluid array of special moves. It’s a game that keeps you on your toes with how fast it plays, but also gives you room to breathe and strategize your next move. Act too brash, and your opponent can easily counter your move, throw you if you leave yourself open, or pull a reversal attack that flows into a devastating air combo leading to your doom. It’s a game that rewards risk but also caution.
When it comes down to it, Tekken 8 knows what has worked for it in the past so why mess with it? Saying the game feels exactly the same as its predecessor, however, would be a disservice to the subtle and major improvements that make this latest entry feel superior to the rest. It may play like the Tekken you know and love, but there’s definitely work that’s been done to its combat system to make it even better than before.
Its new Heat system, for example, shakes things up a lot and gives both you and your opponent added power whenever you want during a match. You start every round with a full Heat meter so when and how you use it is completely up to you. Not only does Heat enhance some of your character's existing moves, it also restores some of your health when you use it. This is huge for both players as it can turn the tide of a battle in an instant.
Keeping Things Toasty
Heat also opens up a unique attacked called Heat Smash, which is essentially a powerful special move that can be pulled off whenever you want. You can string combos into this or simply unleash it when your opponent is open like you would a Critical Art—the difference here is that you don’t need to wait until your health is low to dish it out. And as mentioned before, triggering Heat gives you some health back making you quite lethal if you know how to effectively use it.
You can trigger Heat simply by pressing one button and pressing that same button again to trigger a Heath Smash. A more technical transition into Heat involves performing a special move called a Heat Trigger which can also be linked to a Heat Dash if you simply want to use it to extend your combos. Not only does this let you pull off insanely long and strong attacks against your opponent, but it also gives players their own way of playing with this newfound power depending on their skill level or play style.
More advanced players will appreciate the Heat Dash mechanic, but newer players will like how easily they can pull off devastating moves with just the touch of a button. Not only does it make the game more accessible, but Heat is also what makes your attacks feel fast, aggressive, and more impactful than its previous iterations. And while Tekken 8 gives you new ways to speed up combat, this is still decisive game that rewards knowing your opponent and your fighter very well.
A Spectacle in the Ring
The starting roster this time gives you 32 fighters to choose from including three new characters that bring their own flair to the ring. What’s great about Tekken’s roster is that there has always been a character for everyone, and even if you’ve been following the game from the beginning, you’ll appreciate the subtle new moves each character has that makes them feel new without ruining their familiar essence.
Nina, for example, still has her quick kicks and punches that you combo together, but play her for a few minutes and you’ll realize she has gained new segues to her launchers and some of her combos are completely different. She still feels like Nina and performs the majority of her old moves, but learning her new attack patterns and follow-ups made the game feel new again. It also makes you want to spend time with each character even more to fully explore all their changes and develop your own combos and attack transitions.
Being developed using Unreal Engine 5 also means that all characters received new models and animations, making them truly feel new despite their familiar moves and attack patterns. You know what you’re getting into when fighting a Xiaoyu player, but then seeing her new moves, updated design, and even hearing her new voice lines really hits you and makes you realize how fresh the game truly is. Plus, it also doesn’t hurt that Tekken 8 just looks amazing. All of the sweat, dust, and grime on your character after an intense brawl just add to the realism. Stages also range from the peculiar to the spectacular, with each one having unique details that I kept discovering the more I played.
Even the game’s soundtrack is top notch. Tekken 7 let you pick whatever song you wanted from past games to play during its many stages. This jukebox is back in Tekken 8, but I’ll admit that each stage’s default song is so good there’s no need to substitute them out for anything unless you simply want some classic tunes to play while you fight. While I will always hold the track Moonlit Wilderness in high regard, Sanctum may just give it a run for its money. Suffice it to say, the game’s presentation is a cut above the rest.
It also doesn’t hurt that Tekken 8 comes with a wealth of modes to play through such as its Dark Awakens single-player story mode that sees a fitting conclusion to Jin and Kazuya’s father-son feud. It features three hours of mainly Jin-related battles, which could get stale if you’re not a Jin player, but it does also feature appearances by other characters and some beat-em-up sequences. You can definitely appreciate the developers putting a bow on their decades-long conflict, but the mode also opens up some interesting plotline ideas for the game’s newest fighter Reina.
There really is a lot to love about Tekken 8, and the great thing is how familiar the game still feels while constantly impressing you with everything that’s new and shiny. This is a new generation of Tekken that is sure to keep you hooked for a very long time.
For a more traditional arcade mode, the game also offers Character Stories which showcases your selected fighter as they go through five rounds fighting through rivals and fighters they know. It’s rather straightforward, but you can appreciate some humorous interactions you’ll see before a fight starts even if there isn’t much in the form of substance. Tekken Ball, the quirky—and janky—mode that mixes volleyball with Tekken, also returns and is similar in that it’s there for nostalgic and comedic effect, but isn’t the game’s strongest addition.
My favorite mode, however, was Arcade Quest as it lets you customize your own avatar and make you way through various arcades to fight other computer players, rank up your favorite fighter, and even unlock customization gear to match your style. This mode also acts as the game’s interactive tutorial, great for all skill levels looking to learn the new features of Tekken 8’s combat system, something previous games didn’t have. This mode makes it easy for anyone to start playing Tekken for the first time and get a generous rundown of all the game’s mechanics, both new and old ones, as well as fight off against increasingly difficult computer fighters before making their way online to fight real people.
When you do go online, the game makes it a breeze to find some quick matches and even features an impressive Fight Lounge where you’ll see other player avatars running around looking for people to challenge. While the game’s launch kicked off with server issues that crashed whenever I tried playing a match, a few updates later fixed these problems leading to most of my matches feeling buttery-smooth and lag-free even with cross-play options turned on. The only times I noticed some lag was against players on Wi-Fi connections, but even then the game balanced things out so that fights weren’t unbearable.
To make it even easier for anyone starting out with the series, Tekken 8 also features a Special Style control scheme similar to Street Fighter 6’s Modern controls, making it super easy to pull off cool moves and combos by just pressing a few buttons. This control scheme isn’t as nuanced in its attack patterns, making it easy to counter or block if your opponent is simply mashing buttons without putting some thought into it. It’s a great way for anyone to get used to a new character’s movements and attack patterns and can be toggled whenever you want serving as a great crutch when learning a new fighter.
There really is a lot to love about Tekken 8, and the great thing is how familiar the game still feels while constantly impressing you with everything that’s new and shiny. Thanks to its robust tutorials and control styles, the game makes it easy for new players to get into a fight and feel prepared to take on some more seasoned players. Veterans will easily appreciate all the nostalgic elements thrown in, the return of their favorite fighters, and the impressive Heat system that will undoubtedly lead to countless memorable matches online, on the couch, and during some heated tournament matches. This is a new generation of Tekken that is sure to keep you hooked for a very long time.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com