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‘Tekken 8’ review: Stunning visuals, appeals to both hardcore and new players

Chris Garcia, One More Game

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‘Tekken 8’ review: Stunning visuals, appeals to both hardcore and new players

All screenshots from Tekken 8/One More Game

'Tekken 7' had a good run, but now it’s time to move over, and let 'Tekken 8' take its rightful place at the top of the fighting game food chain.

This review originally appeared on OneMoreGame.ph. Tekken 8 was reviewed on PS5 and PC with a review code provided by the publisher.

Sneak peek:
  • Release Date: January 26, 2024
  • Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
  • Genre: Fighting Game
  • Similar Games: Soul Calibur, Street Fighter, Dead or Alive
  • Price: starts at $69.99

It’s quite amazing to think about the current state of fighting games right now. We live in a time where the latest entries of some of the most well-known series in the genre stand side by side with each other. From Street Fighter 6, Mortal Kombat 1, Guilty Gear Strive, and many more, a new challenger finally takes to the stage in all its Unreal Engine 5 glory.

Tekken 8 is upon us. After nearly 9 years since the arcade release of Tekken 7, Jin, Kazuya, and the rest of the gang are back and bringing the heat, in more ways than one. With the new Heat System in tow, a ton of gameplay changes, and a renewed focus on introducing the game to a wider audience, the game is now ready for the bright lights.

Tekken 7 had a good run, but now it’s time to move over and let Tekken 8 take its rightful place at the top of the food chain.

‘Tekken 8’ review: Stunning visuals, appeals to both hardcore and new players
The Dark Awakens story mode

Tekken 8 is a direct sequel to Tekken 7 in terms of story. Taking place 6 months after the dreaded and well-memed volcano incident with Kazuya and Heihachi, Tekken 8 brings another father-and-son storyline front and center as Jin and Kazuya face off in an epic clash that escalates and signals the start of the next King of the Iron Fist tournament.

If there was ever a fighting game series that puts a serious focus on its story mode, it would be Tekken. It does hold the world record for the longest-running video game storyline and longest-running 3D fighting video game franchise, after all!

From the start of the story mode entitled “The Dark Awakens,” you’ll immediately notice the visual upgrade compared to Tekken 7. Tekken 8 is visually superior in most, if not all ways, and the attention to detail in the character models, their costumes, the levels, and even down to the VFX is a sight to behold.

Jin and Kazuya’s fight is a spectacle, and in between actual matches, we’re treated to explosive cutscenes and over-the-top dialog, conveying the story with such style that makes for an engaging and entertaining watch. Chapter One alone makes for an explosive opener, and true to Tekken fashion, the story just gets more ridiculous as the chapters go by. At some point, you’re fighting on top of a meteor, which absolutely makes no sense whatsoever, but we’ve got devils, bears, and headless robots, so that’s that.

‘Tekken 8’ review: Stunning visuals, appeals to both hardcore and new players

The story mode spans 15 chapters, and throughout my 4-ish hours of playing through it, I never got tired of the antics and the proceedings. The events leading to the end didn’t overstay their welcome, and there was one chapter that introduced a different mode that would remind you of something from the past. It’s extremely fun and entertaining, with a chapter select feature to replay some of the more interesting bits later on.

While Tekken 8’s story is mostly focused on Jin and his conflict with Kazuya, several characters make their presence felt and become major players, including newcomer Reina. She’s feisty and an extremely important cog in the story, but we won’t spoil the moment for you, so play on and discover for yourself!

Speaking of characters like Reina, players wanting to dive deeper into the lore of Tekken 8 can treat themselves to a great recap of past events to catch up, but the game also introduces Character Episodes which are a series of matches culminating in a short story skit that further elaborates on their motivations.

They are not overly serious and are a good way to break the ice and add a kick of personality to these characters. If anything, they add a good number of additional hours to the story proceedings, making for very good value in terms of gameplay hours.

Arcade Quest

Tekken 8 has a lot more to offer players than just an exciting storyline. For newcomers just getting their feet wet, there’s Arcade Quest, a mode that takes players through the ins and outs of the game as a whole, teaching various aspects such as combat tips, avatar creation and customization, and much more.

This is such a fantastic mode and I cannot state enough how much this mode can improve, to some degree, your gameplay just by playing through it.

One thing Tekken 8 does to great success is to onboard players in such a way that makes the whole process fun and engaging. While there is a bit of reading to be done, players will spend most of their time in exercises and actual immersion in the action which make learning such an interactive experience. You’ll run through the basics of combat, unlocking rewards along the way as you complete missions, all in an arcade environment that reminds us of how fighting game communities were formed during the arcade heyday.

While clearly aimed at newcomers, veterans can also run through this mode to unlock some rewards and familiarize themselves with the all-new Heat System, which we’ll get to later.

We’ve seen fighting games make a transition to interactive lobbies throughout the years, and Tekken 8 is no different. Players can create their avatars to use in a virtual lobby, showing off their style and personality with a wide selection of wardrobe choices and accessories. Creating an avatar is easy and intuitive, and the results can be as wacky as you want them to be.

While the more basic choices are free, some of the better ones are locked behind gold, which you can earn simply by playing through the game and doing various activities. It’s great that Tekken 8 has chosen to unlock these items with in-game currency over a more credit card-ey approach. Gaining currency isn’t even hard at all, and you’ll be unlocking things in no time, especially after being rewarded with so much currency just by playing through normally.

One of the more impressive customization aspects of Tekken 8 lies in its player and character customization suite. Like Tekken 7, this latest installment will allow players to modify things like HP bars, player portraits, auras, titles, and much more. Tekken 7 players will find that the choices here don’t expand too much, but the selection is vast and more than sufficient to give players their unique style. I can imagine that the team will add more choices over the years, so there’s a lot to unlock and play around with even during launch.

‘Tekken 8’ review: Stunning visuals, appeals to both hardcore and new players
Heat System

When it comes down to, Tekken 8 boils down to one thing – fighting. The series has gone on to be one of the most successful in the genre because of its explosive style, crunchy hits, and diverse list of fighters that sport their unique fighting styles.

Tekken 8 will offer 32 (!!!) fighters at launch, with mostly returning characters and fan favorites, but also some interesting newcomers. Their fighting styles are as diverse as their personalities, and players will likely find a character they’ll gravitate to within a few minutes. You have power punchers in Paul and Bryan, martial artists like Hwoarang, an MMA fighter in Azucena, and even a space ninja in Yoshimitsu.

Tekken 8 is a combo and juggle-based fighter, rewarding players who can string lengthy combos together while taking advantage of the levels, extending juggles because of wall and floor breaks that open up the stage for more variety. The 16 launch levels included in the game offer fantastic views and banging soundtracks, bringing players to arenas, a Peruvian coffee farm, an underground sanctum, and more. The level selection is solid and complements the wide selection of characters beautifully.

The central system encompassing Tekken 8 is the all-new Heat System. Focused on the key pillar of aggression, Heat rewards players who prioritize careful pressure with a consumable gauge that gives players special properties that give them an advantage. During Heat, players can inflict chip damage and even give their existing moves additional effects, making it an extremely important resource to manage during fights.

Depending on your preference, Tekken 8’s Heat System may be a bit controversial. Tekken 7’s meta evolved to such lengths that extremely defensive gameplay was the norm, making high-level matches a bit of a downer from a spectator’s point of view. I’ll go on to say that the Heat System solves that to a certain degree, with matches turning into an exciting affair especially when Heat is engaged.

Tekken 8’s Heat System is easy to activate, with multiple moves acting as Heat Engagers to start the proceedings. When activated, players can afford a Heat Smash, a highly damaging move that completely empties the gauge, a Heat Dash which is basically a manual cancel, and more. The development team did their homework here, adding these mechanically challenging advanced techniques and resulting in flashy matches that are as entertaining to watch as it is to play. There’s a simplicity to activating these attacks, but also a depth required to make it work.

Special Style

The Heat System can be complicated enough to reward hardcore players, but newcomers can still enjoy everything the game has to offer with the introduction of the Special Style control scheme, which I absolutely adore. Special Style can be instantly activated with a touch of a button during a match, and will allow players to pull off impressive moves and strings simply by repeatedly tapping any of the face buttons. This ensures that newcomers can step in and be competitive in a matter of minutes.

This type of simplified control scheme has been implemented in other fighting games as well to varying levels of acceptance from the community. Tekken 8 handles it with care, and while it is a bit more flexible than others by allowing players to input different moves with the addition of the D-Pad, the skill ceiling is still low compared to manually controlling every aspect of the character. Newcomers will certainly benefit the most here, and it’s great to see the game bring players to the fun part as fast as possible.

The best thing about the Special Style control scheme is that it allows players to jump in and out of characters with ease, dipping their feet to try out various characters to see if it fits their playstyle in a matter of minutes. Tekken 8 removes the burden of having to go through a long list of moves only to find out that you don’t jive with the playstyle. Of course, Special Style is purely optional, and it’s nice that there’s always that choice!

Ghost Battles and My Replay and Tips

One other aspect of Tekken 8 that allows newcomers to shore up their techniques before taking on the next level is the addition of improved ghost battles and My Replay and Tips.

Ghost battles are nothing to scoff at in Tekken 8 as the addition of Q-learning makes it so that the improvement can be felt in just a few battles, with ghosts learning moves and tendencies, even as detailed as how often players drop combos. There’s a world where you can download ghosts of the greatest players in the game and get your ass whooped in the comfort of your own home. Beat the best to be the best, am I right? This is a game changer in the learning department, and even pro players will benefit from this.

Additionally, another learning tool Tekken 8 players can take advantage of is My Replay and Tips, a Tekken 7 feature making a much-improved return this time around. Watch some replays and the game will tell you what specific parts you can improve, like punishing the combo at a certain point, or what attack you could have used to maximize damage output. The attention to detail is crazy, and the team has pulled all the stops to bridge the learning gap for newcomers, which is something that’s almost been a constant complaint in almost all fighting games.

Have I not mentioned Tekken Ball yet? Yeah, Tekken Ball is back baby!

One thing Tekken 8 does as a whole is make the matches as exciting to watch as it is to play. The game is such an exciting spectator event, where millions around the world watch during huge tournaments like EVO. The Heat System makes it so that matches are fast and frantic while maintaining the mind games that up the stakes.

Overall, Tekken 8 is such a content-packed offering that in terms of breadth alone, is worth the admission price and much more. The game successfully straddles the fine line of catering to hardcore players with a slew of mechanically challenging and impressively deep systems, all while onboarding newcomers with an engaging loop that gets them up and running in as little time as possible.

What we liked:
  • Packed with content
  • Thoughtful features aimed at onboarding newcomers effectively and as fast as possible
  • Stunning visuals and crunchy sound effects
  • Impressive suite of customization options
  • Mechanically deep systems for hardcore players
  • Soundtrack is explosive and aggressive
What we didn’t like:
  • Character customization options are very similar to Tekken 7

Verdict: 9.5/10

Tekken 8 makes the wait worth it by successfully introducing new systems that make sense and improve both the player’s and spectator’s points of view with explosive action. Newcomers will appreciate the thoughtful onboarding process while giving veteran and pro players a deep combat system to sink hundreds of hours into.

The content available on launch day makes this package even more eye-watering. This is as full-featured as it gets. With 16 levels, 32 characters, and an impressive list of features like Tekken Ball and much more, the game is packed from day one, offering a complete title that’s a full experience even without DLCs.

It feels like Tekken 8 has successfully taken the step to the next level, releasing an installment that’s not just a simple iteration but with significant updates and changes that make it feel fresh and fun. Time will tell if the team can successfully support it the way they have with Tekken 7, but this is an extremely solid launch experience that’s certainly ready for the big stage. – Rappler.com

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