|Bandai Namco Studios
|Bandai Namco Entertainment
|PS5(reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, PC
|January 26th, 2024
Like Street Fighter, Tekken is a game that needs no introduction. If you’ve been in an arcade in the 90s or owned a Playstation, you have either heard of it or even gone a few rounds against a friend or relative. My personal history with the franchise comes from the strange GBA port of Tekken 3 called “Tekken Advance” and the PSP’s Tekken 5 port titled “Dark Ressurection”. For whatever reason, I didn’t care for Tekken 6, but I can thank Tekken 7 for making me the biggest of casuals in the fighting game competitive scene.
For some years, I believed that fighting games lacked serious single-player content for players like myself who didn’t care to play online. in 2019, I decided that I wasn’t going to truly enjoy the genre unless I joined the masses; so I started getting into Tekken 7. That decision led me to watch Evo; the year in which Arslan Ash won Evo Japan and came to the US only to do the same. Since then, I’ve been a casual online player of various fighting games. With the release of Tekken 8, fewer ranks do mean less of a ladder to climb, but my prior experience means I get to be in Heihachi’s shoes more often. I get to enjoy victory more often instead of getting thrown off the mountain like a young Kazuya. I’m one of the many new players that Tekken 7 brought to the scene, but I think Tekken 8 has the potential to bring even more.
Spiritual: A big focus of the series is how some characters have what is called the “Devil Gene”. Despite the spiritual implications and how these characters look in their forms, it refers to an ancient dangerous power that the characters have been fighting over for many games now.
Violence: This is a fighting game in which characters use martial arts against one another to deplete their opponent’s life bar. Some characters use guns and swords during combat. Surprisingly, there aren’t any blood effects.
Sexual Content: Female characters have breasts that jiggle. Some of their outfits are very revealing or have deep cleavage. The gallery mode contains images of these female characters wearing some of those outfits as well.
Language: “Sh*t” is used in the dialogue.
The best place for me to start with this review is the presentation. Tekken 8 boasts the usage of Unreal Engine 5. Mortal Kombat 1 and Street Fighter 6 are both visually stunning in their own ways, but we have the first fighting game of the next generation in Tekken 8. I couldn’t help but be impressed during my various matches and the cutscenes. The engine not only helps bring great attention to detail in the character models, but especially the stages during a match. During the story, it was as if I was playing a video game built inside a feature film. I eventually brought in my Spotify playlist for playing online, but I need to mention that the soundtrack has some great music—the character select track and intro tracks are my favorite. You also have a jukebox section available that includes a massive amount of music from past games if you want to feed yourself some nostalgia.
While there is a shorter tutorial for players who have prior experience with the series, new players will want to start with Tekken 8’s Arcade Quest mode. This mode does remind me a bit of Street Fighter 6’s world tour; your avatar and the ones you’ll interact with are more akin to Xbox avatars instead of fully created fighters. As you tour various arcades, you’re introduced to the fundamentals of the game and esports culture. As someone who dabbles in fighting game esports because of this series, it feels like I have an appreciation for the celebration of this culture that I otherwise wouldn’t. I highly recommend newcomers to start here, but it wouldn’t hurt for more experienced players to spend some time in this part of the game either.
Tekken 8 comes with a stacked roster of 32(still customizable) characters, with only 3 new additions, and two returning from Tekken 7. The newcomers are Reina, Viktor, and Azucena; Reina keeps Heihachi’s legacy alive with moves strangely similar to his Mishima style. Viktor is a French John Wick who brings a sword and a gun to this fistfight, and Azucena is a Peruvian MMA fighter with a serious love for coffee. All three are welcome additions to the roster, with Reina being a fan favorite since Heihachi may be officially dead this time. Tekken may not be ready to introduce a new generation of fighters, but could easily do so when we get 9th game in another 10 years or so.
If you have been keeping up with this intense family feud, you’ll appreciate that there may be some finality to it—and the most cinematic story we have seen in a Tekken game. This almost Infinity War-like event has multiple characters participating with a sweet nod to past games’ Tekken Force modes. If your favorite character didn’t get enough screen time in the story, you can play the Character Episode for that fighter. Additional modes include Arcade, Ghost Battle, Tekken Ball, multiplayer, and ranked/unranked online. I find the Ghost Battle mode to be intriguing, as you can train your Ghost for other players to download and fight against—not unlike using amiibo in Smash Bros Ultimate. I lost an intense yet fun match against a Yoshimitsu player that I knew I wanted to fight again one day, so I saved that data to get my rematch.
Tekken 8 is a wonderful package full of things to do, but the new mechanics make this entry special. Fights are now built around a Heat gauge that sits under your main health bar. Using that Heat mode enhances your attacks for 10 seconds, but hitting that input again lets you burn it sooner with a combo that does some extra big damage. Players are now encouraged to play more aggressively; doing damage to your opponent earns back grey chunks of your health in the middle of a fight. Taking big risks is key in Tekken 8—utilizing these mechanics got me through some fights that I would’ve lost in past games. These changes make the game more accessible by leveling the playing field. However, the downside is that more experienced players and trolls remember the longest juggle-infused combos to disable you from doing anything significant and panicking players seem to default to the shortcut combos which are easy to turn on mid-fight.
For players who plan to spend most of their time online, you have the option to go straight into matchmaking or check out the Tekken Lounge. The lounge is a lobby very similar to the one in Street Fighter 6, meant for social interaction and the “I got next” feeling of being at an arcade. A major improvement that most in the genre have adopted is that you can only play your opponent in the best 2 out of 3 sets in matchmaking. This change saved me from getting hotheaded and wanting to fight someone until I could beat them as I did in Tekken 7, my rank suffered many times due to those situations. The ranking system has also been paired down in the lower tiers, and you won’t be demoted until you get to “Warrior”. The adjusted rankings not only made the early climb easier, but I also felt that my experience from the previous game was instrumental in the outcome of many fights.
Instead of making the game so easy that a caveman could play it, Tekken 8 aims to carve out some evolutionary improvements that the genre could benefit from. The ghost battle mode I mentioned earlier could teach you not only about other players’ habits, but your own too. I nearly lost to my Hwoarang ghost because I didn’t realize how aggressive I was playing with that character. The replay system is no longer just meant for you to roll back the game tape to see where you messed up; it shows you key moments in which you could’ve changed the outcome. You’re able to regain control of your fighter mid-replay and practice what you could do instead next time you find yourself in that given scenario. The interactivity is a more engaging way to train in addition to slugging it out with the CPU in the traditional practice mode.
If I have to come up with anything negative to say about Tekken 8, getting into the game might still be intimidating to many new players, despite how it works hard to be inviting. Tekken 7 has the receipts to prove that doesn’t matter, but I don’t think that Tekken 8 will be the cultural shift in the genre that Street Fighter 6 was. However, I want to take this time to encourage readers that this game is a great place to jump in, especially with the Arcade Quest mode to help get you started. This franchise has never pulled any punches, but now we have a suite of tools that will enable us to square up against some of the toughest opponents out there—you just need to put in the work.
The infamous Mashima family feud rages on and somehow finds a way to get more wild than ever. Though the roster is relatively safe and familiar, the most important changes are within the arena. Players will surely find a way to exploit these changes in online play, but that shouldn’t discourage new players either. The playing field has never been more level in a Tekken game, with so much for veteran players to celebrate and tools that new players can utilize to stand against them. Street Fighter 6 had to sacrifice some of its pedigree as a tough-as-nails fighting game. Tekken 8 does not, it stands on business.
Review copy generously provided
The Bottom Line
Tekken is a near flawless fighting game that pulls no punches, but gives newcomers the tools to fight back.