Coming off of the massive success of Tekken 7, Bandai Namco is looking to continue its dominance in the fighting game genre with the much anticipated Tekken 8. We were flown to Singapore to get an exclusive hands-on media preview of a playable build. We got to see Tekken 8’s different brand-new mechanics and how it all plays out in the established gameplay loop the series has been perfecting with each title. We got our first impressions right here.
Tekken 8’s design philosophy centers around integrating the characters’ full power and the visual spectacle of destruction. The result is an addicting blend of immersive gameplay that is not only satisfying to play but also visually stunning to see in action.
From top to bottom, Tekken 8 is a massive step up from its predecessor given that it utilizes Unreal Engine 5. Everything from the lighting, textures, character models, and environmental designs all pack a serious punch when it comes to their presentation.
The game retains its exaggerated and stylized tone but is now greatly enhanced by the use of photo-realistic graphics. This new level of detail adds an extra layer of immersion to the game, as the characters’ expressions and movements are more lifelike than ever before. From the fabric on their clothing to the sweat on their brow, everything is rendered with a level of realism that is simply breathtaking. You can actually see King’s veins pop out when he flexes his muscles.
The new character designs in Tekken 8 look fantastic. While some returning favorites have received updated looks, the new characters are particularly impressive in terms of their design and movesets. There is just so much detail to be found everywhere you look. It’s easy to miss out on these in a fighting game where gameplay remains king, but it’s nice to see that even on the visual side, Tekken 8 is contending to be one of the best-looking games to watch out for.
Tekken’s combat system is built upon a foundation of depth, balance, and creativity. As a highly technical fighting game, it offers players a vast array of mobility options and combos to master. Tekken has always managed to strike a delicate balance between accessibility for newcomers and depth for veterans, and this remains true in Tekken 8. In fact, the game doubles down on these principles in certain areas, offering a gameplay experience that is challenging, rewarding, and easy to pick up and play.
As some of you may already know, the game places a significant emphasis on spacing and timing. Tekken has always been a fighting game that rewards calculated aggression. The key to success is minimizing the number of openings you give to skilled players. Successfully closing the gap and chaining combos together is usually when Tekken games are at their peak. Alternatively, countering an aggressive opponent through blocking and sidestepping is difficult but very satisfying to pull off. All of that is still intact in Tekken 8.
The Rage State is still as adrenaline-pumping as ever as you come back from a seemingly impossible situation with the slight damage boost and a Rage Art special attack. However, Tekken 7’s “Rage Drive” is now discontinued.
Taking its place in Tekken 8 is the much-touted “Heat System”. Once activated at any point in a match with either a Heat Engager or a Heat Burst, the player gains unique enhancements and special actions depending on the character they choose. This can only last up to ten seconds but the timer can be stopped if you successfully land a hit or your opponent is in a downed state. Again, encourages strong aggression for massive rewards.
Bear with me, I’m going to mention the word “Heat” multiple times. During the Heat State, you’ll get Heat Energy with a maximum of two charges. Performing a Heat Burst gives one charge while a Heat Engager gives two. A Heat Dash will only consume one charge while a Heat Smash will consume all of it.
The Heat System feels like a necessary evolution of Tekken’s gameplay. It gives aggressive players a flashier way to engage their opponents while still having a very clear high risk-and-reward system to mess around with. If you use up all of your Heat state early on in the match and your opponent has managed to avoid getting combo-locked by it, they can easily return the favor and have the pain rain down on you. It’s an exhilarating dance that always felt fresh with each new round.
On paper, it can easily be dismissed as an abusable system that promotes nothing but spamming one powerful attack after another. We tried testing this out to see how viable it can be especially since it can be activated once the match starts. I’m happy to report that that’s far from the case. Defensive playstyles are still viable. With the addition of the Heat System, blocking and sidestepping have become far more satisfying to pull off.
It’s not all offensive changes. Tekken 8 also shows some love to players who have defensive capabilities. This is done with the introduction of the recoverable gauge in which a part of the damage received when blocking certain moves or by aerial combos will be marked with a transparent white visual. You can earn back this health by successfully landing hits on your opponent. This not only incentivizes those with a more defensive playstyle, but it also continues to follow Tekken 8’s core concept of having a more proactive approach to a combat system that favors aggression.
Tekken 8 looks good, feels good, and plays really dang good.
A better way to jump back in
Tekken 8 features two control types. Arcade is an authentic Tekken traditional playstyle that offers a high level of freedom. It’s what everyone has been used to from past titles. But other than that, there’s also “Special Style” which combines the “Easy Combo” and “Assist” features of Tekken 7.
What Special Style does is have each attack button has a recommended move and combo for each character. This can also change depending if you are in or out of a Heat State. This won’t require you to memorize commands in advance. With just a click of a button, your character can immediately perform a special attack or combo.
You can easily switch between Arcade and Special styles in the middle of a match. Again, this sounds like it can easily be an exploitable feature. However, the Special Style eliminates the freedom you get from the traditional Arcade style. You’ll only be locked to using the same couple of commands. This makes it significantly harder to chain different combos together — something you can only do with Arcade style.
The Special control style feels like a much lower barrier to entry for newcomers to the franchise. It enables casual players to learn specific combos in a much more digestible manner. When it comes to pro-play, I don’t see this becoming a viable main option. Using a Special control style over an experienced Arcade player is going to be a very difficult undertaking.
We played with PS5 consoles and the game felt buttery smooth for the most part. The only issue I ran into during our media preview was that it felt like the game’s framerate would slightly dip every now and then. But, this would only happen a handful of times to the point that it felt negligible.
Tekken 8 is shaping up to be one of the most impressive entries to the franchise. With its breathtaking visuals, engaging gameplay, and exciting new systematic additions, the game is sure to attract both series veterans and newcomers alike.
What’s so impressive about Tekken 8 is how it manages to balance being accessible to both casual and professional players. What I thought was going to just be a polished version of Tekken 7 is now a completely different experience given the gameplay impacts of the excellent Heat System and different control styles. There’s a lot to look forward to in Tekken 8 and if the preview build is anything to go by, Bandai Namco has themselves another massive hit.