When it comes to 3D fighting games, Tekken is the first thing that comes to mind. For 30 years, the franchise has helped define and redefine what the fighting game genre is all about. Right from the very first time I got to try out the game for myself, game director Katsuhiro Harada and producer Michael Murray emphasized the goal they have for Tekken 8: showcase the true power, impact, spectacle, and potential of what a next gen fighting game will look like. With this Tekken 8 review, I’m here to tell you that they achieved all of that and more. So much more.
A full year before the release, Bandai Namco has been extremely generous with all the hands-on experiences whether it be on-site or online. The world has seen and played extensive amounts of Tekken 8 long before it’s full release, me included. That tells me a couple of things. One, developers are extremely confident in the game they’ve made and two, the players are very much part of the development process. This is not a release they didn’t want to mess up.
I vividly remember the first-time playing Tekken 8, feeling the rush of it all despite playing the past entries for years since I was a kid, participating in multiple open beta online tests, and trying it out again in multiple gaming conventions. The game has evolved in more subtle ways that greatly affect how it is right now. Multiple balance changes, visual polishing, and performance tuning has all made Tekken 8 what it is today, a fantastic fighting game that far exceeds the expectations of fans and the quality level that the franchise has set for itself. This is a game that doesn’t pull its punches and hits with everything it got.
The number one thing that Tekken 8 had to get right is its gameplay. A fighting game lives and dies by its mechanics and how it is for the player to execute the inputs. There have been multiple fighters that have come and gone, with some getting fair amount of success and staying power, but none have truly perfected the genre as much as Tekken has. Tekken 8 is a culmination of everything that the series has had to offer up to this point. This feels like a natural evolution while also being an impressive showcase of just how much the developers have mastered their craft.
It’s also worth mentioning just how drop-dead gorgeous Tekken 8 is. The graphical fidelity on display here alongside the vibrant art style truly makes the game come to life. Tekken 8 is one of the best-looking games ever made. Each of the 16 stages look and feel different. Just looking at every dynamic element in the background just proves how dedicated the team was in paying attention to detail. Every character design and costume variants all have a distinct identity of their own that speaks to who they are as a fighter and as a personality.
The first issue with every fighting game is how does it fair for newcomers? The sheer amount of mechanical complexity and mental fortitude one needs to be at the top of their game in a 3D fighter is one of the most intimidating things in gaming. The veteran players will always be catered to but what about those who have yet to dip their toes in the ring? Tekken 8 understands that as it offers an experience that’s as complex and as simple as you’d want it to be.
Chaining together combos, locking down your opponents to a corner, and winning a Perfect victory takes an incredible amount of skill. Each of the 32 playable characters have their own respective move sets and strategies. You also have to take into account what it means to fight against another character. What to anticipate, how to react when a certain animation plays, etc. There is a lot of game within the game here. If I were to even attempt explaining each one, this review wouldn’t come out anytime soon. While I can’t claim to be an expert of a player, Tekken 8 provides the necessary tools to be one. And none of them come easy. There is a very noticeable learning curve once you reach the higher levels of difficulty and once you start playing against the more experienced players. Just one character’s move list can have you scratching your head for a couple of hours trying to learn. It is extremely satisfying to see yourself getting the hang of a certain character. The rush you feel when you confidently use them in a match setting. And finally, chasing that high once again with someone else. This is a continuous cycle that you will feel with Tekken 8.
But for those who have to start with square one, you have nothing to fear. Practice mode is there to use to your fists’ content, but it does come with a few more extra features that I imagine both new and old players will appreciate. Combo Challenges allows you to feel more comfortable pulling off special moves with each character as the game gradually feeds you more challenging scenarios. This was something I found myself constantly coming back to and noticing a difference between the usual spamming of buttons to more intentional inputs. Punishment Training was an incredible way to show how unforgiving Tekken 8 can be and how you can counter that with the right amount of practice. Everyone in the roster has a number of devastating moves that can easily turn the tide of a fight. Learning how to deal whenever one comes can be the difference between seeing the words “You Lose” or “You Win”.
Arcade Quest is one that is specifically catered to newcomers. The story is literally all about a newbie to the Tekken scene. You’ll be creating your own avatar and going through a series of challenges that are aimed to ease you in the important steps into becoming a skilled player. All of this is set in an arcade environment. What’s not to love? Once you finish this, you’ll be unlocking Ghost Battles which lets you test your skills against an AI that learns from your tendencies. You can even challenge other players’ ghosts to learn their tendencies as well. This is an extremely cool concept and one I’m excited to see further used in the months to come.
Probably the most impressive feature is My Replay. This system lets you upload gameplay replays from high skill players or even your own and the game will dynamically analyze it and provides you with advice on how to improve. And this isn’t just some generic “learn the move set” type of advice. The system actually provides you with actionable next steps and ways to avoid certain hazards. It’s genuinely impressive technology.
If after all of this, you’re still feeling a bit if on trying out other character aside from the ones you’re already comfortable with, Tekken 8’s optional Special Style control scheme is the perfect mechanic. With just a press of a button, a list of available special moves will appear on screen, and it will allow you to pull off special combos with just a few presses of a certain button. This lets you skip the process of trying to memorize button combinations and simplify your outputs. Don’t worry, you can easily turn this off completely in the settings. Before you think that it is overpowered, activating Special Style does restrict you to just using the set combos per character. You won’t be as dynamic as you would want to be especially when fighting against a more skilled player. The team did take their time making sure the Special Style is as balanced as it could be and in all my time fighting in events, playtests, and even the review build, I never found this system overbearing and I would only use it at very select times. It’s a great way for me to get introduced to what a certain new character is capable of or bailing me out of a tough match every now and then.
One of the biggest talking points of Tekken 8 is in the introduction of the Heat System. This is indicated by a blue bar underneath the character’s health. When activated, you perform a Heat Burst which can be a great defensive tool when you find yourself in a tight spot. The Heat State will last about 10 seconds. During which, you can perform Heat Engagers, a certain set of powerful combos, to activate Heat State. Certain combos will also be more impactful when in a Heat State.
To add more pain to the mix, you can also perform a Heat Smash, a very powerful set of attacks that will immediately end the Heat State. This can be used at any point as long as there is still something in the Heat Meter. So, timing your Heat Bursts, Heat Dashes, and combos well while also having enough time to activate a Heat Smash will give you the fullest potential of the system. It’s all about optimizing your moves and making sure your opponents don’t ruin your momentum.
I believe this system encapsulates everything Tekken 8 is all about. Fast, frantic, exhilarating, and powerful. One of the biggest achievements of the game is providing an immense amount of power fantasy while also anchoring it all down with finely tuned systems and balanced mechanics. For every benefit, there is something that needs to be considered before fully committing. This is one of the most strategic games I’ve ever played and most rounds only last less than 60 seconds.
Always ready for the next battle
We’ve come this far without talking about the campaign. One of the more overlooked features of a fighting game but as I keep emphasizing, Tekken 8 simply does it different. Holding the Guinness World Record for having the longest running narrative in video games, the Mishima Saga continues here. I’m not even gonna try to explain to you the storyline of this franchise. It’s one of the wildest, wackiest, and most unhinged in gaming. The game does provide very brief synopsis of each main title leading up to this one, but I don’t imagine them being of any detailed help. The Mishima storyline is a very weird and deep rabbit hole that is very entertaining to get into. Tekken is a family soap opera, sci-fi action, drama, and comedy all rolled into one. It’s genuinely fantastic. Tekken 8’s campaign takes place in 15 chapters where the story moves at a breakneck speed. From the very start, this game screams at you, all the way till the end.
There’s a lot of unanswered questions, plot holes, and difficult to grasp concepts here, but that’s what Tekken has always been like. While I’m not a franchise lore expert, I can certainly say that I enjoyed every minute of the campaign. It’s also thanks to a lot of the actors providing exaggerated performances that truly commit to the bit. They all know just how whack the storyline is, and they give it their all with every line said.
For those looking for a more digestible single player content, you can play through Character Episodes for everyone. A short standalone storyline is presented for each one, you play a couple of matches, and you’re rewarded with unique endings that truly stay true to the Tekken-style. You’ll know it when you see it.
There is a lot of content to indulge yourself with in Tekken 8. This is about as complete of a package as it can get. If straight up duking it out doesn’t speak to you at the moment, why not try Tekken Ball? Yes, you heard that right. The zany side mode from Tekken 3 makes a modern return here in 8. You try to damage your opponent using a giant ball. While funny at first, I did find myself improving in my timings and spacing because of this mode. I then was able to apply those muscle memories to the core gameplay itself. So, this is more than just for laughs, but it definitely could be if you want it to be.
While I was unfortunately not able to use the online mode for the review window, I was able to partake in a number of closed network tests in the last few months. Online matches were stable enough at the time of testing but matching up with those who are in a farther server does introduce some form of lag every now and then. But it wasn’t anything too prominent to overshadow most of the stable connections I had. Tekken 8 does feature a large virtual lobby where you can roam around and interact with other players. There is also a leaderboard for you to try and climb. I certainly won’t even dream of reaching a respectable ranking compared to the establish Tekken players. But on a more practical sense, Tekken 8 does feature a 3-option rollback netcode that lets you choose as to whether or not you prefer fluidity or responsiveness. And the cherry on top, crossplay! You can now play Tekken with anyone regardless of their platform. A massive win for the franchise and for the community.
Tekken 8 Review Final Verdict – 10/10
Tekken 8 is the best fighting game out right now. The Tekken team has created something that I imagine will far outlive the already impressive lifecycle of its predecessor. Tekken 8 is the culmination of everything the franchise has been and more. The incredible gameplay and stunning visuals are just an added bonus to the phenomenal gameplay systems that have been tuned to near perfection, leading the fighting game genre as a high standard that must be attained.
This review was made using a PS5 code provided by the publisher.