It feels as though Tekken 7 came out a lifetime ago, and when diving into the latest entry from Bandai Namco, I’d all but forgotten the way it played. Last year, we had Street Fighter 6 and Mortal Kombat 1 which were both excellent in their own unique way, but now it’s time for Tekken 8 to show why no-one should be sleeping on the series that often gets overlooked in favour of Capcom’s and NetherRealm’s franchise. If being rusty is one of your concerns, or whether a fighter lauded for its intricacy and nuance requires tens of hours to practice before you start to feel the benefits as a new player, you have nothing to fear.
Tekken 8 is absolutely stunning, and one of the first things that stands out when playing. From the 32 playable fighters all intricately designed and different in every way to the colourful and varied locations, Bandai Namco has done a wonderful job making it visually appealing in every way. The use of Unreal Engine 5 leaves you holding your breath during certain cutscenes, as story beats in the campaign transition seamlessly into battles, and while the story isn’t exactly revolutionary, its bombast and campiness makes for a thrilling sequel to the last outing.
Tekken 8 is a Hollywood blockbuster on the grandest scale. Taking place across the globe, the story sees the evil Kazuya Mishima do what he does best, starting a King of the Iron Fist Tournament that has terrible implications for those that fail. His son Jin is trying to reclaim the person he once was, with a lot of father-son fallout and drama from the previous game playing a big role. It’ll do nothing do move the needle of the franchise’s narrative, but its larger-than-life presentation of story beats do a great job of fitting in all of the returning characters along with the three new ones.
When it comes to the fighting, Tekken 8 feels so different to what has come before. It feels as though all the complications of other fighters are stripped away to offer an aggressive and instinctual fighter. You feel the weight of every punch and kick. There’s no opportunity to bounce around the screen by spamming the jump. Tekken 8 doesn’t let you escape the intensity of close combat, but rather asks that you embrace it. Every fighter has a familiar feel to it, with a lot of the roster feeling nuanced. It’s easier to find a favourite and those you don’t enjoy because of the great content on offer to give you opportunities to experiment. It can be punishing without practice, but there’s plenty of opportunity to get to grips with the game.
I don’t enjoy fighters that feel clunky due to their weight and strength. On the flip side of that, I prefer those that are balanced, yet have a surprising flair in their moveset. Yoshimitsu will always be my favourite fighter, and I was both nervous and excited to get my hands on him, however, he’s perfect in Tekken 8. While he is rather agile, he relies on his sword for swiftness up-close and can dish out a ton of punishment at the same time. I also love Zafina because of her precise Assassination Arts, utilising her moveset to be used at the right time to allow for some devastating outcomes.
The iteration of Jack here is great for those who prefer a slugger, who may be slow but he is one hard bastard. Azucena is a fantastic female fighter who is a superb choice for those that prefer attacking on the counter, however, my favourite of the three new additions is Victor Chevalier, a French super spy who looks like Clancy Brown but acts like John Wick. There’s a solid roster for every kind of player, but due to there being such accessibility across the board, playing through the campaign and individual character stories don’t leave you feeling lost when playing as somebody new.
Every fighter has the ability to use their Heat Gauge, a new mechanic in Tekken 8, to change the flow of battle. It offers a brief window for you to engage in heightened aggression once per round. If you use it too early you can give your opponent an opportunity in the dying moments to use Heat themselves, and if you fumble it by not following up with Heat moves, it can lead to you wasting your momentum at a moment’s notice. Never underestimate your opponent as it can lead to frustrating bursts of violence that will leave you reeling in a corner. Rage Arts return to help in those dying moments, but nailing the blocking system and countering at the right moment will mean you won’t need to resort to last-minute rage.
Tekken 8 is filled with modes that there’s so much to enjoy for every kind of player. There’s obviously a superb online experience for those that prefer the thrill of fighting people from around the world for the glory, but Bandai Namco has catered for those of us like me who prefer playing fighters against the computer. It’s single player experience is filled with story content that flesh out the saga with its campaign, but also individual stories for each character. They don’t last anymore than 15 minutes if that, and require you to take on a handful of opponents before fighting a boss which is followed by a cutscene that wraps it up nicely.
Some are more enjoyable than others, but it’s cool you get to experience brief narratives for everyone. On top of this is Arcade mode, where you take your own avatar and take them on a journey to become the best fighter in the world. It may not be for everyone, but it welcomes new players to Tekken by introducing the mechanics and allowing you time to breath. You can customise your avatar by unlocking new pieces of gear and by buying new stuff through earned in-game currency, as well as customising your own name plate and profile with loads of choices. Customisation is another massive part of Tekken 8, whether your avatar and profile, or each individual fighter on the roster.
Tekken 8 feels like a new fighter in its approach to its reliance on aggression and precision. The Heat Gauge is a fantastic addition as while it does give you an opportunity to do more damage, it also can’t be taken advantage of thanks to the small window it can be used. The story is on a massive scale that brings every fighter together for a grand tale that spans every continent, and the wealth of modes and content, especially for single player, is great. It looks incredible, and the way in which the cutscenes transition to combat always caught me off guard. Oh yeah, and Tekken Ball’s back, letting you play violent volleyball as a bear fighting a robot.
Aggressive nature is excellent
Plenty of customisation
Lots of single player content
Some stories are better than others
Punishing without practice