Tekken games are in a league of their own. I’ve self-designated the series as part of my imaginary ‘Big 3 Fighting Games’ alongside Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Having spent my early teen years playing Tekken 3 on PS1 arcade machines and Tekken 5 on PS2 in game parlours, the series holds a special place in my memories. Tekken games have almost always offered a fast-paced tactical fighting experience that is nothing less than exhilarating. The newly launched Tekken 8 is no exception.
Releasing a satisfying sequel to an already great fighting game is no ordinary task. Sometimes, you end up with a game that is the same as the predecessor without any notable changes. Other times, the newly introduced features end up ruining the whole experience. Tekken 8 doesn’t fall into either category and manages to outshine the Tekken 7.
Tekken 8 review
Starting with the looks, the Tekken 8 delivers stunning graphics and character details. The visual improvements are so obvious that you can easily spot the difference between the graphics quality of the predecessor and the new instalment. The characters look more lively with muscle definition taking a new stage and facial expressions becoming scarily real. Bandai Namco did a great job at filling out the details on the character costumes. Cinematic cutscenes and special effects also make their way to the fights, making the fights more visually appealing. There are lots of minute visual details, making the experience a lot better. For instance, you can see the dirt and sweat on your character’s face after a hard battle. If you manage to win without sustaining any damage, your character looks as fresh as ever.
Characters: 3 new great additions
The game comes with a roster of 32 characters, including three new faces– Azucena, Reina, and Victor, all three offering new moves and playstyles. Azucena and Reina are already my new favourites. Reina hits hard with her spinning kicks and electrifying punches, reminding me of Heihachi Mishima. She also gets good exposure in the main storyline, clad with a wind of mystery. Meanwhile, Azucena offers a dynamic playstyle, dishing out dodge attacks and retaliatory attacks– something that was earlier limited to William sisters. I should also mention that her character selection screen played no part in her ascension to my list of favourite Tekken characters.
Last but not least, Victor is a special agent who wields futuristic weaponry and delivers teleportation-esque quick attacks. The mature air around Victor makes him appear like a calm and collected individual. I wouldn’t find it surprising if he garners more fan girls than the protagonist of the title. Victor also appears prominently in the main story. Classic characters get a makeover, which is for the better for most of them like Paul wearing his hair down for a change. However, some characters end up with unnecessary gains, making them slightly comical. I mean, Lars is definitely hiding something underneath his clothes, which is not muscles but maybe a quilt to keep himself warm.
Combat system gets an upgrade
The combat gets an improvement with flashy visuals and a Heat system to make fights more aggressive. Both fighters start with a full Heat metre, which when activated, offers energy-imbued Heat Smash attacks that deal more damage than usual. It also gives access to Heat Dash, which can be utilised to keep the combo going. Some characters get access to unique perks instead of powerful strikes, matching with their individual fighting styles. You can activate Heat only once per round. The metre starts going down after getting activated, irrespective of whether you utilise it or not. This forces you to become aggressive and also susceptible to mistakes. Unlike the Rage attack that works as a last resort to turn the tables when you are near defeat, the Heat system is more like a utility that you can use wisely.
Like Street Fighter 6‘s modern combat controls, Tekken 8 offers new controls that allow just anyone to dish out complex/powerful attacks with the press of one button. It also allows you to dish out combos and air combos fairly easily. If your friend wants to just try out the game, they would feel pretty good about themselves with the new assisted controls.
You can toggle between controls at any time during the fight by pressing L1. While the new controls are fun to experiment with, I believe veterans of the series like myself would prefer classic controls and there are two reasons for this– (1) the new system offers access to a fairly limited number of special moves, and (2) there is no control over simple quick attacks that disrupt the opponents’ plans.
Main story and gaming modes
Tekken 8 comes with a satisfying number of gaming modes, including the main storyline The Dark Awakens, Character Episodes, Tekken Fight Lounge, Arcade Quest, and Tekken Ball.
“Story: The Dark Awakens” follows Jin Kazama’s battle against the big baddy daddy Kazuya Mishima. Just like every other Tekken game story — better known for people throwing their dad or son off the cliff or into a volcano only for them to return like nothing happened — this one also feels like it was written by a 5-year-old. I am still confused if the Tekken fighters are regular martial artists or are on par with Z fighters from the Dragon Ball universe.
The main storyline offers some really cool cutscenes which helps you get through all 15 chapters in one sitting. The game also lets you recap the stories of previous titles for those who want to jog their memories of who threw whom off the cliff last time.
Since I am not a Jin main, I appreciated that Tekken 8 offered ways to change the experience in The Dark Awakens storyline. During a tournament, you are allowed to pick either of the sides (except in the fight involving Jin Kazama) and even offered a chapter where you are thrown into 1 vs All beat-em-up mode, utilising your martial arts/ ninja/ technological skills of assigned characters to fight Kazuya Mishima’s forces.
“Character Episodes” are the closest thing you get to Arcade modes of previous Tekken games. However, it was a bit disappointing to see you could only take on five fighters before reaching the cutscene. The “Tekken Ball” is the same as always where you punch or kick the volleyball to your opponent’s side.
The “Arcade Quest” is sort of an expanded tutorial, which allows you to relive the game parlour arcade days where you and your friends head over to duke it out. You are required to make a chiby Avatar to get started. Tekken 8 has mastered the social aspect of the fighting game by making it similar to a game lounge where gamers can hang around.
Tekken 8 review: Verdict
Tekken 8 takes the legacy of Tekken games forward with better-than-ever visuals and character details, a new Heat system for aggressive gameplay, and a wide roster of fighters– including three new brilliant character additions. The Dark Awakens offers an impressive cinematic experience and a variety of gameplay styles to keep you invested until the end. The character stories in Character Episodes appear underwhelming, and the actual story could have been better. Overall, the Tekken 8 is a must-try fighting game for new and returning players of the series.
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC
(Game reviewed on PlayStation 5; review code provided by the publisher)