In-depth tutorials and new gameplay systems make Tekken 8 both a perfect entry point for series newcomers, and an evolution of the fighting game formula fans have spent decades trying to master.
- New mechanics improve already slick gameplay
- Lends a helping hand to beginners
- Gorgeous graphics and rapid load times
- Rival fighting games have more single player content
- Special Style control scheme too watered down
- Some mechanics still a little obtuse
Flashy multi-hit combos have been core to Tekken’s fast-based beatdowns for almost two decades now. It’s partly how each new entry has earned a place among the fighting genre’s best games. But perfect positioning and knowing when not to go on the offensive are equally mission-critical. Players used to have to work those out on their own – so it’s a treat to see this eighth mainline edition go out of its way to explain both new and returning gameplay mechanics.
This lowers the barrier to entry significantly, but developer Bandai Namco has also somehow managed to ramp up the aggression, which is sure to please long-time series fans. The result is a blisteringly fast 1v1 fighter that’s actually willing to teach the basics before letting you loose into online multiplayer matches.
The King of the Iron Fist tournament has returned, and in my opinion has never been better.
If you thought Electric Wind God Fist and Spinning Demon were karaoke bars, your first port of call should definitely be the short but sweet Arcade Quest. This part-tutorial, part-fighting game etiquette guide teaches that there’s no ‘right’ way to play Tekken, with button mashing and casual matches no better or worse than tournaments and pro-level throwdowns.
The cutesy, Nintendo Mii-like avatars feel a world away from Tekken’s usual photorealistic art style (which it has to be said, looks absolutely stunning after the switch to Unreal Engine 5), but the way they steadily drip-feed knowledge on the various systems and combos will be a godsend for series newcomers. I knew the basics already, but never felt I was wasting my time as each victory earns virtual currency to spend in the character customisation store. Because why wouldn’t you want to dress a cheetah mask-wearing Mexican wrestler in a to hat and pinstripe shirt?
Whatever your skill level, the thorough introduction to the new Heat Gauge makes this mode a must-see. Heat is a once-per-round deal can expand your character’s (already extensive) move set for a limited time, lets you recover a precious portion of your life bar by scoring hits after taking a few yourself, and gives certain attacks super armour for blasting through an aggressive opponent’s offence. That’s just the top-level stuff; there’s a whole other level of nuance to it as well. Serious players are going to love experimenting with it.
Previous Tekken games rewarded defence and punished players who left themselves open to aerial juggles. The Heat system doesn’t completely change that, but it creates a few new ways of turning the tide on a losing round. And that’s on top of the Rage system, which returns from Tekken 7; it boosts damage once your health drops low enough and unlocks devastating (but slow and easily dodged) Rage Art attacks.
That can be a lot to take in on top of each character’s hundreds-strong move list, which of course all depend on frame-perfect timing and accurate inputs. The optional, newbie-friendly Special Style control scheme helps out here, letting you pull off flashy combos by hammering a single button. It’s great for handing a second controller to a non-gamer friend or family member, but because it limits you to a much smaller pool of moves, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone willing to put the time in with the traditional inputs.
Mishima family values
Once you’ve got to grips with the combat, Tekken 8’s cinematic story mode should be your next stop. It’s typical OTT Tekken fare, pitting series headliner Jin Kazuma and pals against Kazuya Mishima: G Corp head honcho, carrier of the Devil Gene, and let’s not forget, Jin’s father. He’s bent on world domination, and is using his demonic powers to lay the smack down on anyone that gets in his way.
After Street Fighter 6‘s superb globe-trotting campaign broke new ground for the single player side of fighting games, this feels more of a throwback. The transitions between movies and gameplay are undeniably slick, and a few encounters at least mix up the standard 1v1 formula, but there’s nothing here beyond combat and cutscenes. Jin is the focus here, with other characters not getting nearly enough time to shine, and the whole thing can be burned through in under five hours.
Every character does at least get their own individual story, but it’s essentially an arcade mode with roster-specific endings. Finishing each five-bout blast unlocks side stories and alternate narrative videos that range from the melodramatic to the hilarious.
Sign of character
With a cast comprised of demon-possessed astrologists, cyborg ninjas, giant pandas, and dictators with literal devil’s blood coursing through their veins, Tekken’s 8 roster is beyond extensive. There’s a generous 32 characters to choose from at launch, with more due later as DLC, although only three are entirely new additions.
French secret agent Victor is super quick but tricky to master, with several different stances and a small arsenal of weapons that make him difficult to predict. Peruvian MMA fighter and coffee bean farmer Azucena has great evasive movement and a strong counter-poke game, which works great with the new Heat mechanic. Purple-haired teen Reina feels a lot like Tekken’s answer to Street Fighter’s Juri, with a move list largely inherited from long-time series villain Heihachi.
Plenty of fan favourites make a return, each with their own unique play style and not a dud in the bunch. Returning players will notice move lists have been tweaked slightly, to stop the new gameplay mechanics from making anyone too overpowered. I think Namco has succeeded here: activate the Heat gauge and android teen Alisa becomes a chip damage monster, but she doesn’t appear to be dominating the online leaderboards just yet. Multiplayer matches are the real Tekken endgame, so it’s great to see super-fast load times and a largely smooth online experience (now early server stumbles have been fixed, anyway).
Tekken 8 verdict
It looks incredible, has one of the largest starting rosters of any new fighting game in recent memory, and is the series’ most approachable entry to date. Yet Tekken 8 hasn’t had to dilute itself down at all in the process. Its hardcore appeal is very much kept intact, while simultaneously 10 hit combo-ing the door open for newcomers.
Street Fighter 6 still sets the bar for engaging single player content; there’s just not very much of it here. But Bandai Namco has absolutely delivered on the gameplay front.
In-depth tutorials and new gameplay systems make this both a perfect entry point for series newcomers, and an evolution of the fighting game formula fans have spent decades trying to master.
New mechanics improve already slick gameplay
Lends a helping hand to beginners
Gorgeous graphics and rapid load times
Rival fighting games have more single player content
Special Style control scheme too watered down
Some mechanics still a little obtuse