Tekken 8 Review – Bringing the Fight to a New Generation

Tekken 8 Review - Bringing the Fight to a New Generation

It could be argued that the Tekken franchise is a part of the holy trinity of fighting game franchises. It wasn’t the first to go into a 3D environment, but it has probably been the most successful of the games that did in the initial wave of fighters looking to differentiate themselves from Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat. It has had a long and prosperous reign as an esports fighter and has a huge fanbase of dedicated players. But after Tekken 7, it felt like perhaps some of the shine was wearing off, that it was getting a little stale and other fighters were passing it by. Thankfully Tekken 8 has arrived to put those worries to bed with what has to be the most feature-rich and engaging edition of Tekken in recent memory. 

As anyone who is new to fighting games can tell you, getting into the genre is an uphill battle. These games are built on knowing how to play before you even pick up a controller and the Tekken franchise is particularly tough for people to get into. The developers have recognised this finally in Tekken 8 and have included some genre-leading onboarding features that bring newbies in and help them on their way to becoming fans. The most notable of these is the Arcade quest mode, where players create their own avatars and take them through a journey to the Tekken world cup. This is, essentially, a long tutorial with wonderful guides and instructions on how to play the game. What’s even better is, that the game, once it has taught something new, then gives players time to use and master these techniques, all the while unlocking new cosmetic items for their fighters, avatars and profiles. It is a gentle and thorough system that I know I, a lapsed Tekken player, appreciated as it not only taught me new mechanics but really honed the basics of fighting. 

Speaking of new mechanics, there are a couple of exciting additions to the fights that are easy to use, but require smart and strategic use to be effective. There is a second heat bar under the character’s health bar that can be activated with the press of the right bumper. This will put the player into a heightened mode that allows for more damage. Press the right bumper a second time and it will activate a stringed, high-damage combo that will put players on the front foot should they land it. This feature can only be used once per round and is both easily blocked and able to be strung into normal combos. It will be exciting to see the pros use this to its fullest potential because I can see some amazing possibilities in its use. The second big damage addition is similar to an X-ray move in Mortal Kombat. If a combatant is at low health they can use the right trigger to trigger a massive, flashy super move that does high damage and can bring them back into the game. 

On the single-player side of things, Tekken 8 is perhaps the closest game to Mortal Kombat in terms of giving solo players something to do. It has a full cinematic story mode that follows Jin and his quest to conquer the devil blood inside him all the while protecting Earth from the Mishima legacy. It is all grand nonsense that players new to the series will not understand at all but it is fun nonetheless. There are some catch-up videos that go through the story of each of the previous Tekken games, but really the story for this franchise is so wild and convoluted that it is just too hard to follow. It is however nice to see another developer tackle this style of single-player focus for a fighter and I was more than satisfied as I played through the tall tale.

In addition to the cinematic story mode, there is the traditional arcade mode story for each character. This is the same sort of thing we’ve seen in every fighting game since Street Fighter 2 so it isn’t exciting, but I still appreciate it.  It gives a little background on each character and some of the stories feature a real sense of fun and humour to them. Tekken 8 also includes a “ghost” mode that learns how you play and allows you to battle AI facsimiles of your fighting style or download AI copies of your friends and battle them. Think of the Drivatar system from Forza and you will have a good idea. It is a nice way to feel like you are playing with buddies, even when you aren’t. Finally, Tekken ball makes its grand return and while this weird combo of traditional Tekken and Volleyball is hardly deep, it is a hell of a lot of fun with mates while sitting on the couch, so it is always welcome. 

On the multiplayer side of things, it is much how you would expect. It is hard to say how netcode will hold up given I was playing pre-launch, but things are looking positive with rollback netcode in play. All the traditional multiplayer modes are here and this should see Tekken 8 become a popular addition to the franchise among fans. As always getting into multiplayer is a hill that most won’t climb, but for those that do you will be well-serviced.  It would be nice to see some variety here, but it is hard to argue with “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

On the tech side of things, Tekken 8 is a real treat. Stunning is an understatement and the detail present in both the characters and backgrounds is fantastic. Matches load super fast thanks to the console’s SSD drives so there is none of that stop/start feeling that used to ruin games in this genre in the past. The sound also deserves special mention, with a wonderful 5.1 mix (if you have the hardware to support it) and satisfying sound effects. It is fair to say the audio side of things has been well looked after. Even the theme song is pretty darn catchy. In all the tech team has done a fantastic job of bringing the Tekken franchise to the latest generation of consoles and taking advantage of the power that is now available. 

Tekken 8 is something of a return to form for me. The franchise has always had a soft spot in my heart, but over the years the increasing focus on esports and multiplayer has seen me drift away. Tekken 8 reverses that trend with a host of single-player modes and teaching tools designed for both new and lapsed players. This is all tied into a satisfying and impactful fighting system and some impressive visual and audio tech to create what is perhaps the best all-around entry in the franchise since the glory that was Tekken 3. The multiplayer modes are a little safe here and no matter how good the tutorial tools are, getting into the online space is always going to be a massive problem for newbies, so there could possibly be some work done on that side of things, but in all this a fantastic fighter for both new and old players. Let’s hope this trend of fighting games welcoming new players and not just focusing on the hardcore becomes the norm, because the genre will be in a much better place if it does. 

Tekken 8 was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by Bandai Namco Australia. 

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