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Review: Tekken 8 is a great Tekken game, but not much more

Tekken 8 includes some fantastic fighting, but it's made for experienced players first
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Did you know that Jin started a global war in Tekken 6 just so he could revive and fight an ancient devil god? Tekken 7 even had Kazuya’s Devil Gene exposed to the entire world, and despite that, a full crowd still shows up for the action when the next King of Iron Fist Tournament rolls around in Tekken 8. Heihachi Mishima is dead, Kazuya Mishima is in control of the Mishima Zaibatsu, and he even has a Devil Gene battle with Jin in the streets of pseudo-New York. The world is literally crumbling, but the fans will still show up to see someone get punched in the face.

Tekken 8 does its best to rehabilitate Jin Kazama. Yes, he’s made some mistakes, caused a world war, and failed to destroy the Devil Gene, but his heart was in the right place. Probably. He certainly doesn’t get chastised at all – in fact, almost every character not affiliated with Kazuya acts like he’s a precious baby boy. He does at least get one thing right in Tekken 8, but you’ll have to play through the story yourself to find out what that is.

In a way, Tekken 8 feels like an olive branch to the more casual fighting game players and those who are FGC-curious. The Heat system has two methods of activation, either a single button press which will probably deliver decent results, or a Heat Engager activation, which includes a dash for combo follow-ups. Tap the Heat button again while Heat is active, and your character will pull out a Heat Smash combo. It’s not the same as the auto-combos other fighting games have included, and here it’s used more as a distinctive mechanic for different combo routes instead of a way to level the playing field.

Raven is incredibly cool.

Raven is incredibly cool.

It’s a double-edged sword. Tekken has never been the most approachable series, and that’s no different here. While you’ll end up pulling out a few strong combos just by mashing away, come up against a player that understands the mechanics and characters in any depth, and it’ll be a different story – one that ends in you losing, in case that wasn’t clear. Tekken is a series that partially relies on legacy skill – it knows experienced Tekken players want to play Tekken, and isn’t willing to rock the boat too much in terms of base mechanics. Even official character guides include inputs for Wavedashing now – and if you don’t know what that is, well, sucks, I guess? At least you’ll still have Tekken Ball.

On top of Tekken Ball, Tekken Force returns with a few select stages in the story mode, where the player will plough through dozens of enemy soldiers and Jack robots during the final clash of fates. Fingers crossed this manages to become its own mode in the near future, just for something to do when the grind becomes overbearing.

The Devil Gene takes center-stage in Tekken 8.

The Devil Gene takes center-stage in Tekken 8.

Luckily, the devs have realized that the learning curve keeps getting steeper, and have introduced a unique Arcade Quest into the game to help ease players in. It’s set up like a real-life community arcade: you join a local tournament, prove your worth, and start traveling to other arcades and tournaments to build up your Tekken skills. Like Street Fighter 6’s World Tour mode, the Arcade Quest will even slowly drip-feed tutorials for increasingly more complicated mechanics, hopefully easing new players into one of the most unique – and complex – fighting games on the market. Does it work? Well, a new player would have to invest around 100 hours before giving us the verdict on that one.

That’s how long most players would probably need to spend before “mastering” a character, and Tekken 8 has 32 to dive into. There are plenty of returning veterans for experienced players to jump right into matches with, but newcomers like the mysterious Mishima-style expert Reina, or the coffee-connoisseur Azucena, will give pros something new to grapple with.

Every big hit is matched with flashy effects and booming audio.

Every big hit is matched with flashy effects and booming audio.

When I first played Tekken 8 during the Closed Network Test, I honestly came away disappointed. I felt that the visuals and character models lacked polish, and I wasn’t sure about the new Heat mechanics. With the game in my hands I’m far more comfortable about everything – it looks great, plays great, and feels, well, great. Tekken 8 is a fantastic fighting game, but I can’t help but feel like something is missing. Maybe it’s because I’m a Lucky Chloe main.

Tekken 8 has a lot to love – I personally love Reina – but it isn’t offering anything too new. Street Fighter 6 felt like a bold step forward for the franchise, and Guilty Gear Strike before that was a huge change for an established franchise – Tekken 8, meanwhile, feels safe. This is a game designed primarily to appease an existing audience, not court a new one. While that’s definitely good for die-hard Tekken players, it also means that Tekken 8 just feels like another one. Another Tekken game, without anything more to say. It’s Tekken, it’s great, but I wish it were more.

Score: 8/10

  • Presentation: 8/10
  • Story: 6/10
  • Gameplay: 9/10
  • Music: 6/10

Version tested: PS5

Tekken 8 technical performance

Tekken 8 on PS5 runs perfectly smoothly. Online battles are perfectly playable, and the game never wavers from its 60fps performance target in 1v1 battles – where it matters. A big letdown is the pre-rendered story cutscenes: in Tekken 7, these weaved into the real-time battles seamlessly, but in Tekken 8, the low-bitrate, 30fps cutscenes are very obviously not real-time rendered, and it makes for a less impressive overall presentation.