I see fighting games more as a spectator sport but that doesn’t stop me occasionally mashing my way into them. Tekken‘s probably the one of the big three I’ve got the least experience with but Tekken 8 has definitely won me over. My biggest barrier is usually execution but the solid training tools have, at the very least, given me a window into what is a spectacular fighting franchise.
There’s a plethora of single player content in Tekken 8. At the forefront is The Dark Awakens, the main story mode that continues the Mishima family feud. Kazuya is at the helm of G Corp and he wastes no time announcing a new King of Iron Fist tournament. It’s largely focused around Jin and his inner conflict with the devil gene and his tyrannical father.
It’s an enjoyable romp that does ramp up the spectacle almost immediately. Jin and Kazuya represent clear opposing forces and it allows the roster to split along faction lines. It escalates to the point of glorious absurdity and does conclude in a satisfying manner. The tournament itself represents a chance to step away from Jin and explore the other characters. As a story, it solves a problem and leaves the universe in an interesting place.
There’s a strong cast of fighters right out of the box. Out of the 32 in total, only 3 are new. Victor is a leader of a UN military group and is voiced by Vincent Cassel. He carries an assortment of weapons which really compliment his combos. He can throw knifes, has a sword and, if all else fails, he can just shoot you. Reina offers a Heihachi surrogate. She’s his secret daughter and, as such, embodies a lot of his moveset. Lastly, Azucena hails from Peru and is all about coffee. She has a lively energy to her strikes. Her personality can feel very one-note but she does seem fun to control.
The rest of the roster remains fairly diverse and will be familiar to returning players. Character Stories will be a good port of call to learn them whilst getting some traditionally daft Tekken endings. They’re short, five-bout experiences but the size of the cast should take you a while to work through. Tekken Ball returns but there’s also some new single-player stuff to sink time into.
Arcade Quest is, as the name suggests, focused around the arcade experience. After creating an avatar, the objective is to rise through the ranks of various locations. Beating opponents increases your rating and can also earn you more cosmetic gear to wear. There’s villains on offer but the tone seems mostly light-hearted with an emphasis on fun. I also think it’s a good place for novices to start.
Throughout Arcade Quest, tutorials are handed out to explain and demonstrate Tekken 8‘s core concepts. Traditionally, that’s air juggles but you’ll also learn about the next heat system. This can be triggered once per round and is a powered-up state a character can enter. It’s temporary but can allow for aggressive players to capitalise. As a player on the defensive, these attacks can be blocked for recoverable chip damage. Health can be regenerated if you land a hit after blocking heat attacks.
I did wonder if the system could be overpowering but I’ve played enough matches to think it’s more balanced than that. It does force both players to be on the offensive and prevents any potential stalemates. It’s one more weapon in a player’s arsenal and can be utilised to keep the pressure on or attempt to turn a match in your favour.
For me, I don’t see a reason not to use it. So far, other players feel the same. Playing online, particularly as a novice has been a mixed bag. It hasn’t taken me long to find my level and I’ve been juggled out of existence quite a bit. Still, I’m having fun with my defeats. The teaching tools on offer (both in Arcade Quest and the training mode) have been useful in telling me what I should be doing. Execution is where I’m faltering.
Online has been mostly smooth with one instance of noticeable lag coming from a few hours of play. Cross-play has worked as intended and the matches have been consistent. Even without cross-play, I think the community will be around to give online players regular opportunities to scrap with. As for the characters, I’m seeing (and being demolished by) a few Reina players. It’s a bit early for me to say if she’s a fan favourite. I suspect Hiehachi players can feel comfortable with her.
Visually, Tekken 8 is a polished effort. The story cutscenes heavily lean into Tekken’s anime spectacle and largely deliver. There’s a little disparity between the rendered scenes and in-engine gameplay which is noticeable. When it comes to fights, the character models and stages are really well done. The action is fluid and animations combine nicely. The music suitably fits the bonkers moments and it’s nice to see the fighters speak in their native tongue. It’s a shame there isn’t more pre-match banter. Azuceda is especially repetitive with her coffee-based quips.
As a complete package, it’s hard to argue against Tekken 8. The assortment of single-player modes should keep offline players busy and the story does well to wrap up the Mishima family drama. It does spectacle very nicely and this translates well to fights. The action is smooth and the collection of characters should have a range of players covered. Online, I’ve not ran into any problems and cross-play allows for very little downtime between fights.
+ Fighting feels fluid and looks smooth.
+ A healthy roster of fighters.
+ Plenty of single-player content with solid teaching tools.
- The recommended move list can be distracting in online fights.
- Pre-match banter can repeat very quickly.