Tekken 8

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Release Date: Jan. 26, 2024


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PS5/XSX/PC Preview - 'Tekken 8'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 3, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Tekken 8 brings the fight to the next generation, using Unreal Engine 5 and creating one of the most visually stunning and immersive titles in the genre yet.

This year sees the release of the latest entries in three of the big fighting game franchises, and to keep the anticipation from waning, each one released at least one beta that acted as network tests and demos to show off new gameplay mechanics. Thus far, the results have been excellent. Street Fighter 6 showed off its flashy presentation, how well its Drive mechanics work, and solid network performance that carried over into the full game. Mortal Kombat 1 alleviated anyone's worry that the Kameo fighter system would dilute the gameplay, as it made the fighting feel deeper and more strategic while also showing that their network performance was rock solid. Now it's Tekken 8's turn, and we got some hands-on time with the Steam closed beta that was released a week after the PS5 iteration.

Compared to other closed betas, Tekken 8's is quite generous with content. There are five stages to play, each one varied in detail and size. Most feature a few breakable objects, and at least one features breakable walls that expand the fighting area. There are 16 fighters to choose from, and there's a good mix of fighters across just about every Tekken game released so far. Jun is perhaps the only character that one might consider as "new," since the last time we saw her was in Tekken Tag Tournament 2, but she still plays relatively the same as she did in that game and Tekken 2.

The fighting mechanics use just about everything from Tekken 7 as its base, which makes for a great starting point. The flow into combos is as refined as ever, every fighter has a bunch of distinct moves, and the overall speed of a match is relatively fast. The Rage mechanic is the same as before, but one critical change is that all of the fighters use the same command to execute it. The Assist and Easy Combo systems have also received tweaks, so players can customize which face buttons perform which move, and this remains a toggleable feature, making it possible for fighting game novices to be a bit competitive without getting absolutely wrecked from the get-go.

There are a few new mechanics being shown off in Tekke 8. The biggest is the Heat system, which is relatively deep as a whole. You start each round with a full meter, and it can be activated at any time either through a button combination or certain moves that let you lunge at an opponent before activating it just at the point of a hit. When in that heat state, you get slightly more attack power on your hits, and basic moves can apply chip damage to enemies that block. Heat ends after a few seconds, and it can never be replenished, but you can also end it early by executing a smash move that acts like a lesser version of the Rage Art. It executes a small combo that delivers a good amount of damage that doesn't change the face of a fight.

Another mechanic is the Power Crush, which is similar to the focused Drive attacks of Street Fighter 6. Players can execute a powerful punch or kick that breaks through enemy defenses to knock them down and away. It's more of a "keep away" move than a combo starter, since it guarantees a knockdown. Despite the name, the move takes away a decent amount of health but not a substantial chunk. The drawback is that you're open to a hit that won't stop your Power Crush but causes a normal amount of damage; it puts you at risk of losing a round if you try this with only a sliver of health.

Finally, the game introduces the idea of recoverable health. Blocking any special hard hitting moves or basic moves when the opponent has Heat activated means you take on some chip damage. The difference is that the portion of your health meter that is taken away is replaced with a silhouette of the lost energy, so the loss is temporary provided you don't get hit before it is recovered. To recover it, you'll need to land hits of your own, and the recovery process is incremental instead of having that health come back with one good hit. It feels like a move designed to punish those who are always on the defense, since you can't recover that health by simply weathering attacks.

Much like the addition of Rage Arts in Tekken 7, these two new gameplay mechanics make the combat feel more strategic and exciting. There's some risk/reward involved when it comes to figuring out when to activate the Heat and use the related moves. You can get an early health lead if you connect, or you can save it in case your Rage Art fails to connect or finish the job. There's also the sense that the game favors aggression in fights, as there aren't many changes in the defensive game. Expect fights to be much faster, especially now that chip damage is more prominent than in past games.

As for the network performance, it's very good overall. We couldn't tell if some matches refused to connect because of not initially properly configuring the Windows Firewall or if players canceled their fight requests. The ones that did go through went almost without a hitch. The situation was the same when fighting against fellow PC players or those on consoles, and the experience between Wi-Fi and wired players was no different. Even a match with a player from Asia marked with a low signal Wi-Fi rating on a PS5 was smooth, making it clear that the online community could be content with this game for some time.

The move to Unreal Engine 5 doesn't seem to make a huge difference to the visual appearance, at least initially. The character models for the fighters still look great, but it'll take a keen eye to spot any differences between what you see here and Tekken 7, beyond some obvious costume changes. The real big changes come from the backgrounds, which look more detailed and feature more destructible objects and more bystanders, making it look richer by comparison. Particle effects have also received a bump, as they're more abundant but not to the level of the 2013 version of Killer Instinct. With the ability to hold a high frame rate throughout, it still looks like an absolutely gorgeous title.

Tekken 7 was playable on the Steam Deck, but it was a struggle to attain the magical 60fps that feels paramount for fighting games. Tekken 8 does a much better job of making it work better on the device. Every fight we encountered ran at a solid 60fps with no drops. Controls are responsive, and the battery life hovers at around two hours from a full charge, which seems to be the new normal for any triple A PC title this year. The game defaults to a 1280x800 resolution with low settings and a bit of upscaling; the image for the fighters seems soft, while the backgrounds start to lose some detail on objects that are far from the camera. If you're planning to squeeze more fidelity or battery life using the game's FSR 2.1 upscaling, don't do it, as it produces more blocky artifacting during some moves while making all of the effects look like large, pixelated messes.

Tekken 8 is looking awesome so far. The move to Unreal Engine 5 makes for more lively and detailed environments, and the various graphical and upscaling options ensure that just about every PC can run this at 60fps with little to no drops in frame rate. The network performance is solid even on pretty terrible connections, while the addition of two gameplay mechanics to the fighting system make each bout feel exciting. The only thing we're still waiting on is a definitive release date for the game, and with the way things are going now, it would be surprising if we don't get one soon.

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