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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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PC Review - 'Tekken 8'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 24, 2024 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

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.

Buy Tekken 8

Fighting games had a banner year in 2023. The big names like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat got excellent new mainlines entries — provided you never looked at their cosmetic microtransaction schemes. Big games from years ago, like Guilty Gear Strive, were still getting new DLC fighters. Titles like Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 made a solid comeback after a disappointing predecessor. Surprising indie efforts like Idol Showdown came out of nowhere. December brought a strong Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, and this was all while many others were still playing old stalwarts like Skullgirls 2nd Encore and Dragonball FighterZ. Despite that, there was the question of when Tekken 8 would release. Although Tekken 8 didn't manage to launch 2023, it doesn't disappoint.

The fighting mechanics use just about everything from Tekken 7 as its base, which makes for a great starting point for all players. The flow into combos is just as refined as ever, whether you're on the ground or performing air juggles. Hits come with enough flash that they look powerful, even if the inflicted damage is minimal. The Rage mechanic is basically the same as before, but one critical change is that all fighters use the same command to execute it. The Assist and Easy Combo systems have also gotten tweaks, so you can customize which face buttons perform which move. This remains a toggleable feature, making it possible for fighting game novices to be a little competitive without getting absolutely wrecked from the get-go.

There are a few new general fight mechanics. The biggest is the Heat system, which is relatively deep. You start each round of a match with a full meter, and it can be activated at any time via a button combination or certain moves that let you lunge at an opponent before activating it at the point of a hit. When in the 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 end it early by executing a smash move that acts like a lesser version of the Rage Art. If the opponent has a very significant health lead, the small combo delivers a good amount of damage that's not enough to completely turn the tide of a fight.

The second is the Power Crush, which are like 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 (but not substantial) amount of health. The drawback is that you're open to a hit that won't stop your Power Crush but gives you a normal amount of damage. It puts you at risk of losing a round if you try it with a sliver of health.

Finally, the game introduces the idea of recoverable health. Blocking any special hard-hitting moves or basic moves performed 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 — if you don't get hit before it's recovered. To recover it, you'll need to land hits of your own, and the recovery process is incremental instead of all of the health coming back with one good hit. It feels like a move designed to punish those who are always on defensive, as you can't recover health by simply weathering attacks.

Much like the addition of Rage Arts in Tekken 7, these two new fight mechanics keep 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 choose to get an early health lead or save it in case your Rage Art fails to connect. There's also the sense that the game favors more aggression in fights, as there isn't much to alter the defensive game. In fact, the game emphasizes that offense is your best defensive maneuver, and there's an emphasis on punishing opponents via blocking. Expect fights to be much faster, especially now that chip damage has become a more prominent mechanic than in past games.

The roster is 32 players deep at launch. Most of the fighters from the last game return with a few cosmetic changes and a slightly expanded arsenal of moves. You're looking at a roster with four completely new characters. That is a little misleading, as Jun Kazama isn't new. Considering that her last appearance was in Tekken Tag Tournament and she was greatly modified as Unknown in Tekken Tag Tournament 2, it is fair to say that most players might not be familiar with her. Tekken 2 veterans will be glad to know that she behaves pretty much like she did in that game, but she has a few new moves that are related to energy, giving her more range in the process. Reina has some Mishima-inspired moves in her arsenal, making her feel like Heihachi with a slightly expanded move set and great speed. Victor is also quick but has some real range, making him feel like an improved version of Yoshimitsu without getting dizzy. Azucena is more of a wild card, as she initially seems like a mix of Lucky Chloe and Eddy Gordo. She does some dancing but can still be tricky to read due to some Steve-like dodging; she doesn't bust out easy combos via button-mashing, either.

As an aside, Tekken 8 has adopted personalized intros depending on the character match-up. For example, have Steve go against King, and both will talk about muscles in relation to their chosen profession. It isn't as robust as what you'd find in some of the more recent Mortal Kombat titles, but it is a nice touch.

As for the stages, you have 16 to select from, and there are some notable differences in what you'll find in Tekken 8 versus past titles. For one thing, there is no simple Training Mode stage, so those looking for a basic stage with no frills are out of luck. All of the stages are enclosed, so the infinite stages that were signatures of the series are nowhere to be found. Past games have taken some features previously seen in Dead or Alive stages, such as breakable objects, railing, and walls. Tekken 8 takes that a step further by adding elements that explode to deal more damage, like the helicopter in the hangar and spirit shrines in the Peru stage. The damage dealt isn't severe and still falls in the recoverable category, so they aren't as devastating as what's seen in Tecmo's game, but it is still something new to cope with or add to your arsenal.

Compared to Tekken 7 at launch, Tekken 8 comes with a bevy of different modes. The standard versus modes against human and CPU players are available, as is a practice mode that feels deep due to the presence of elements like punishment training and standard combo trials. The replay system from online matches also acts like a new form of practice, since the game can point out battle tips based on the data, recommend counterattack moves, and letting you practice the moves. It isn't so detailed that every move is analyzed, but it is a nice feature.

There are three significant single-player-only modes. Story mode is the second major attempt by the developer to make a playable version of the Mishima and Kazama family saga. With Heihachi now confirmed dead, Kazuya has gone forward with his plans of world domination. Jin initially tries to stop him, but the fight with his father and major defeat at his hands has caused Jin to lose access to his own Devil powers. Sensing victory, Kazuya decides to hold another King of Iron Fist Tournament as a means to re-rank the countries under his new world order — and as part of another secret plan.

The mode is heavily dependent on showing cut scenes more than actual fighting, but it's toned down so the presence of cut scenes is more tolerable. It also helps that the game doesn't use an outsider to tell the story; it's a great move since the narrator's dour storytelling style was one of the reasons that Tekken 7's story mode was a bore. The story still doesn't reach the heights of what other fighting games have delivered, but the spectacle of the battles makes up for it.

Arcade Quest is the second major single-player mode, and it continues a recent fighting game trend of having a secondary story mode. This time, it mimics the fighting game scene, as fans are excited that Tekken 8 has just launched in arcades. You play as one of those fans, a newcomer to the scene who is friends with someone who has intimate knowledge of the series' fundamental mechanics. As you and his friends go to the first major Tekken 8 tournament, you vow to put in the time to learn the game and make your way to the world championships.

The story and pacing match up with any anime that sees a relative unknown try to make it to the top of any game or sport. All of the tropes are here and in full force. There's the formation of a support group of friends with their own different interests in Tekken. There's the brash opponent that you swear to defeat. There's the best friend who becomes your friendly rival. There are the prerequisite visits to other arcades to defeat their local champs and learn from them. Players won't mind all of this, since the mode plays out briskly; you can ask bystanders with icons for a match or sit at an arcade machine while a parade of opponents come after you until you reach the requisite level to move on to the next story beat. There are cut scenes, but they don't dominate the mode, so they leave room for actual matches. It's lighthearted and very neat to see this approach, as it nicely contrasts with Tekken 8's actual Story mode.

Lastly, there's Super Ghost Battle, which replaces Treasure Quest as the mode designed for repeat play when you're not up against another human being. It plays similarly to Arcade Quest in that you can either go up to a bystander with an icon to request a fight or go to the arcade machine and pick from a list of ghost players. What makes this more appealing is the fact that you can actively see who has something to earn if you beat them, so those looking to uncover every cosmetic piece can make a beeline for bystanders rather than going through random opponents and hoping to unlock an item. There is a finite amount of unlockables per day, so you will have to make it a daily thing to check back if you want to unlock every cosmetic thing.

Additionally, there is a bevy of other modes to play with. Tekken Ball makes a return from Tekken 3, and it plays like a mashup of a fighting game and volleyball. Players occupy opposing zones, and while they can hit each other if they get close to the borders, no damage is inflicted. Instead, the players must hit the ball to build up its power level. The only ways to take damage is when the ball hits your side of the ground or the ball smacks you, and this repeats until someone's life bar is drained. It's novel but more as a curiosity rather than an actual mode that merits a significant amount of time, especially since the different balls are cosmetic and their behavior never changes.

Character Episodes are back and act like the traditional arcade mode of yesteryear, since this is the only way to see each character's individual ending. The episodes are only five matches long, so you'll go through them quickly. Standard Arcade Battle remains but has nothing attached to it aside from the ability to fight different bosses. The ability to fight against different ghosts as your opponents is a nice way to keep this fresh, but the only other reason to play it is to get more Fight Coins for unlocking gallery and customization pieces. Those coins can also be earned just about everywhere else, aside from local two-player bouts.

Like the game's offline modes, the online modes in Tekken 8 are much more robust at launch than what Tekken 7 had at launch. Cross-play is included from the start, and rollback netcode has been implemented as well. The game did pause a bit when fighting against someone using Wi-Fi on a PS5 in Japan, but those instances were few and far between. We never experienced any instances of our controller inputs being eaten up by lag. Aside from the prerequisite Player and Ranked Matches, the big new mode is the Tekken Lounge, which is similar to what you'd find in Street Fighter 6 and countless Arc System Works games over the past few years. The game has you controlling your avatar from Arcade Quest as you go through a park filled with Tekken 8 arcade machines, a store for your avatar, and a few other Namco-related items. Unlike in Capcom's game, you can't have those avatars fight one another directly, and you can't interact with anything that isn't a Tekken 8 machine, but you can participate in unranked fights by sitting and waiting at an arcade cabinet. You can also watch matches this way and fight against ghosts of the player you interact with.

Tekken has always been a graphical showcase, and this entry is no exception. The use of Unreal Engine 5 doesn't beef up the character models too much. They still look amazing with a little more detail on the textures and more muscle deformation, but it doesn't look too different from Tekken 7. The same applies to the backgrounds, especially since you can still see low textures in a few places. They still look great, though, but it's nothing mind-blowing. That changes when you see the game in motion and notice that it tries to fill the screen with particles, as if it were imitating the 2013 version of Killer Instinct. It might be overkill sometimes, but it emphasizes the spectacle of the fight. The different colors of explosions populate the screen, all while keeping the rock-solid 60fps intact. The good news is that running it at a true 4K resolution isn't too difficult to do, but for those who don't have capable PCs, the game does support every version of FSR, XeSS, and DLSS available, so there shouldn't be any issue running Tekken 8 on any graphics card.

Similarly, the sound hits as hard as ever. Except for a few tracks, the music keeps with the techno themes, and the tracks are great for getting you in the mood to fight. Even the more offbeat stuff, such as the melody that plays in the mansion level, still drives you to fight — unexpected when a harpsichord is involved. The sound effects still have a great deal of bass, and the voice acting is top-notch. The only knock is that you can't change the announcer's voice to that of Lenne Hardt, which is an odd choice considering that she's not only doing the voice-overs for the character trailers but also has more than a few lines in the main story and character episodes.

For Steam Deck users, the unfortunate news is that Tekken 8 doesn't work on the device at this time. It's strange thing to see, since the preview build over the summer worked fine on the portable machine. The game boots up to the opening credits but then produce a Fatal Error window while the opening movie plays in the background. Hitting any button does nothing, and dismissing the message pop-up kills the game and sends users back to the Steam Deck's game dashboard. Using any version of Proton does nothing to get past this issue, so until Valve issues a fix, don't think about playing Tekken 8 on the Deck yet.

Tekken 8 is excellent. The fighting is just as crisp as ever, and the addition of the Heat mechanic and an increased focus on aggression create a game that feels both exciting to play and watch. The bevy of new modes was what the game needed at launch, and there's more than enough content to keep players busy without feeling like every facet of the title had been explored. The fighting game scene has been blessed with banger after banger over the last few years, and Tekken 8 keeps that trend going. Fans of the fighting game genre need to have Tekken 8 in their libraries.

Score: 9.0/10

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