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Tekken 8 Preview: franchise’s best ever combat, for veterans and newcomers alike

James Daly

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Tekken 8 Preview: franchise’s best ever combat, for veterans and newcomers alike

Featured Image Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Heavy blows are exchanged. My opponent grabs me, hurling me over their shoulder like I’m nothing. I try to recover, rising into the receiving end of a combo that I was too late to block. I step back, guarding further attacks. They only have a quarter of their health bar left. I can do this, I just have to be mindful. We clash, striking and defending until they make a mistake and leave the crucial opening. I hit them with my Rage Art, the coup de grâce every character has, and they can only watch as I drain them of their remaining vigour. Tekken 8 is full of such satisfying moments.

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See Tekken 8 in action here

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After its reveal at State of Play, there was a lot of excitement for Tekken 8. The gorgeous visuals powered by Unreal Engine 5 elevated iconic fighters Jin and Kazuya to new levels of handsome, as they went toe-to-toe in the most pulsating, visceral style we’d ever seen from the series. So, when Bandai Namco Entertainment invited GAMINGbible to a hands-on preview event, I couldn’t wait to see if the game could live up to the trailer. In short, it absolutely did.

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With five arenas and a roster of 10 playable characters - Jun Kazama, Nina Williams, King, Marshall Law, Lars Alexandersson, Paul Phoenix, Jack-8 and newly announced Ling Xiaoyu, as well as the aforementioned Jin Kazama and Kazuya Mishima - the preview build provided a taste of what to expect in the full game.

Tekken 8 / Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Tekken 8 / Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Playing one-on-one against other humans, we were encouraged by developers Katsuhiro Harada and Michael Murray to try out the new Special Style, which can be selected by pressing L1 on the PlayStation DualSense (we were playing on PS5), and effectively swaps each character’s control scheme, streamlining stronger moves for ease of input. Instead of using a relatively complex array of commands, players are able to use an individual button for a move, tapping it either once or several times to initiate a specific technique.

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While this approach could benefit new and/or more casual players, thanks to its more simplistic nature allowing for less learning time, it felt difficult to adjust to as an existing Tekken fan. I’m not a particularly adept player, but I grew up with the franchise so feel perfectly at home with the conventional move lists, at least for most characters. There were also times when I felt as if Special Mode had the game fighting on my behalf, leading to me feeling disconnected, but these instances were few. That being said, the ability to swap command styles on the fly could prove beneficial to players who want to access a particular attack more quickly, something that Tekken 8 seems eager to accommodate in general.

Tekken 8 / Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Tekken 8 / Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Each character has access to the Heat system. A Heat Burst can be activated either by inputting a specific attack or hitting R1 on the gamepad. While the more conventional way unlocks the capacity for two Heat actions, R1 is simpler and is particularly helpful when trying to take advantage of a gap in your opponent’s play.

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Once in Heat Burst mode, you can either execute a Heat Dash, where you charge your opponent, or a Heat Smash, where you unleash a ferocious attack. If you entered Heat Mode using R1, you only get to choose one, whereas if you used the relevant, lengthier attack input, then you can do both.

In addition, each character has access to a Rage Art, which is essentially a super move that’s only available once your health gauge depletes by about 75%. To initiate, you can simply hit R2, and the effect can be devastating when done right. In some cases, I saw a third of a health bar wiped away with ease. When chained to follow a Heat Smash, you can significantly alter the momentum of a bout, even shifting from the losing position to what feels like a conclusive victory. However, once these moves are used, they’re unavailable for the remainder of the round, so pick your moment wisely or else suffer the consequences.

Tekken 8 / Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Tekken 8 / Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment
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Trying out every character felt rewarding (with the exception of Jack-8 who simply doesn’t suit my way of playing), but my favourite on the day was Nina. I loved her in Tekken 3 (great game, by the way), so it felt especially wonderful to see how much the Unreal-Engine-5-glow-up has done for her.

What I was most struck by, though, was how easy it was to learn and re-learn each fighter. In the case of Jin, for example, it was a case of reminding myself of how they operate, but I’d never played as Lars before. Despite the lack of existing knowledge, Tekken 8 encourages you to learn thanks to its immensely satisfying gameplay, even when you’re on the receiving end of a perfect beatdown. The move lists are straightforward if you’ve played before, but you can simply swap to Special Mode, if you prefer, and fight in a less granular way.

Another welcome feature is the ability to recover some health. When damaged, you can sometimes heal slightly if your health bar shows a different coloured section where the lost HP was. In this situation, you can regenerate by beating on your foe. It’s the same principle as Bloodborne, effectively rewarding more aggressive players, and it keeps the intensity up during a fight. However, it’s also worth pointing out that Jun has a specific healing move to use in this context, which is handy if you’re unable or unwilling to connect with your foe.

Tekken 8 / Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Tekken 8 / Credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Overall, I had a blast with Tekken 8. From basic attacks to special moves, the combat is endlessly fun. There were plenty of moments where I held my breath while waiting to see if I’d triumphed over my opponent. There was the satisfaction of lining up a Heat Smash or Rage art to crush the other player. There’s the joyous speed at which attacks fly over each other in the thick of battle. I even love how if you miss a Rage Art, you still have time to block a similar blow from your opponent, keeping you in the game when trying to make things happen.

While we’re still waiting on a release date, as well as more details on the various modes we can expect from the game, and which other characters will be present, I’m confident I’ll be playing Tekken 8 on day one.

Topics: Tekken, PlayStation 5

James Daly
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