Tekken 8 review - Packs a punch and slams into 2024
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Featured Image Credit: Bandai Namco
The latest entry in Bandai Namco’s Tekken series is upon us, and it’s backed by Unreal Engine 5, leaving last-gen consoles in the dust. Tekken 8 promises to be the most advanced and stacked entry in the series yet. But does the bark pack more punch than its bite? Let’s find out.
Tekken 8 brings with it a host of modes outside of the traditional arcade-style formula, offering not one, but two story modes. The main story campaign in Tekken 8 is ‘The Dark Awakens’. Taking place six months after the events of Tekken 7, its story is a continuation of the seemingly never-ending brutal father-and-son feud between Kazuya Mishima and Jin Kazuma.
Check out the Tekken 8 launch trailer below!
Kazuya’s quench for power reaches its peak in Tekken 8, and now he wants to rule the world in his devilish image. Naturally, Kazuya organises ‘The King of Iron Fist Tournament’. Depending on how each national representative performs in the tournament will determine the hierarchy in Kazuya’s new world. However, something tells me that Kazuya has an alternate motive and his son, Jin, aims to stop his father's diabolical urge for world domination once and for all, but he may have to call upon a few friends to see it through.
‘The Dark Awakens’ campaign is the most cinematic story told in this series yet, largely down to its stunning Unreal Engine 5 visuals supported by its talented cast of actors bringing each character to life with a level of drama to match any Like a Dragon game from RGG Studio. The cutscenes in ‘The Dark Awakens’ are part pre-rendered and part real-time. Each looks incredibly impressive. Yet I believe the real-time scenes are what shine most, especially as they transition into battle. Oddly, as good as the pre-rendered scenes are, they did appear to have some framerate dips, which just makes me wonder why all the scenes in between battles weren't in real-time. Hopefully, this is something that Bandai Namco can consider for its next entry. In addition, each of the 32 launch characters are wonderfully created making the most of the new engine as are the 16 launch stages, some of which have destructible objects adding an extra umph when landing some vicious combos as your opponent rebounds into yet another fist to the face.
The other story mode is ‘Arcade Quest’. This is a cute story campaign in which you create your Mii-inspired avatar and rise through the ranks from arcade hobbyist to the best Tekken 8 player in the world. This mode was surprisingly more fun than I expected as you travel the States entering the next prestigious tournament with your NPC friends by your side. It’s also a great way to learn the gameplay ropes of Tekken 8 offering some very handy tutorials as you progress.
Outside of the two main story modes we have ‘Character Episodes’ which is kind of like a short-burst arcade mode rewarding the player with some entertaining back story and still-art images that are a lot more fun than they sound. Furthermore, there is also a traditional arcade mode with ‘Arcade Quest’, essentially a survival gauntlet. ‘Super Ghost Battle’ is a mode in which you battle against your AI. The more you battle against it, the tougher it will eventually become to defeat as it will learn your every move. This mode sounds more interesting than it actually is and I doubt it’s something I’ll likely revisit anytime soon.
Another mode I’m not likely to bother returning to is ‘Tekken Ball’. This is basically a beach volleyball game from a 2D perspective. It was fun for about 10 minutes until its novelty wore off. There is of course the customary practice mode, as well as online Ranked and Player matches. You can also customise your favourite characters in Tekken 8 with new items being unlocked by playing the game, as you can do with your avatar by spending the currency you earn in-game. I quite like this feature because it allows you to add a personal touch to your favourite characters to stand out a little from opposing online players.
So how does the actual moment-to-moment fighting in Tekken 8 fare? Simply put, it feels sublime. I’ve been a fan of Tekken since the very beginning and while I enjoyed Tekken 7, I couldn't quite click with its gameplay as I struggled with its fluidity. Thankfully, that is not a problem with Tekken 8. The combat is so smooth and easy to pick up, that you’ll be feeling like a Tekken pro within minutes and it feels like it’s constantly pushing players on the attack over defensive tactics, which I rather enjoy. For the most part, I prefer the 2D fighters like Street Fighter 6 and Mortal Kombat 1, but back in the day, I loved games like Tekken and Soulcalibur. Yet, not since 2002’s Soulcalibur II have I enjoyed a 3D fighting game as much as Tekken 8, it feels satisfying to play that your ‘one more match’ can last hours.
Two new mechanics introduced in Tekken 8 are the Heat and Rage systems. At any point in a fight, you can trigger your Heat and use it to unleash devastating combos for heavy damage on your opponent or you can use it as a defence mechanism which will give you a small health boost every time an opponent hits an attack while in a defensive Heat state. Keep in mind though, that your Heat can only be used once per round. As for the Rage system, this can be triggered when a player is on the verge of defeat, much like the Fatal Blow in Mortal Kombat 1 potentially turning the tide of the battle in dramatic fashion
Tekken 8 is the most satisfying and fun 3D fighting game that I’ve played in years. Aside from its five to six-hour ‘The Dark Awakens’ campaign, there’s so much more fun to be had with the latest entry in the iconic arcade series from Bandai Namco whether it's fine-tuning your skills locally against AI or friends, or daring to take on other players worldwide. 2023 blessed us with two of the best fighting games in years with Street Fighter 6 and Mortal Kombat 1, now Tekken 8 claims its rightful spot amongst the elite of its genre as it ushers in new contenders for its prestigious King of Iron Fist Tournament.
Pros: Super smooth gameplay, stunning visuals, fun and rewarding modes
Cons: Pre-rendered cutscenes let the real-time cutscenes down, a little
Fans of: Tekken 7, Soulcalibur, Dead or Alive
Tekken 8 releases for PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S (version tested) on 26 January 2024. A review code was provided by Ubisoft. Read a guide to our review scores here.