TEKKEN 8 Hands-on Preview – Back with style

Posted on December 13, 2023

Prepare to step into the electrifying world of TEKKEN 8, as we recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with a near-final build of the game thanks to Bandai Namco Entertainment ANZ. With a focus on new features, a captivating storyline, and a return to the roots of arcade culture, TEKKEN 8 is shaping up to be a game for fans and newcomers alike.

The Mishima family is at it again

This game unfolds six months after the events of TEKKEN 7, continuing the longstanding saga of the Mishima family and their chaotic history. The central focus of the story revolves around the final confrontation between Kazuya Mishima and Jin Kazama. The storyline delves deep into their complex relationship, with Jin driven by the desire to end the chaos and conflict stemming from their lineage.

We played the first few chapters of the story mode, starting with an action-packed fight between the two in the middle of Times Square, New York. As a new Iron Fist Tournament looms, the narrative promises to explore the consequences of their actions and the impact on the Mishima legacy, offering a compelling and emotionally charged journey for players.

It’s clear from only the brief time we played that TEKKEN 8 takes stakes to the next level. The budget feels bigger, the story is captivating, and with such an impactful start you really have no idea what could happen next. It’s safe to say this may be the wildest narrative in series history and we can’t wait to see how it goes.

TEKKEN 8 introduces a new “Heat” gauge system, rewarding aggressive playstyles with additional move sets and chip damage. The Heat State not only changes character move properties but also introduces a captivating visual element, making players feel like unstoppable forces in the game.

The game introduces a Special Switch on the L1 bumper, offering a more accessible control scheme for newcomers to the fighting game genre. While this feature simplifies basic combos and specials, it strategically limits the move set to maintain balance. This is because if you’re an advanced player with a dictionary in your head of all the moves and combos, then you’ll be much better off playing standard. On the other hand, if you want to pass the controller to a friend for fun versus couch co-op, they’ll also have the experience of pulling off impressive attacks. It makes TEKKEN 8 so much more accessible.

Back to the arcades

One of the standout features is the Arcade Quest mode, an additional campaign that is separate from the story mode. Creating a digital avatar, players embark on a journey with a group of friends to be the best TEKKEN players. The crew of virtual friends provides cheers, and advice, and even challenges you in unique ways.

Developers Bandai Namco Studios and Arika clearly have strong experiences and memories of the arcade culture that this game mode aims to represent. If you’re old enough to remember going to arcades and matching up against a random kid or watching a crowd around a heated battle, you’ll have plenty of nostalgic moments with Arcade Quest. It’s an homage to the good ole’ days.

It’s clear the inspiration was taken from Street Fighter 6’s Battle Hub, where you also create a personalised avatar and communicate with other players. While the style is different, it has the same light-hearted tone and appeal. If you liked what we got in Street Fighter 6, then you’ll love TEKKEN 8’s Arcade Quest.

Using the same avatars, Super Ghost Battle allows you to face off against computer-controlled opponents that adapt to their fighting style in real-time. These AI-controlled ghosts learn your preferred techniques, combos, and strategies as you engage in battle. Testing your skills against yourself, and honestly becoming your own worst enemy, is a thrilling and ever-evolving challenge that keeps you on your toes. Super Ghost Battles forces you to adapt and refine your skills continuously and is great training for new players, in addition to Practice and the replay feature that provides tips and advice.

In one particularly memorable match, my AI doppelganger mirrored my every move, creating a mirror match that felt both intense and eerily personal. As I attempted to rely on my go-to combos, the ghost adapted, countering my every move. This feature adds a new layer of depth to the gameplay, making each encounter unpredictable.

TEKKEN’s extreme beach volleyball

It wouldn’t be TEKKEN without some sort of fun mini-game. In TEKKEN Ball, the typical one-on-one combat takes a backseat and you’re now playing volleyball. However, instead of the traditional rules, you’ll use the fighting move set of your chosen character to lobby the ball over the net and stagger your enemy with powerful strikes. The ball gains momentum with each hit, and players must strategically time their moves to outsmart the opponent and score points.

TEKKEN Ball has been a fan-favourite since its introduction in TEKKEN 3. Its absence in recent titles left fans yearning for its return, and its inclusion here is a welcome gift. The mode has undergone improvements and refinements, embracing the advancements in graphics and gameplay offered by the Unreal Engine 5.

One of the appealing aspects of TEKKEN Ball, and the game in general, is the extensive character customisation options. Each character can be personalised, following the recent trend of the series, with a promise for more and wackier options. What was available in the preview was certainly a small section of the wardrobe we’ll have to play with on full release. Still, what we were able to play around with allowed us to make some interesting outfits.

Visually and sonically stunning

Playing on the PlayStation 5, TEKKEN 8 boasts the power of Unreal Engine 5 with cinematic fighting environments that highlight the capabilities of the hardware. The attention to detail is apparent, with the characters’ hair and clothing reacting realistically to the environment. The haptics of the DualSense controller further enhance the gaming experience, making every blow, smash, and special move feel impactful.

The soundtrack is just as good, if not better, than TEKKEN 7. Full of hard-hitting electronic music from drum and bass to techno. The character select screen is a true standout and that song with its heavy bass and vocal track is going to be stuck in our heads for a long time when this game releases. Looking forward to checking out the full soundtrack.

Don’t miss the chance to test your skills in the TEKKEN 8 demo, launching on PlayStation 5 on 14 December 2023, with the full game release set for 26 January 2024, on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Windows PC.

The journalist was flown to Sydney as a guest of Bandai Namco Entertainment ANZ for this preview.