PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S
January 25, 2024
Namco Bandai Games
Bandai Namco Entertainment
TEKKEN 8 offers the next evolution for fans of the nearly 30-year-old franchise and story, as well as newcomers with its more accessible and aggressive fighting style. The Mishima bloodline battle for supremacy unravels further with the highs and lows of the King of Iron Fist Tournament’s latest instalment.
Breaking the chain
Picking up six months after the cataclysmic events of TEKKEN 7, TEKKEN 8 centres on the enduring conflict within the Mishima family. It all fires off in Times Square, New York with a heated battle between Kazuya Mishima and Jin Kazama, breaking the chain of their human boundaries and becoming the consequences of their actions. The storyline aims to provide a deeper understanding of the Mishima legacy, adding layers to these characters who have become synonymous with the series.
TEKKEN 8 draws upon the anime roots of the franchise. It is undeniably chaotic and at times campy, embracing suspension of disbelief. For example, characters converse in their respective languages, yet miraculously understand each other, adding to the charm of the narrative. The Mishima family drama unfolds with an unapologetic grandiosity that defines the TEKKEN series, ensuring that players are in for a rollercoaster ride of melodrama, twists, and larger-than-life confrontations.
After a thrilling first hour or so, the story devolves in the second half with repetitive fights between Jin and Kazuya until one of them is the final one standing. It still admittedly goes places, but it all ends in a very familiar state. The final gauntlet of fights becomes tiring, and not because of difficulty. In fact, the story mode is quite easy on all difficulties, so it becomes a chore to fight the same character multiple times, then a couple more in a new environment, before the game ends. This is all for a campaign that doesn’t last longer than four hours.
While there’s plenty of love for Jin and Kazuya, other characters don’t get the attention they deserve. We’re teased with the incredible potential of newcomer Reina throughout the entire story and others like Zafina, Panda, Marshall, and Yoshimitsu become background fodder.
“It’s the silliest TEKKEN in all the fun ways.”
One particular chapter in the story is textbook filler content, disrupting flow with an awkward third-person lock-on combat style for the side-fighters’ token cameos. One notably laughable story moment between Feng and Leroy introduced and ended Feng’s goal of becoming a Dragon God in a single fight.
The neglect of other fighters in the main story wouldn’t be as upsetting if the attention was given to Character Episodes. An improvement on the almost offensive offering in TEKKEN 7, yet these five-match miniature campaigns feel rushed, with no more than a short intro and roughly minute-long cutscene as a reward. Most of the stories themselves don’t do anything exciting or fun, either. Character Episodes aren’t as engaging as they could be, missing the heart and charm from much earlier instalments.
While I’ve been hard on the story, it’s indisputably bombastic. It’s the silliest TEKKEN in all the fun ways. If it was constructed with more care and thought in the final half, with more effort put into Character Episodes, this would be a fan-favourite narrative for many.
Things are starting to heat up!
Introducing new mechanics like the Heat system adds a layer of strategic depth. Activating Heat can be done manually with a simple tap of a button, providing a defensive option through Heat Burst’s Power Crush properties. This defensive tool becomes a lifeline when the pressure is on and has been a catalyst for nail-biting fights online.
The Special Style control scheme has been controversial but in practice is a well-executed way to lower the barrier to entry for fighting game beginners. Designed to streamline controls for newcomers and those exploring unfamiliar characters, it allows you to focus on timing and spacing without the burden of memorising intricate controls. It’s easier to play but limiting the full breadth of hundreds of combos at your fingertips puts a low ceiling on how good you can be in competitive matches. Special Style is an accessible tool and an excellent way to enjoy fights with novice friends who just want the thrill of pulling off impressive moves.
“Heat system adds a layer of strategic depth… a catalyst for nail-biting fights online.”
Back on the more technical side of mechanics, recoverable health’s interaction with chip damage during an opponent’s Heat activation creates a dynamic ebb and flow, encouraging you to be always mindful of health. The white section in the health bar represents recoverable health, which gradually replenishes over time. Once health drops below a certain threshold, you enter the Rage state, amplifying damage dealt and reducing chip damage taken. The inclusion of Rage Arts becomes a potential game-changer, offering a strategic response to opponents spamming unsafe moves or Special Style combos. While not as powerful as TEKKEN 6 Rage damage, tactical thinking and health management are crucial in competitive fights with this update.
All the mechanic changes lean on faster and more hostile playstyles for all characters. A handful of fighters on the roster still allow for a more considered approach, such as keep-away fighters like Jack, but there’s also so much more advantage in rushing down an opponent. While there are admittedly no surprising crossovers at this time, the roster still has heaps of range with returning characters and a handful of newbies who are soon to be favourites. I’m interested to see how the meta evolves when professional players get decent time with the game.
Get ready for the next battle
One of the standout features of TEKKEN 8 is the Arcade Quest mode, a fully realised campaign that transcends the typical TEKKEN Force mode or Devil Within from TEKKEN 5. What it apart is its light-hearted narrative, weaving a tale of self-improvement and camaraderie. Placing your digital avatar with a crew of friends, and running around arcades like the good ol’ days, radiates a charm that is missing elsewhere. The digital companions cheer you on during victories and provide genuine advice for improvement, turning the mode into a journey of both narrative and skill growth.
You’ll also unlock Super Ghost Mode at the Final Round arcade in Arcade Quest, which is one of the best training tools in fighting games to date. This allows you to fight against a mirror of yourself that learns as you play online or in most parts of Arcade Quest, each fighter with their own ghost. If you are a serial mid-combo spammer then the ghost will catch on quickly, requiring you to mix it up soon or your opponent will block every attack perfectly.
“Personalising your fighters, Arcade Quest avatar, and game music selected from prior TEKKEN entries is great value.”
The return of TEKKEN Ball after a decade brings more value to the package. Fans have been yearning to play volleyball with a deadly twist since its last appearance in TEKKEN Tag Tournament 2. While it is not a full campaign or going to provide hours of content, it is a fun distraction that you and your friends can mess around with for a while. All these additional modes are nostalgic, almost reminiscent of TEKKEN 3’s massive range of game modes to play.
You will unlock customisation rewards by playing through TEKKEN 8’s several modes or challenging Arcade Quest avatars with treasure icons. In customisation, you can now adjust certain objects’ size and position on characters for a little more creativity in the unique looks you make. Personalising your fighters, Arcade Quest avatar and game music selected from prior TEKKEN entries is great value. While the customisation options don’t feel much larger than TEKKEN 7, there’s still lots to play around with to create unique looks.
Artistry of TEKKEN
TEKKEN 8’s visual prowess shines, as the stunning fighter always does. Playing on the PlayStation 5 has truly shown off its hardware capabilities. The attention to detail is impeccable, with characters’ hair and clothing reacting realistically to environmental conditions. The cutscenes are excellent, too. This is a game you could watch a YouTube compilation of the story scenes online if you’re not into fighters, just to enjoy the extravagance and quality animation. Stage dynamic elements, such as crumbling structures, have always been immersive. Now, the improved effects of characters’ reactions to wind, rain, and light reflections deepen the overall fighting experience.
“…a storied history of incomparable soundtracks.”
Game Director Kohei Ikeda emphasised the importance of achieving high graphic quality and the responsiveness of the game combined in early interviews. The PlayStation 5 has incredibly short load times which gets you in and out of fights quickly. The haptics of the DualSense controller makes you feel the impact of attacks, especially with the use of the Heat system. TEKKEN 8’s visual and sensory elements synergise to create a remarkable TEKKEN experience.
The series has a storied history of incomparable soundtracks, seamlessly blending genres to complement the intense fighting gameplay. As you’d expect, the game opens with a blood-pumping intro cinematic with exciting music to match. The music continues to be brilliant with so many different moods, from drum and bass to distorted electric guitars, for each stage and character. While the game hasn’t given me an earworm like Yoshimitsu’s theme from TEKKEN Tag Tournament, I’m sure that you’ll find something to love sonically. Each instalment has built upon the legacy of its predecessors, offering a diverse musical selection that caters to a wide range of tastes.
- Faster gameplay mechanics
- More accessible with Special Style controls
- Multiple modes to play
- Superb audio and visual
- Second half of the main story isn't as engaging
- Character Episodes are too short
TEKKEN 8 unleashes a storm of punches, blending chaotic Mishima drama with accessible combat changes. The short story, though dramatic, loses steam, but the Heat system and Special Style redefine the fight. Arcade Quest mode injects a needed charm, offering a nostalgic journey with opportunities to grow your fighting game skills. Visually stunning with a diverse soundtrack, the game achieves a balance between the familiar and the cutting-edge. Despite a stumble in the narrative, TEKKEN 8 delivers a knockout combo.