Tekken 8 Review – The Champion of the Iron Fist

Tekken 8 Review

2023 was an incredible year for fighters. NetherRealm refreshed Mortal Kombat with a soft reboot of its flagship franchise and Capcom doubled-down on single-player content with the expansive World Tour mode in Street Fighter 6. 2024 looks to continue the trend with Tekken 8. With an abundance of single-player and multiplayer content, a new engine and gameplay mechanics, will Harada’s latest release ascend to the heights achieved by its counterparts?

The sprawling saga of the Mishima family dates back to 1994, with each release in the landmark series progressing the narrative. Due to this, Bandai Namco includes short stylized videos that capture the main elements of each game so that newcomers can engage with the complex tale. Tekken 8’s story centers around Jin and Kazuya. Following on from the finale of 7, Kazuya revels in the death of his father and aims for complete global domination. Fully embracing his devil gene, he is now more powerful than ever resulting in icons from across the world to team up and stop him. While Kazuya has reached the pinnacle of strength, Jin is spiraling. This initiates a personal path of healing as he strives to discover who he truly is. The delivery of the tale is great with cinematic sequences that seamlessly blend into battles. 

A Dual with Destiny

While longer than its predecessor, the campaign is still quite short, however, this helps to focus the fantastical story. Due to this, there’s a nice pace to events which will keep you hooked until the very end. Interspersed are some jaw-dropping setpieces that perfectly accentuate the magnitude of storybeats. This leads to epic encounters that immerse you in the narrative. There is some gameplay variety with the ability to choose a competitor in the Iron Fist Tournament and even a Dynasty Warriors-esque multiperson battle that sees you annihilate hordes. Although newcomers to the series may struggle to grasp each aspect of the plot, this is by far the best campaign of the franchise.

As the main story focuses on the Mishimas, the Character Episodes flesh out the motives of every other fighter. Each member of the 32-player roster has a flashy intro and outro video which gives you further context about them. They tend to include a small story and a more humorous tone which complements the larger saga.

Pick Your Fight

Known for its authentic representation of martial arts, Tekken 8 includes a range of fighting styles from around the world. Due to this, each competitor feels unique in terms of movement and methods of attack. Fighters have personalized combos and tend to favor either foot or fist strikes. This means that you will need to learn the deep and nuanced system to master the art of fighting. While veterans will instantly feel at home, there’s a new control system that allows newcomers to instantly get to grips with the combat. Special Style is more approachable and allows you to quickly unleash combos and juggle your opponent with simple button presses. Unlike Street Fighter 6’s modern method, you can toggle in and out of this at any time. This helps to bridge the gap from one control system to another and can support players at any level.

The Heat System is a new mechanic that will change your approach to battles. Available at the start of every round, you must decide when and how to initiate this to maximize its potential. If you are overwhelmed, this becomes a strong tool to alter the landscape of the match, however, you can also combo into this to quickly finish off your opponent. When activated, you will be able to do new combos, a Heat Dash to keep up the pressure and a Heat Smash which is a strong series of moves that will knock a decent portion of health off of your enemy. This is unique to each character which adds further depth and gives more options to dismantle your opponent. It’s a brilliant system and an absolute game-changer.

It’s Not Over Yet

Chip damage and certain maneuvers will leave a white section in your health bar and you can now recover that segment. To do so, you must attack. Landing strikes and particular moves will regain health which adds a delicious risk/reward system that makes each fight and tense battle. When down to your last slither of health, you will enter Rage mode. At this point, your strike will have a larger impact, you’ll take less chip damage and have the ability to unleash the Rage Arts. This is a powerful move that can quickly put you back in the fight.

With a plethora of characters over the franchise’s 30-year history, Bandai Namco has selected a strong roster that ensures variety. In addition to icons like Paul, Law and Yoshimitsu, new characters join the fray. Azucena Ortiz is an MMA fighter from Peru with a keen interest in coffee. A lethal striker with strong grapples and fast on her feet, she is sure to become a fan favorite. Victor Chevalier is a slick spy who uses his gadgets and array of weapons to make short work of his opponents. With his CQB style, he is an aggressive fighter and perfect for those who play on the front foot. Reina is the last of the new characters and although she has the Mashima style of karate, it’s a more agile variant of Heihachi’s which freshens up the formula. Each of the new additions adds to the wealth of combat styles to create a roster that suits any play style.

A New Way to Learn

Tekken 8 features more content than any other iteration. In addition to the standard Arcade Battle mode, there is also Arcade Quest. This features a light story that revolves around your character climbing the ranks to be the best Tekken player. You will visit arcades in distinct areas to battle against a range of opponents. While the story is basic, it is not the focal point of the mode. It is clearly designed to develop the skills of players. You will learn simple and more complex moves and then are given missions that require you to perform these in fights. While the presentation is a little strange with its Xbox-style avatars, the mode is a welcome addition and a great way to learn the mechanics.

Harnessing the power of AI, Ghost Battle learns how you play so that you can essentially fight against yourself. The more you play, the more it develops to create an accurate representation of your style. This alters for each fighter so that you’ll eventually build ghosts for everyone. In addition to this, you can download community ghosts which opens up a ton of possibilities. You could build your skills against ghosts of your friends in preparation to take them on for real or see how you fair against the best players in the world.

A Nostalgic Nod

In addition to staples of the genre such as Versus and Practice modes, there is also the return of Tekken Ball. First featured in Tekken 3, you will need to smash a ball at your opponent using a visceral strike to knock them down and decrease their health. It’s silly and typifies the playful side of the franchise, adding a delightful twist to the traditional fighting game formula. You can lean further into the ridiculous nature of the series with the extensive customization options. Purchase apparel and slap them on your favorite fighters to make them look absolutely preposterous, turning every bout into a hilarious spectacle of outlandish fashion.

In order to cultivate a strong community, a fighting game needs a stable online component and Tekken 8 nails it. Due to its rollback netcode, matches feel responsive and fluid. Housed in the Fight Lounge, you can wander a virtual arcade and easily challenge and compete with others. With leaderboards, spectate options and much more, this is sure to become the ‘go-to’ mode for most players.

A Visual Showcase

Making the shift to Unreal 5 makes a huge difference and is instantly evident with the remarkable attention to detail applied to each character. The veins on fighters pulsate and their hair moves realistically. Each aspect of their attire includes textures and stitching to replicate its real-life counterpart. The stages have a stunning level of depth and include impressive environmental effects. Particles emerge from strikes to heighten the impact of special moves and all of these aspects marry to create a truly special aesthetic. In short, the game looks incredible. 

Tekken 8’s focus on aggressive gameplay helps to make this the best entry in the franchise. The Heat System is fantastic and gives new options of attack for every fighter on the diverse roster. While the larger cinematic story is an improvement on its predecessor, it could still fail to capture the attention of newcomers due to it being a continuation of a 30-year-long tale. However, with a ton of content, a stable online component and interesting new characters, Tekken 8 is an essential game for fans of the genre.

*** A PS5 game code was provided by the publisher ***

The Good

  • The Heat System is Awesome
  • It Looks Amazing
  • Lots to Do

The Bad

  • The Story Mode is Quite Short
  • Newcomers May Be Confused With the Story