Tekken 8 preview – ready for the next battle

Tekken 8 preview – ready for the next battle
Alex Raisbeck Updated on by

Video Gamer is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices subject to change. Learn more

When Tekken 7 launched in 2015, the series, and the Fighting Game Community as a whole, had been on a steady decline. Despite its popularity with the Tekken faithful, 2011’s Tekken Tag Tournament 2 became the series’ worst-selling title and marked a low point for a series that was once a flagship of the early PlayStation era. Tekken 7 brought the series into the modern age, with a commitment to the complex gameplay it was famed for, a flashy and striking graphical style, and support for a competitive scene that has brought about some of the most iconic moments in eSports history.

Tekken 8 is launching into a very different landscape for fighting games – a new golden age for the FGC – and I had the opportunity to head down to the Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London to check it out. While it would have been easy to just capitalise on the resurgence of fighting games in Tekken 8 with some updated graphics to rake in the sales, Bandai Namco has expanded on Tekken 7 in every way. And not only could Tekken 8 be one of the best fighting games of its generation, it could be one of the best fighting games of all time.

Tekken 8 Preview: The Descent Into Subconscious stage in Tekken 8
Image via Bandai Namco

The game has already had two test periods, with a Closed Network Test back in July and a Closed Beta Test more recently in October. As such, I won’t spend too much time discussing the likes of graphics and basic gameplay. 

The game, of course, looks incredible. Everything from the character models and stages down to the particle effects looks stunning. Before playing this game, I thought Tekken 7 still held up pretty well, but Tekken 8’s graphics are so far ahead that it almost makes Tekken 7 look ugly in comparison.

The gameplay feels vastly better too. The animations are so smooth that each combo flows almost effortlessly and the experience of seeing your inputs translated on-screen is so tactile. Within minutes of picking up Reina for the first time (who is an incredible addition to the roster), playing her felt almost second nature. Going back to Tekken 7 afterwards and playing a character I’ve mained for years felt sluggish and unresponsive, and had me wishing I was back in London landing those Reina strings again.

Tekken 8 Preview: Reina hitting Jin with yellow and purple particle effects emanating from her
Image via Bandai Namco

One of the biggest problems with Tekken 7 was its approach to its single-player modes. Tekken’s story has perhaps always taken a back seat to the main event of beating up on your friends for hours at a time. But to me, it always felt integral, and playing through different characters to see what their endings were, however ridiculous, was a major part of the Tekken experience. 

Tekken 7’s story, on the other hand, fell fairly flat, with a short campaign that felt more like an excuse to shoehorn Akuma into the game than a real addition to the canon. If you weren’t interested in playing online, Tekken 7 had a couple of hours of content for you and that was it.

With Tekken 8, lessons have been learned, and the single-player content has been massively expanded. It uses a similar approach to the story mode as Tekken 6’s Scenario Campaign and Tekken 5’s non-canon Devil Within mode, following Jin through the events of this game’s story. Instead of the beat-em-up approach that those games employed, Tekken 8’s story mode makes much heavier use of cutscenes to tell its story, with you fighting opponents now and again in the usual Tekken 1v1 style. Oh, and the King of Iron Fist Tournament (Remember that? The thing the series used to be about?) actually features in the story again, so that was nice to see.

Tekken 8 Preview: Jin hitting Kazuya with red electricity emanating from the centre
Image via Bandai Namco

During the preview event, we were shown the first four chapters of the main campaign, and it is a vast improvement on Tekken 7. Instead of being told from the point of view of an unknown journalist, the cutscenes place you in the action every step of the way, with a far stronger story, and more characters featured. Whereas Tekken 7’s story left me disappointed, I was itching to continue the story and can’t wait to see Tekken 8’s campaign through.

Thankfully, the single-player content doesn’t end there. The old Arcade Mode with its endless CPU fights is gone, and replaced with a brand-new one, similar to Street Fighter 6’s World Tour. After creating your avatar, you find yourself in a world where Tekken 8 is about to launch, and you and your friends are aiming to become the Tekken World Tour Champion. From my brief time in the mode, the visuals aren’t for me, and it doesn’t appear to have quite the same charm and depth as World Tour in SF6, but I’m excited to take it on nonetheless, and it’s a great learning tool for beginners.

Tekken 8 Preview: A group of Arcade Mode avatars playing Tekken 8 on arcade cabinets
Image via Bandai Namco

And Tekken 8 is set to be the most accessible one yet for new players. Tekken is infamous for its complexity and is fairly daunting for first-time players. But instead of dumbing it down, Tekken 8 has a variety of features to ease you in, with Arcade Mode at the centre of that.

The game sees the addition of Special Mode, a control system similar to the Modern controls on Street Fighter 6, letting you perform combos and special moves with a few button presses. You can always swap between Special Mode and the classic controls in the middle of a match, making it even easier to wean yourself off them over time. It’s there for people who want it, and is a good way to start learning the game, but will never beat truly mastering the classic controls in the long term.

Tekken 8 Preview: A customised Jin being fought in a Ghost Match
Image via Bandai Namco

Practice Mode is the same as it ever was, with everything you need to practise your combos or lab characters, but a new feature alongside it is Ghost Matches. These ghosts are based on the playstyle of yourself or other characters and can be a great way to learn matchups offline, combining the methodical approach of labbing with the fun of actually playing matches.

Tekken 8 looks to improve on Tekken 7 in all the right places. Better graphics, smoother gameplay, and a stacked list of single-player content. Whether you’re playing for the story or grinding ranks online, the game has something for everyone and is set to be something special. Tekken 8 arrives on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on 26 January 2024.