A warrior clan whose lineage is traceable through the extreme angriness of their eyebrows, the Mishima lads of Tekken have been throwing each other off cliffs for a couple of decades now. Tekken 7 doesn't show any signs of ending the cycle of wonderfully over the top violence. It knows what it's about.
Tekken 7, as is traditional with Tekken games, has been out in arcades in Japan for a while (originally in 2015 and updated in 2016, which is the version now on console). This means it looks really good, especially for an arcade game, but doesn't look quite as good as other 2017 titles. There are still shots where you can count the individual hairs on Heihachi Mishima's chin, but when you smash the floor on a fight stage the resulting chunks of masonry feel a bit low poly. But chances are you'll be moving too fast to pay much attention to it.
Fights in Tekken 7 move at a speed that feels almost desperate, which is good because I imagine that's how I'd feel if I were getting a fist the size of a leg of ham slammed into my solar plexus. It's exacerbated by new mechanics like the Rage Art, a powerful special attack that sacrifices the bonus damage in rage mode, and feels like a last stand. Matches can turn very easily, and using dimension with sidestepping can make you feel like you're actually very smart and good at the game, even when you're not. Emphasis on the can, though, rather than always: where comparable fighting games are adding in more accessibility, Tekken 7 doesn't throw many bones in the path of newcomers, being light on any real tutorials or help in practise mode. Even when you end up playing as Akuma from Street Fighter in the story mode, he plays like a Street Fighter character (which is admittedly cool in context), so, uh, hope you played that too.
I've only really tangled with Tekken in the Tag games, so large chunks of the single player story were indecipherable to me. I also didn't care, because it's wildly entertaining, as long as you embrace the ridiculous scale of everything. Entire buildings are exploded, very regularly. A satellite crashes to earth. Demons and tigers and bears, oh my! The campaign weaves in moments from previous games, and is supplemented by the point of view of a journalist trying to uncover why a single family has plunged the entire world into war. It's told rather well, especially in the voice acting. The choice to use subtitles rather than dub everyone into English remains a wise one. As well as the story, each character has a single fight with kind of a narrative to it.
Everyone on the roster fights in a significantly different style, which keeps it fresh. They're also customisable, with options running from a blue version of their regular outfit, to rainbow hair, to a deer head. Playing online throws up some interesting opponents. Most of these have to be purchased with in-game currency, though, commonly earned by grinding through offline modes like Treasure Battle, an endless fight mode, and there is a reason it's called 'grinding' and not 'this is loads of funning'. It's fun, but the modes are pretty barebones. You'll probably tire of offline quickly, so you take it online to test your mettle against real people.
Matchmaking is currently Tekken 7's biggest problem. Through repeated testing it was consistently hard to find opponents online, and there were numerous disconnection errors. Because your character choice is displayed, opponents will often disconnect themselves if they just don't feel like fighting Miguel right now. It's a known issue that will reportedly be patched soon, but functioning matchmaking is the sort of thing you'd expect a fighting game would have working before release.
Look, Tekken 7 isn't going to attract any brand new fans, but its brash, fast combat is a lot of fun. You're guaranteed to smile and go 'This is ridcul-mazing,' at least once, probably when a brown bear wellies someone with a salmon. But the patches need to fix it so it properly service the fans it has now.
Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Available on: PlayStation 4 [reviewed on], Xbox One, PC
Release date: June 2 2017