Tekken 8 review – Excellent!

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Ten years ago, Tekken was on the brink. Sales were down, and fighting games just weren’t as popular as they once were. Tekken 7 not only saved the series but revitalised it in time for a new golden age of fighting games. And at the height of the series’ popularity once more, Tekken 8 has the chance to capitalise on that and truly establish itself back at the forefront of the FGC where it belongs. And thankfully, it has done so with a bang.

At a base level, Tekken 8 makes the usual improvements you would expect but does them to a major degree. The combat feels great, with smooth inputs seamlessly transitioning into some stellar animations. The new characters – Reina, Jun, Azucena and Victor – all have vastly different but equally compelling personalities but different levels of complexity in-game. After playing Tekken 8, going back to Tekken 7 felt sluggish and I’m excited to be able to stick to 8 full-time going forward now.

Tekken 8 Review: A close-up of Reina standing in a corridor.
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Tekken 8’s gameplay revolves around aggression. The new mechanic, Heat, lets players use special moves and deal chip damage, while some of the damage you take can be healed back by hitting your opponent. It even lets you hit electrics without just frame inputs. In a game famed for solid defensive play and punishment, this change has proven controversial, but in practice is not as drastic as it sounds.

Chip damage can never kill you, and the special moves provided by Heat often function more as a tool to escape pressure than to deal damage. One might argue that these changes reward mashing and mindless aggression, but an experienced player will inevitably win out in the end. It might stoke controversy now, but in a few months, once players become accustomed to it, Heat will likely be as generally accepted as Rage Arts and Rage Drives became in Tekken 7.

Tekken 8 Review: Jin entering Heat in a fight against Kazuya.
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The other major addition to Tekken 8’s gameplay is the Special Style. Similar to the Modern controls of Street Fighter 6, Special Style lets you use certain moves at the press of a button, whether that’s a special move, power crush, or combo. This is a great addition, giving new players an approachable way to get started, or even just a way for you to play against friends who don’t play Tekken. Even as someone who has played for years, I found myself using Special Style fairly often in story mode when forced to use characters I had never touched before, and it leads to some spectacularly cinematic moments. And on the subject of story mode…

Following the interlude of Tekken 7’s story, Tekken 8 takes us back on track to the never-ending battle between Jin and his father, devil incarnate and sneaker aficionado, Kazuya Mishima. Afraid of losing control to the Devil within himself, Jin refuses to make full use of his Devil Gene and is soundly defeated by Kazuya, turning New York City into a warzone in the process. Convinced his victory is now inevitable, Kazuya announces the return of The King of Iron Fist Tournament, promising sanctuary for the victorious nation and punishment for those too weak to compete.

Tekken 8 Review: A close-up of Hwoarang on the Arena stage.
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I don’t want to spoil the story at all, but if you were disappointed by Tekken 7’s story mode like I was, then Tekken 8 remedies that and then some. The vast majority of the story sees Jin taking on opponents in one-on-one fights, though later on in the story you’ll have the chance to take control of some others too, and even take on a beat-em-up section reminiscent of the old Devil Within and Scenario Campaign modes. 

Bridging the gap between these fights are cutscenes to explain what’s going on, as well as to drop some of that wacky Tekken charm that was missing in the last game’s story. The story itself is decent, although nothing mind-blowing, with the highlight for me being the characters. 

Tekken 8 Review: Paul Phoenix holding up his fist and smiling at the camera.
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So many fan favourites make an appearance in the story, if even for a minute, and bring some much-needed levity to a heavy core plot. If there are any doubts as to the seriousness of Tekken 8’s story, within the first two minutes Jin rides a motorcycle up the side of a building and throws it at a helicopter. This is the weird and wonderful Tekken that I grew up with, and is my favourite story mode in a Tekken game to date.

In addition to this, we have the Character Episodes, giving each character five fights and a unique story. The serious characters are a spectacle to see while the more comedic characters consistently hit their beats. I’ll never turn down the chance to see more of Paul and Law’s antics or Kuma’s attempts to win over Panda. The developers knew what they were doing with each and every character, and no matter who your favourites are, you’ll almost certainly be pleased.

Tekken 8 Review: A player standing in the Gong Arcade in Arcade Quest.
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Alongside the story mode, we have Arcade Quest, a new mode that sees you battling your way through arcades to become the Tekken World Tour champion. This mode is very clearly aimed at new players, with regular tutorials and challenges to ‘Use 2 throws’ or ‘Use a launcher’. Even if you aren’t a beginner, it’s a fun little mode to play through, and if you’re picking up a new character like me, it’s a good chance to get a bit of practice in before heading online. If anything, I just wish it was a bit longer.

Early on in Arcade Quest, you unlock the Super Ghost Battle mode. Ghosts are CPU players that use AI to mimic your moves and those of the people you play online. Your ghost will record your gameplay, and use that to mimic how you play – how you move, what attacks you use, how often you block or throw, and even the combos you do. Whether or not it really helps you improve remains to be seen, but it’s a great option to have and promises a fun break from the monotony of labbing and could be a useful way to practise certain matchups.

Tekken 8 Review: Azucena using her Rage Art against a King player.
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And once you’ve mastered those matchups, it’s time to head online, with the new hub worlds where you can chat with and challenge other players. This is where perhaps the most significant improvement comes, and it’s all thanks to the miracle of rollback netcode. This long overdue addition makes Tekken 8’s online play flow seamlessly. Lag is shockingly rare, and when it does happen, is usually just a single instance across a game. Sat in my home in the UK, I even played a few sets with someone from South Korea, and despite more than 300 ping, it was like they were in the room next to me. And with crossplay, gone are the days of waiting an hour for a match, just for your opponent to leave after one game.

After all that, there are still things I haven’t covered. Tekken 8’s incredible graphics, whether for the highly-detailed models or beautiful stages, is one of the best-looking games on the market in 2024, while every character has their own stunning designs and costumes (I’m looking at you Yoshimitsu). The game is exceptionally optimised, too. Running on the maximum settings, I was getting better performance than I was in Tekken 7 – an outstanding achievement by the developers.

Tekken 8 Review: Yoshimitsu sitting with his sword in front of him on the Into the Subconscious stage.
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Practice mode is bigger than ever, with more settings, combo challenges, punishment training, and a replay mode that critiques your gameplay and tells you how to punish certain moves. Tekken Ball makes a comeback and is as fun and bizarre as ever. Tekken 8 does so much right that it would take all day to discuss it in detail and I could still keep going.

In fact, Tekken 8 does so much right that I genuinely struggled to think of the negatives. I found the customisation options to be fairly lacklustre, considering how good they have been in the last few games. Grapples feel a little too easy to land, but that’s more a reflection on my being too lazy to lab King than it is on the game. And that’s about it. It speaks volumes on how unequivocally this game has improved on its predecessor that my criticisms genuinely amount to a lack of customisation and my personal vendetta against King.

Tekken 8 Review: Jin knocking out Hwoarang on the Arena stage.
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A fighting game’s legacy isn’t determined on launch, but in the years that follow. Its success with the community, the big moments at EVO, and the years of mastering every minute mechanic. Tekken 3 and Tekken 5 have long been the pinnacle of the series, of the fighting game genre, and a major part of my childhood. 

For me, Tekken 8 not only equals them but eclipses them.

Gameplay, story, characters, graphics, single player content, the online play – Tekken 8 is the best the series has ever been on all of these fronts. While the fighting game genre is pushing relentlessly into the future, Tekken has not forgotten its roots, instead learning and improving on its past. Under the shimmering modern exterior of Tekken 8, the beating heart of this iconic franchise lives on.

Every win and loss the series has had over the last 30 years has led to this game, a masterpiece that expertly modernises the franchise while never losing sight of what makes Tekken what it is. Tekken 5 will always have a special place in my heart, but the time has come to move on. For me, Tekken 8 is the best Tekken game ever made, and over the next few years will undoubtedly cement its place as one of the greatest fighting games of all time.

About the Author

Alex Raisbeck

Alex is a Guides Writer for VideoGamer. He is an indie gaming obsessive with a soft spot for Zelda, roguelikes, and Football Manager, as well as an unhealthy relationship with his backlog.

Tekken 8

  • Release Date: 26 January 2024
  • Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series S/X, Xbox Series X
  • Genre(s): Fighting

verdict

Tekken 8 is the ultimate Tekken game. A glossy veneer of modernity encases a strong foundation that builds upon its predecessors to great success. In every regard, Tekken 8 matches and surpasses the very best that the series, and the fighting game genre as a whole, has to offer.
10 Excellent gameplay and consistently smooth inputs Great story mode filled with memorable character moments Rollback netcode makes for near-perfect online play New modes and options provide great support for new players Customisation options are a little lacking