Tekken 8 improves on its predecessor with a complete graphics overhaul, drastically improved netcode, and a robust base game package featuring 32 characters and 16 stages. With DLC fighters already in the pipeline, there’s more than enough content to keep fighting game fans packing punches for the foreseeable future.
In an era where developers are going out of their way to make their games easier and more welcoming to accommodate a wider audience, Tekken 8 does the bare minimum to get new players onboard. Yes, there’s a fresh control scheme for beginners, which we’ll focus on later, but Bandai Namco has spent the majority of its time perfecting the core combat mechanics to make this the best version of Tekken yet.
Tekken 8 has been built using Unreal Engine 5, moving away from the previous generation’s hardware to set a new visual standard for the series. Tekken has almost always looked better than its competition and the latest entry is no exception, boasting cutscene-level graphics across all 16 of its stages.
The story mode sees the eternal battle between father and son, this time Jin Kazama and Kazuya Mishima square up to face each other once again. Like most fighting games, we aren’t expecting the story to be anything more than good guy versus bad guy, and Tekken 8 doesn’t disappoint here. The story isn’t going to win any awards for its narrative, but I can’t deny that I was entertained watching Kazuya on his path to becoming even more power-hungry and villainous.
Just like Tekken 7, the story is short and sweet, featuring 15 chapters of silly cutscenes, peppered with the odd fight to break things up. There are some QTEs to nail this time around, and occasionally the fights transition into a weird action game, but the story mode is largely the same as before. The devs aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here by switching up their tried-and-tested formula, nor are they using this mode as an opportunity to teach players the ropes, the story mode is everything Tekken fans have come to expect.
We get it, sometimes you’d rather learn about what Kuma is up to instead of dealing with Kazuya yet again. If you aren’t the biggest fan of Tekken’s bulky angry men, you also have the bite-sized character episodes that automatically unlock once you finish the main story. These episodes take you through five fights and reward you with a classic Tekken-style ending for all 32 members of the game’s base roster.
There’s a new control scheme to Tekken 8 called ‘Special Style,’ assigning combos and abilities to all four of the face buttons. This turns the game into more of a beat ’em up, changing combos into spammable attacks that require just one button. It’s a nice way to see what tools each character has at a glance, and it feels perfect for the story mode, but it’s not something that can be relied on in real fights.
The new control scheme can be used online against real opponents, though it’s not going to matter as there are other important aspects of fighting that this scheme can’t help you with. Sure, you won’t have to worry about your execution for a handful of combos, but there’s nothing in place to account for your bad movement as you struggle to evade attacks. Likewise, the control scheme won’t save you when it comes to predicting your opponent’s next move. These skills take hundreds of hours to develop and improve, you can’t become competitive simply by removing the execution barrier.
Build your avatar and use it to travel the virtual globe in Arcade Quest, Tekken 8’s new single-player adventure. In Arcade Quest, players travel to different arcades from around the world to compete in competitions and battle against the world’s best fighters. If you’re an old-school fighting game fan, this mode is a lot like Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution’s quest mode which was built upon the same premise.
Arcade Quest offers players another way to fight against the AI, albeit with the CPU wearing strange clothing items. There’s one extra gimmick to this mode in the form of AI ghosts, powerful opponents created by spectating and mimicking real players. Within three matches, Tekken 8 can analyze a fighter’s tendencies to create an AI counterpart. The AI ghosts are surprisingly difficult to fight, creating much more of a challenge compared to the regular CPU battles. All in all, Arcade Quest is better than playing through the story mode and character episodes again, but if you have access to the internet, just play online instead.
While it’s disappointing to see the developers not put more time and effort into helping newcomers, it’s clear that they’ve doubled down on making the game better for returning players. A lot of effort has gone into improving the online functionality in Tekken 8, introducing crossplay in a series first, plus rollback netcode – which fans have been demanding for years now. I only had a brief window to test the online multiplayer in Tekken 8, so I’m going to need some time post-launch to determine how much better it is.
Another interesting new mechanic is the Heat system, giving players a window to play aggressively once per round. Though you can technically play aggressively at any point during a fight, this mechanic powers you up, forcing your opponent to respond. Activating Heat enables the following properties: attacks now deal chip damage when blocked, most combos can be ended by spending all of your Heat on a finisher, and you gain access to new moves, combos, and mix-ups.
Tekken 7 was already an aggressive game without this mechanic, so it will be interesting to see how the best players incorporate this over the next few years. When used in its most basic form, newcomers can utilize Heat to land a consistent damaging combo. Whereas at higher levels, Heat Dashes are a powerful way to create mix-up opportunities, capable of ending rounds in only a few devastating combos.
We also see the return of the party game mode, Tekken Ball. Taking place on a beach, players bounce a ball across the screen using various attacks. The player who manages to hit their opponent with the ball the most wins the game. It’s a nice way to wind down from the hyper-competitive versus mode, and I’m pleased to see that it can be played online too.
The most improved game mode has to be practice mode as it received several key upgrades to help level up intermediate players into experts. While I feel like Tekken 8 could do more to teach new players how to appreciate everything the game has to offer, judging by the work the devs have spent on practice mode, it’s clear they want to cater to their existing player base.
The tools in Tekken 7’s practice mode were already impressive, but Tekken 8 takes this to another level with its Remember Status feature, Replay Analyzer, and the ability to take over a replay. Due to all of the different variables in Tekken, it can be tricky to recreate a specific situation to maximize the amount of damage you can get from a combo. With the Remember Status feature, you can save your exact position in-game and replay it whenever you want, making it easy to learn without the hassle of setting up a scenario each time.
The Replay Analyzer is a powerful tool for intermediate players who are trying to learn from their mistakes. Simply replay any saved match and Tekken 8 will break down moments where you could’ve punished your opponent’s mistakes with a stronger combo, or avoided taking damage unnecessarily. Unfortunately, this tool was unreliable with the replays I had on hand, but I’m going to test this feature post-launch to see how consistent and helpful it is for training.
Finally, the ability to take over a replay is arguably the best feature as you can pinpoint the exact moment you’re struggling with and relive it immediately. This is a godsend in Tekken 8 where you have so many options when it comes to avoiding attacks, now you can go into practice and find out what the best course of action is. This type of scenario could be recreated in practice mode in the past, but you’d have to know exactly what your opponent input and try to set up the scenario on your own. This feature simplifies that annoying experience drastically, and it’s going to be vital in turning good players into great ones.
Sadly, my time with Tekken 8 hasn’t been completely smooth as I’ve experienced memory leak issues every time I play the game. I’ve managed to ‘solve’ this problem by playing in a window and avoiding the prompt when it appears, but it’s far from an ideal situation. When this error doesn’t occur, the game runs perfectly on my rig (Intel 13900k & RTX 4090), but I would hope so given my specs. With any luck, this will be fixed in a patch before launch, but so far I’ve consistently run into this issue.
As displays like the best gaming monitors continue to get better and more affordable, it’s great to see Tekken 8 also support HDR to make its stunning presentation look even better. It would’ve been nice to see Tekken 8 support 120fps as it’s technically possible, but the devs may want parity across consoles and PCs, so we’ll let it slide for now.
Tekken 8 may look fantastic on high-end machines, but there are a lot of graphics settings to play around with to get the game running on low to mid-range computers. I managed to get the game to run at a stable 60fps on my Asus ROG Ally by dropping the resolution down to 720p and the graphics preset to the lowest option. Sure, the game looks a lot worse than it does on my PC, but it’s great to see that Unreal Engine 5 can be scaled down to run on a handheld gaming PC.
The Tekken series is known for being difficult to learn and that hasn’t changed at all with Tekken 8. Bandai Namco has stuck to its guns, focusing on the same audience that brought them success by rewarding them with an improved version of the game they love. That’s not to say Tekken 8 doesn’t welcome newbies, but you’re going to have to put in some effort and invest a lot of time practicing if you truly want to appreciate everything this game has to offer.