Reviewed on Playstation 5. The game size clocks in at a respectable 81.5 GB.
I received the code from Bandai Namco on the final day of Tekken World Tour 2023 Global Finals, so the hype was off the roof, especially after witnessing the reigning champion Atif Butt, knocked out before the Top 8 while Tekken Pro Heavyweights such as Knee, Arslan Ash, AO, Jeondding, CBM making it through.
Tekken 7 has made an irrefutable mark on the EVO and Fighting Game community scene especially since its revival once Arslan Ash burst onto the scene in 2019 defeating the competition (Koreans, Americans & Japanese) coming from the unknown region of Pakistan.
Before I begin unpacking what Tekken 8 holds, here is a Prologue to set up why Tekken as a gaming franchise holds much weight in the fighting game genre but also as a video game.
The King Of Iron Fist Tournament
The original Tekken was released in 1994 in Arcades and 1995 on the PlayStation console. The first game in the series was the first PlayStation game to sell over a million units, which earned it a Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition award in 2008, among other awards including “First Fighting Game To Feature Simulated 3D”, and a record for the entire series, “The Best Selling Fighting Series for PlayStation Consoles.
This sets the benchmark that Tekken has been revolutionary in terms of its 3D Fighting mechanics which were ground-breaking and a breakaway from 2D fighting games such as the immensely successful Street Fighter, Fatal Fury, and Art of Fighting games of that time. As home consoles evolved so did Tekken’s character roster, graphical fidelity, Guinness world record for holding the longest story in an action game and popularity at EVO which has been the annual Esports event that focuses solely on Fighting Games since 1996. The FGC (Fighting Game Community ) has Tekken as an invaluable partner that has only grown with this dynamic Gaming Industry,
In essence, Tekken has been able to deliver an ever-evolving fighting game series that is friendly to both beginners and veterans, a long-standing story that has been captivating gamers since 1994 on the generational fight between father and son.
Its technologically advanced adaptation of technology to keep pushing the envelope as home consoles began delivering better options and more modes over arcades and also ultimately nurturing the strong feeling of both community and competition that used to be the arcade culture. Tekken has been a part of it all and still stays relevant so much so that with the release of Tekken 8 millions are booking holidays and going to midnight launches with bated breath come January 26th.
Tekken 8 – The Biggest Tekken Ever
This iteration of Tekken comes with the greatest number of modes and characters that we have ever seen. Releasing with a roster of 32 characters right off the bat is a clear indication of the lofty aspirations that Bandai Namco and Team Tekken Project have going forward.
An aggressive addition to the gameplay with the help of a new meter called HEAT which allows at the press of a button to unleash a set of moves or use heat engager to open the opponent for combos while also punishing constant blocking player with chip damage. This addition to the gameplay forces you to act more offensive while taking a controlled approach which can be frantic in the beginning to change the way you approach Tekken traditionally.
Another addition is the Special style that bind big moves and easy combos to four buttons adding ease and a simplistic approach to possibly approaching the game as a beginner or even a veteran testing out new characters and the game mechanics.
There are a lot of modes that the game comes with but let us begin with the most important in terms of impact on Tekken 8 and the staple classics without which the game would not deliver.
Electrifying Story Mode – The Dark Awakens
Bandai Namco has pumped a huge chunk of the budget into the story mode as confirmed by Tekken royalty Katsuhiro Harada and Michael Murray (Producer/ Director and Designer) and this is evident once you go through the whole campaign. Keeping it spoiler friendly I can confirm the campaign will take you over 7 hours easily when playing on medium difficulty but what is standout is the scale and ambition that has been poured into this bombastic, epic showdown that is the story mode.
Gone are the days when Tekken was dismissed as having 1 minute short ending videos in its arcade mode, because with Tekken 8 you get the whole experience and I would urge all gamers whether first time or veterans; complete this emotional, sentimental, all-out war and humanity at risk while the devils wreak havoc level fight that will take you on highs and lows unlike any Tekken game has ever produced before. The story starts off with the most cinematic fight scene that is expertly woven into the start and ending of the campaign with you feeling like playing a Yakuza Game combined with man of steel level destruction.
A must-play for all to understand how things will proceed now that Heihachi Mishima is dead since Tekken 7 and Kazuya Mishima his son has decided world domination. He used the lure of the next Tekken Tournament to destroy his very own son that is Jin Kazama while the story this time around brings into the array a multitude of characters who have been present throughout the last 9 games and how they are all interconnected and woven to this global threat.
The introduction of new characters like the coffee enthusiast hailing from Peru called Azucena is part of this conflict but decides to side with the antagonist for her selfish reasons. Another notable addition is Victor Chevalier also called the legendary phantom raven heading the UN Task Force against this threat, more to unpack on these two later in the review. The story delivers and encapsulates the bulk of the roster in good synergy showcasing the intricate care and time the team took to build the most riveting story narrated in a Tekken game ever.
The story is a must even for pro’s who like to straight away jump into ranked, online normally as it also fleshes out the role of other important characters like Heihachi’s illegitimate sons such as Lee Chaolin & Lars Anderson and the threat of an ancient beast to awaken while the largest devil among them all; the Devil gene running through Kazuya & Jin and to what extent will it take them? Do they get rid of the gene? Does it consume them? Who is this new character, Reina? All of these questions are central to this behemoth of a game and story, and you can only find out by delving into the most electrifying narrative ever.
Arcade Quest – Most Important Gem For Beginners & Veterans
Nestled under the story Tab is this cute-looking mode called Arcade Quest. This mode is probably the most important and impactful, especially for beginners while also a beautiful throwback for early Tekken players. Let me tell you why this is an excellent mode I would strongly recommend for beginners to start with.
On the surface, the mode starts you off as an avatar which you customize (props to Bandai for the sheer number of options) and name. Then you begin a journey where you are part of a group of budding enthusiastic Tekken players meeting with other fans as Tekken 8 a new game has launched. The mode encapsulates the pure essence of when Tekken began originally in 1994 when the Arcade scene was at an all-time high, especially fighting games which had a reputation of fostering a competitive spirit to find the best player. Gamers would often discover games for the first time at the arcades and a great example is me who got introduced to Tekken 2 in the arcades.
Arcade Quest is your story as you and the group first train at a local arcade and form a sort of kinship for the upcoming TWT Global Finals which is the Tekken World Tour that happens annually in real life as well.
An NPC named Max is your coach who helps you understand the fundamentals of Tekken 8 and newer mechanics such as ‘HEAT’ a new gauge under your life bar that helps you to activate it in different ways adding to your fighting arsenal a more offensive approach. Max also explains older moves and refinements, for instance, what was once called a bound move in Tekken 6 where you could further juggle airborne opponents is renamed as a Tornado move, this allows for easy follow-ups and is displayed on screen for as long as you want, whether to learn or practice or bring on the fly whenever you are playing Arcade Quest Mode.
This mode also adds a refreshing story to your created avatar and as you travel to different arcades which are similar to unlocking different locations in the game, you are faced with more complex and difficult opponents which in turn allows you to practice combos as explained by Max to also more training which we will touch upon more when focusing on the gameplay part of this review.
What I especially appreciated is the story element in the arcade quest and the feeling of rivalry and camaraderie as you all travel to become the best fighter for the TWT Finals. There are some hidden incentives to completing this mode that I will not discuss but elude to in the infamous words of Harada San “Don’t Ask me For …. “and seek out a certain AI Ghost.
I will wrap up this excellent mode by boldly even suggesting this be the first mode for every Tekken player IF they can hold their horses and wait to finish the superb Story mode. In today’s world where arcades apart from Japan and Pakistan barely seize to operate Arcade Quest deliver the perfect feel of being in a virtual arcade understanding how important this has been to Tekken’s evolution and development over the years while also embracing the culture of video games and use case of home consoles as the majority medium for most gamers.
In short, Arcade Quest is an amalgamation of all things a fighting game would want, respect for the history and heritage of arcade fighting games, the ability to learn the fundamentals of the game while honing skills as a veteran while also looking as dope in different attire and poses through character customization. Do not give this mode a miss this is a gem and a perfect addition to Tekken 8.
Character Episodes & Arcade Mode
Tekken 8 is the first Tekken where the developers have acknowledged they have moved away from their traditional arcade-first focus so what we get in the arcade mode is Eight battles with the CPU & Ghosts but no ending stories or movies. Before you feel upset, without divulging any more information due to embargo I will acknowledge that Character Episodes is another amazing new mode where you get an intro background quick video for each character that you chose and then an ending movie as well.
This mode is so much fun as it truly embodies what Tekken has been in the past while also modernising the storytelling and its characters. The goofy and over-the-top comedic endings that used to be so popular back in the Tekken 3 Days exist especially in this mode. I had a blast going through Ten-character Episodes and aim to complete all of them. There are connections made from the past and how allegiances have changed for certain characters like Nina who you can see changing sides from Mishima to G Corp.
Why Tekken 8 is the future of fighting games – Super Ghost Battle
One of the most astounding and futuristic addition is this AI fuelled algorithm present within the game called Ghosts. These are characters based on AI learning of your own tendencies as a player. They are created automatically as you play the online modes and Arcade Quest. A ghost is saved for each character and can be fought against after they have learned from a certain number of battles. Why do you think this is important?
These ghosts are literally your playstyle, and you can play against them to find your weaknesses or tendencies to make mistakes when online or offline. You can also download ghosts of anyone you meet online whether playing ranked or quick or group matches. What I found in my testing was for instance after losing to a very adept online player who was number 1 on the leader board and I could not connect more than a couple of attacks on his Character, after playing against his ghost I understood his combo trails and aggression style. So in effect, his ghost actually helped me to prepare better when I face him next. This is massive as an option to have to further bolster your skillset.
There have also been suggestions popular professional players like Knee, Arslan Ash, CBM, Ulsan might already have ghosts that you can download and while I did not come across them the limited online time I had while reviewing, once the game is fully released its only a matter of time when I can go to the leader board and fulfil my dream of getting annihilated by the likes of Tekken Legends like Arslan Ash or even Bryan specialist ‘JimyJtran’.
I believe this is huge for any fighting game to have and while it was tested with severe limitations in Tekken 5 and originally, the implementation is huge in Tekken 8 and my very own ghost who I fought as part of an early arcade quest mission and then once I had finished most modes after clocking in 27 hours, was vastly improved. My Marshal Law was launching me with a while rising 2 and then going on to do a 5-hit string – intriguing to see how it fares after hundreds of hours.
Innovation beyond the competition – Replays
The list continues with impressive additions that to me place Tekken 8 in a league of Its own when it comes to fighting games. There is a tab called Replay to the farthest right in the game. It houses Online replay where you can watch popular online replays, an exciting replay tab that shows a replay of the day which usually is based on the peoples’ Tekken prowess/rank, but the third option is the penultimate training and learning assist called Mr Replays & Tips.
Here is where lies a recording of your matches whether online or with ghosts in arcade quests or even downloaded ghosts. For offline matches, you can only select the side you played on, but online matches allow you to even play as your opponent. When replaying the match, the game will pause at moments when your opponent can be punished, yes you read that right.
Automatically, every time your opponent does an attack which had a minus or negative frame which means it is punishable, the system suggests a variety of attacks. Now you can play the replay, but it pauses to give you hints and if you want you can then practice how to do these and move on to the rest of the reply or the next punishable moment all within your grasp.
No fighting game has ever had such an intelligent system which suggests and teaches you at the same time. While you may say that this might seem too complicated let me assure you, I am no pro and even simple prompts like ‘high moves that can be ducked under’ really helped me to also understand how I can be less susceptible to aggressive opponent when they do not give an opening or constantly use frame advantage to bully you.
I have tested this with various fights be it arcade quests, ghost battles, or ranked online modes and the system is quite effective. I did come across one match where the online human player was so good (it seems) that the AI could not suggest any punishments which shows either the limitation of the algorithm or my weak playstyle in that match. This will be a game changer for anyone wanting to improve regardless of their skill level.
The Infamous Return Of Tekken Ball Mode
Tekken 3 introduced a fun little mode Tekken ball where you could play either with the CPU or another player in a match where you had to hit a beach ball and inflict damage using either simple punch or kicks or other moves. This was a breakaway from the serious combo smashing, perfectly timed side steps to gain victory and was a bit of goofy fun.
Tekken 8 re-introduces this mode whereas this time we have a beautiful beach setting, multiple balls from beach ball to metal balls and even a recommended moves list depending on the character you have chosen. There is also a how to play basics and advanced mode, thereby proving that even in this fun offline mode which some may dismiss as a basic time pass there is potential to be quite fun, especially a great party mode when you have friends over.
It is clear the game devs have included a game which should appeal to anyone with a remote interest in Tekken, whatever that capacity may be; the game is just brimming with content to keep you immersed for years to come as we know this happens with fighting games while they get supported for several years until the next iteration.
The Art Of Getting Better – Practice Mode & Labbing
One of the most effective ways of getting better at fighting games albeit also boring to a lot included myself is the inbuilt practice mode. Tekken has included a practice mode since Tekken 2 with improvements and more options as newer entries arrived. Tekken 7 was a huge improvement over it’s predecessors where it included frame data and also punishment moves to better study certain characters moved for instance and how to punish them.
Tekken 8 adds even more depth and options to the practice mode and as said by more professional player through out the Tekken world Tour, everyone should enter practice mode to test out their chosen character. Why I feel it is important to mention this in the review is for the quality of life improvements Tekken 8 brings to perfect an already robust system.
Now you get the options of both practising offence and defence as well. Tekken 8 is all about aggression so learning to defend while the opponent is in your face takes precedence. There are also options of the type of punishment you want to test and even minute and intricate details of where exactly pin point on the stage you want your test dummy to re-appear when you reset after doing a move.
This level of attention to detail is a testament to continuous improvement. Another addition is your own Heat & Rage Limit as well as your opponent’s therefore you are able to set up different scenarios that you might face or recreate situations which have been getting you into trouble constantly.
There is also the addition of Combo Challenges which have 11 challenges in the form of easy to complex combo that you can work through progressively increasing in difficulty. You can also check sample combos but these challenges help you gauge your level of comfort with the character and help in your learning curve.
Lastly, smaller improvements such as dedicated opponent throw escapes also have been included separately which is a clear indication that while you can just go one by one through all the move list you can now single out what type of specific practice you want to do. While it may seem daunting, as always practice mode is the bread and butter of every fighting game and to get better one has to put in the time “Labbing“. Tekken 8’s practice mode is the most expansive and detailed but also easy to get into.
Seldom is Tekken not mentioned a one of the greatest fighting games, such is Its legacy when it comes to the introduction of 3D mechanics to helping usher in the era of using 3D planes in video game combat. Tekken has made side stepping and wave dashing a popular characteristic thanks to its design and as each iteration of games in the series have improved it, gamers started taking 3D games more seriously especially since 2D fighters like Street Fighter had been so successful in the past.
Tekken 8 builds up on the stellar gameplay mechanics of Tekken 7 while retaining the ‘Rage Art’ system but removing the ‘rage drive’ option. What feels better this time around in thanks to the fluid and super responsiveness, is the use of Unreal Engine 5. The response both online and offline Is quite seamless and a new level of fast that we have seen in the past.
The new ‘Heat’ system builds aids what the devs wanted of this IP, more aggressive and more offensive. Heat system now also has certain moves called heat engagers which upon connecting automatically rush your character towards the opponent thereby opening them up for a follow up combo or a move called tornado which is re-branding the bound system making it possible for you to further juggle airborne opponents.
So, this synergy of integrating heat system with the existing mechanics is what I believe the biggest adjustment new and older players will have to do. While I do say that being an above average Tekken player having player all iterations since Tekken 2, players on the other hands have been creating seamless combo’s and juggles online just by playing the previously Closed Network and Beta Test.
The heat system also introduces recoverable health that you can steal back when successfully attacking opponents while in heat state, another new banger of an option that could switch the tide of the game in the “HEAT “ of the moment. I did also come across an opponent who started a combo on my character, then hit me with a heat move and since I was literally wall splat on the corner of the stage, I was then hit with a Rage Art thereby inflicting over 60% damage to my life bar, the opportunities are immense and endless at this point to what this game can deliver.
Then there is a new special style option which you can activate on the fly on and off during the match by pressing L1 by default. This is more beginner friendly and more one button approach to pulling of simple combos. The addition of this is to attract newer players to the game and also to encourage the majority to test out newer character as they experience Tekken 8. My testing on this has been insightful as it immediately demonstrated to me the ability of new characters such as Azucena, the mysterious Reina & Victor Chevalier on the type of move set, they have. I am also feeling a bit burnt out using the same 2-3 characters for the past 5 Tekken games and this style has been helpful in testing newer and some older more complex characters for me to test out such as Kazuya, Bryan fury.
Without repeating myself I would like to mention the importance of replays of the mode arcade quest which helps overall to understand beginner and advance combat techniques and also the usage of replays to evaluate fights you have done be it online ranked or quick matches or AI and Super ghost battles, there are so many resources to hone your skillset that there is little chance for a person to not improve if they give Tekken 8 a fair chance, as just playing through arcade quest will make you a better player than any previous games’ tutorials which Is a massive win for Tekken 8.
One little, tiny nugget of disappointment for me was when I was testing the online mode which was limited to 2-3 days as the server was undergoing maintenance, upon coming across anyone else’s avatar you could not challenge them to a match, for that you must sit at either ranked, quick, player or group match arcades or press L2 to search anywhere. Online players might find this a missed opportunity as to why you cannot directly challenge an idle avatar when you can send them friend requests, follow them or even set them as a rival (cool new addition).
Unleashing the power of Unreal Engine 5 we are presented with a near perfect 4K resolution with HDR and a rock solid 60 frames per second at almost all sections. During some cutscenes I might have felt a drop in frames to 59 and resolution hovering just under 3840 x 2160, with FSR1 being used to upscale resolution to 4K when it tethers a little bit.
This is a huge improvement mind you over Tekken 7 because not only does the game look phenomenal and run buttery smooth but the particle effect, the gradation, the environment is all drop dead gorgeous. Effect Saturation which is by default set to medium can be a bit too flashy for some so it is a pleasant welcome that they heard our concerns during the network and beta test by allowing an option under screen settings to adjust it to Low.
From character select to customization, I am still in awe after spending 28 hours with the game, it looks dynamic, lifelike with some of the best hair I’ve seen (Nina Williams & Lilli ) to even the destruction that happens in and around the gorgeous, scenic, lively stages found in the game. The in-game graphics are so detailed that during the final fight there was a part where I preferred those over a CGI section.
Performance in game must be compared as this should not have any direct slowdowns due to better assets and fidelity and that is the case with Tekken 8. The team have been able to deliver on improvements on pretty much everything. Team Tekken has stated they rebuilt every character model from scratch this time around and given the level of detail I can concur they have done a fantastic job.
What’s also standout is the finesse and fluidity with which combat flows across different modes, the only slowdown I felt momentarily is the millisecond that the system takes when you are at the character customization page and trying on an item or piece of clothing as opposed to directly buying it. There is a slight slowdown and that is it, everything else runs perfect and looks phenomenal. A noteworthy mention to also the efficient and super-fast matchmaking online as well, especially when you do a rematch it is quite quick with minimal loading seemingly non-existent.
Audio design and music selection and integration is really good. The startup music to when you boot the game or even when just idling over the game is heart thumping and energetic, exactly what is expected from a fighting game to pump you up. Upbeat is a good sentiment to describe the overall experience especially in-game where moves connect and when floor breaks or balconies are broken.
I really appreciate how the large roster in this game when featured individually or collectively in the main Story Dark Awakens speaks in their native language. Victor speaks French while Steve has a British Accent and Shaheen speaks Arabic. This time around the onus has truly been on as much accuracy as possible showing how much Tekken as a franchise and video game series has matured.
Jukebox makes a return to Tekken 8 featuring OST for all previous Tekken games which is a must give how much time one can spend in the game and getting bored of listening to just one type if restricted. You can adjust shuffle or create your own playlists.
Tekken 8 Verdict
Tekken 8 has a lot of heart and soul and even mentions this quote ‘Believe In your Heart “ rightly so. From the everlasting battle between father and son throughout the games, to the ever-binding devil gene that plagues the Mishima’s Saga and threatens world destruction; Tekken 8 bring a fantastic cinematic story that is the best it’s ever delivered.
Running high on fuel and scale are also the impressive new additions to its combat and gameplay. Utilising AI through Super Ghost Battle is revolutionary while the impressive Practice mode and Replays give the players a toolset from heaven to become the best fighters out there, rounding off with a plethora of polished offline modes to keep you locked into its mesmerising world, Bandai Namco and Team Tekken have delivered the best Tekken and fighting game ever!
- A well-rounded total package with an aggressive play style pushing players to indulge in more exciting, nail biting matches. The introduction of Heat system allows for more combo and punish capabilities but also adds variety and the option to recover health which can be the make or break in matches, just imagining the huge comebacks that can happen is immense.
- The Usage of Unreal Engine 5 has added crisp and phenomenal visual fidelity with seamless 60 FPS buttery smooth performance. The netcode is also one of the best I’ve seen on any fighting game when playing online that is essential in today’s world of competitive online gaming.
- The absolute game changer that is replays allowing you the player to analyse matches you have played across different modes and then learn the best ways to counter attacks as suggested in the replay.
- The Innovative Super Ghost Battle is a revelation and a step forward over any other competitor in the fighting game genre. Imagine fighting against your favourite Professional player and learning from their repertoire? Even against Harada san or game director Kohei Ikeda or your rival/friend?
- The cinematic and explosive story mode that is Dark Awakens. The sheer production value will entice even the most ardent naysayer while delivering the most satisfying result for Tekken fans or even newcomers.
- Respecting their roots by embracing them and moving forward with that legacy and heritage.
- Tekken Ball mode is back and now if you are too tired or feeling lazy, you can even have CPU fight against each other while you sit back and sip on Azucena’s perfect coffee blend.
- Arcade Quest mode stands as a perfect opportunity for beginners as the more engaging tutorial with story while also paying homage to the Tekken World Tour and arcade culture that invigorates the Tekken games over the years.
- Avatar customization could have had more options which might be added later.
- Possibility of challenging any avatar you find online directly with the option button rather than having to create a session or find them in ranked/quick match.
- Azucena dodging everything I throw at her 😉 I need to get better.