It’s a true golden era for the fighting genre.
After last year’s Game of the Year Contender Streetfighter 6 smashed records and Mortal Kombat 1 represented a return to form, I’m also delighted to say Tekken 8 is absolutely incredible.
Turns out, it was such a tactical, smart move for Bandai Namco to put distance between those two juggernauts to allow the game time to breathe in January because it deserves it.
One thing all games really do share in common is how approachable they are for newcomers. That clearly seems to have been an important component for the developers this year, between that and rounding out the most polished experience possible with a focus on slimmed down modes and quality rather than quantity.
That’s not to say there’s not much in Tekken 8, far from it. The game boasts a massive ‘The Dark Awakens’ story which follows closely on from the events of the previous games as Jin looks to reclaim his devil powers through a series of intense battles and dramatic cinematics.
The impressive thing is how much effort has clearly gone into this, building that narrative, giving characters agency to stand out in Jin and Kazuya’s confrontations, including new and familiar faces. There’s even multiple different endings to see.
That’s certainly become a bigger theme in the modern fighters, as even Street Fighter 6 crafted its own focus on story with the fantastic World Tour mode. And while Tekken 8’s own approach to a campaign isn’t as vast as all that, there’s still a few surprises for players in here while still mostly centering around battles and sparring exhibitions.
Of course, there’s also additional Character Episodes which let you play as each individual fighter in the game and really highlight their involvement around the latest King of the Iron Fist Tournament across a series of short, sharp battles. But these also come with unique endings of their own, some of which reveal very interesting revelations indeed.
However, the time sink will definitely be the Arcade Quest and Tekken Fight Lounge. Fight Lounge definitely has some similarities to Streefighter 6’s Battle Hub as you craft your own avatar and wander around a semi-open environment where you can challenge people you see, hop on an arcade machine and pick a random battle with players around the world and even challenge the computer.
Your avatar can emote, you can create rivals with other people and even build up your ranking as a world-class fighter. If that’s your sort of thing. Arcade Quest takes that concept slightly further as you play through another unique story that’s more centered around teaching you the game and giving you time to trial out different fighters. It’s just marvellous to see it all come together and again, really emphasises how approachable the game is.
Heck, I unlocked over half of the game’s achievements in a day, through one sitting. When can you say that about a fighting game generally?
But what about the fight game itself? How does it feel and how does it flow? The answer is excellent. Punches feel hard-hitting, models look the part in every conceivable way, character movement definitely adds weight, poise and variety to your choices, and matches always have an aura of intensity about them.
Personally, while Streefighter 6 felt like the better all-round fighter of the three, I found myself losing hours and hours to Tekken 8. I very much enjoyed the style of the game, how powerful each character feels, and I actually found myself wanting to try out all the different characters, whereas on some rosters I’m happy to never touch some.
Sure, the three games are all very different, but Tekken perhaps feels closest to an arcade-em-up. It has soul and heart and it feels like the best of the three to just fire up and blast through round after round with your pals or even hop online.
But just like Street Fighter 6, this really is a game anyone can play, even if they’ve never touched a fighter before. The onboarding is great with difficulty modes that really scale up well and the flow of battle with heat smashes and waves means everyone you fight is dangerous, even if their health is low. Nothing can be taken for granted here.
There’s also a really smart feature within the replays where the game actually recommends moves for you in certain clutch situations if you were getting hammered or perhaps the game is offering you a more efficient approach. You can then actually pause the replay, learn the moves in a series of trial runs and then take that into future battles for you. It’s a bit of an extension of what Capcom were doing with Streetfighter’s own modes, but I think it also works really well here.
Similarly, from an Accessibility point of view, Tekken 8 really opens doors to new players who may have been unable to play fighters before through its color perception types. I know there was some controversy around the trailer that was released recently but for those with blindness, this is massive. You can adapt color filters for certain types of color blindness and even use a mask filter where the stage is all white and the characters have black outlines. There’s pattern displays and you can even change the color of the fighters entirely. It’s wonderful.
Speaking of visuals, a note on the graphics themselves. This game is absolutely striking and one could argue, the first true next-gen fighter as neither SF6 or MK1 are using Unreal Engine 5. One look at the menu screen with Jin staring you down as you choose options really gives you a hint at the level of detail Bandai Namco can offer here. Facial scaring, crows-feet, forehead creasing, the slight smirk of the lips.
But even when you’re looking at the destructible environments, punching enemies through the floor, watching waves crashing ferociously in the background while the action is fast and furious in the arena. Also the vibrant flashing when you’re using heat moves just sends the color palette into overdrive.
There is the slightest of slowdowns when transferring between cutscenes and fights in the various mode and the game does take a little while to load at times, but these are minor hiccups that won’t even affect your enjoyment. No doubt, Tekken 8 will blow you away with the quality it consistently offers.
Just the finer details, like customisation of the music you listen to on the menu screen. Yes, you can actually set the original Tekken theme tune up if you want. But even when you’re fighting on certain stages, you can actually choose which track plays when you visit that stage. Brilliant stuff.
Even Tekken Ball makes an appearance so you can fight the computer, your friends or friends you’ve yet to meet. I was half hoping we’d get Tekken Bowling as well, but maybe that’ll sneak in a future content update. One can hope.
From the amount of data the game tracks on your battles, to even letting you fight ghosts that mimic your fighting style more closely everytime you fight them. Bandai Namco have unquestionably crafted the definitive Tekken experience, one that honors the legacy of the original games but goes a step further and really stands shoulder to shoulder with the greats in the genre.
Tekken 8 is one of the most satisfying fighters I’ve ever had the privilege of playing. It opens new doors for players who’ve previously been intimidated by the genre or have never been able to play them before, it has a fantastic fight feel to the combat where everyone has a fighting chance, there’s a huge variety of modes that have lastability and continue to be enjoyable and without doubt, it’s one of the most visually impressive games on the market today. Whether you’re new to Tekken, fighters in general or you’ve been with this series since the start, this is 2024’s first must-have title, one you can’t afford to miss
+ Incredible visuals and level of detail offer stunning stages, characters, and cinematics
+ Combat flow is really well implemented and designed, achieving an excellent, satisfying balance
+ Roster variety is great, full of characters you’ll grow to love
+ Tekken Battle Lounge and Arcade Quest really add longevity in addition to the strong story mode
+ Some fantastic accessibility options and easy onboarding open the genre up to more players than ever
+ Training through replays and fighting against your ghost is a clever way to keep improving
– Some lengthy load times and slowdown between cutscenes and battles
Tekken 8 is out now on PC, Xbox and PlayStation
Code Kindly Provided by Bandai Namco for review purposes
Played on Xbox Series X