King of the Iron Melting Pot – Jack Zustiak (PS5)
Ninjas, bears, robots, devils, and occasionally, run-of-the-mill humans – sooner or later, everyone and everything finds itself within the melting pot known as a Tekken. Tekken contains every crazy idea you can think of, and its fighting mechanics reflect that. Each character has an extensive arsenal of moves at their disposal. When you combine the potential moves with the variables of a 3D space, the environment around you, and all of the extra battle mechanics layered on top, the possibilities are virtually endless. It takes a lot of effort to fully wrap your head around Tekken, which makes it all the more impressive that there’s an innate appeal to playing it that just about everyone can appreciate. That’s no different in Tekken 8.
A ferocious ambition separates Tekken 8 from its predecessors. It wants to be king, and it will throw whatever competition stands in its way off of a conveniently placed cliff to accomplish that. Tekken 8’s blood boils and the heat it exudes is apparent in more ways than one.
Tekken’s melting pot historically stews at an even temperature. Tekken characters may have a lot of moves, but simply knowing which limb each button corresponds to gives you an idea of what to expect. Combos may grow in prominence, but juggle states and wall slams give every player the opportunity to improvise how they extend their assault. Even as sequels expand the game mechanics, ideas like Tekken 7’s Rage can benefit casuals and pros alike. If there’s one way that Tekken 8 changes things up, then, it’s how it heats this series’ melting pot to its boiling point.
As the game will tell you, Tekken 8 is all about aggression – it’s something you’ll immediately feel while playing in large part due to the new Heat system. At any point in a match, you can activate this power-up mode and transform into an offense machine. As long as you have gas left in your Heat gauge, your attack options expand with new moves and more combos. Defense becomes a liability for your opponent, as any hit will chip away at their life bar even if they block. Heat can also be used to close gaps with a dash or finish them off with a powerful super move.
Heat brings a chaotic energy to the game. It’s not exactly a comeback mechanic, as it can be used by either player at any time, but it can absolutely turn the tide of battle. Much like the basic Tekken mechanics, it offers an intuitive way for players to keep themselves in the game against a much stronger opponent while at the same time adding depth and strategy for the experts. While heat defines Tekken 8’s gameplay, you can easily plan around it. Rather than being some untamable beast, I see it more as another tool in Tekken’s admittedly extensive toolbox. It complements Tekken’s core strengths surprisingly well while giving the game a fresh feel.
That said, Tekken 8 can feel like a bit much. The Rage system from Tekken 7 returns in 8 as well, which buffs a character’s attack when they become low on health and unlocks the ability to unleash a super powerful desperation move. When combined with the Heat system, you’re essentially having to worry about the tides dramatically turning every round.
The melting pot feels a bit overstuffed when it comes to battle mechanics, especially at first. Even minor mistakes or misreads can lead to either side becoming totally dominant. Rounds will fly by in the blink of an eye whenever a player finds an opening. Tekken 7 always struggled with balancing defensive and offensive play, with defense perhaps being too dominant of a strategy. Tekken 8 in comparison shows no mercy for the weak – it’s kill or be killed.
The visuals especially emphasize Tekken 8’s brutal nature. Wild animations, crazy effects, and dramatic zoom-ins emphasize the hectic action. Its presentation caught me off guard – it all looks great, of course, but it can also overwhelm you visually. Tekken has never been so supercharged.
Eventually, I did adjust to it all. Buried beneath the flash and powerups lies the heart of Tekken. The beauty of Tekken lies in the variables: everything from the moves you choose to the place you’re standing in the arena affects how you play. Each player has access to an innumerable amount of tools to use and understand. Heat and Rage are just two tools in the toolbox. Once you understand them, you begin to strategize and build counters to them.
To help you adjust, Tekken 8 offers options both useful and concerning. The most obvious addition is the simple controls – with the press of a button, a menu will pop up giving you shortcuts to different moves and combos. Many fighting games offer something like this these days, and I always worry that it teaches people the wrong lessons. For a game like Tekken especially, the options available are your key to victory. Understanding what moves you could or should use separates the strong from the weak. Opening up a menu (that even your opponent can see!) dramatically limits your options and prevents you from both thinking about or scaring your opponent into thinking about any mind games. It’s counterintuitive to learning the game and also makes newer players an easy target.
What I found much more helpful for newer players (and even me, who is just not particularly great at Tekken) were the new replay features. Whenever you fight a match, you have the option to download it and watch it again. Observing matches like this often proves to be a great learning resource on its own, but Tekken 8 goes the extra mile. It will actually analyze your footage and provide you with tips like letting you know which moves can be blocked, dodged, or punished. It’s one of the coolest learning features I’ve seen in a fighting game. Getting people to do combos is all well and good for a casual player, but I think that to get people to really stick around, you need to help them understand how to have fun playing the game.
Obviously once you’ve built up some confidence you can take it all online. There are a ton of different ways to connect to players from player matches to lobbies. Personally, I found most of it to be overly convoluted. If you pick anything other than Quick Match or Ranked Match, you’re essentially just adding extra steps to get the same result. The Lobby simulates an arcade yet doesn’t do much to encourage players to seek each other out. Activating the match search in a Lobby or the Main Menu makes little difference.
For the more casual side of things, Tekken 8 offers a surprisingly full suite of single player story modes. Whereas most fighting games see fit to offer one or two, Tekken 8 throws every kind of story you can imagine into its melting pot.
The cinematic story mode is, to put it mildly, completely insane. Tekken’s story sits in an odd place where it has a deep history full of dramatic events, but at the same time almost nothing that happens matters that much. In this story you’ll see gorgeously detailed cinematics of literally out-of-this-world battles, yet I couldn’t help but feel by the end that not much of consequence happened. It’s a fun ride with a compelling conclusion, at least. Jin Kazama stalwarts may at least be pleased that the narrative does its best to rehabilitate the character after Tekken 6, for whatever that is worth.
More strangely, Tekken 8 features an “Arcade Quest” story. This story doesn’t occur in the actual world of Tekken. Instead, it takes place in our world. Well, not our world, but a world that attempts to approximate our world. This mode essentially acts as a metacommentary on how to be a fan of Tekken. You create a slightly creepy-looking avatar and then take it through various arcades. Each arcade visit teaches you that Tekken is more than just a fighting game. It can also be the friends you made along the way.
This mode blurs a line between helpful tutorial and bizarre lecture. You will learn that true Tekken fans can enjoy the game however they want, whether it be as a competitor or someone who just likes to dress up their character. I guess that’s fine. I won’t argue with it, but it’s certainly weird. The whole thing goes so fast and the story is so transparent that the whole thing feels like an elongated PSA rather than a substantial single player mode.
Finally, you have the traditional arcade modes, including a Character Episode variation that rewards you with a CG ending cutscene for each character. These endings are always great, and Tekken 8’s are no exception. The Kazuya and Panda ones made me laugh out loud, so I’d say this mode ends up taking the crown in Tekken 8’s narrative efforts.
In a series as long running as Tekken, you want to see it constantly reinvent itself with new ideas while also building upon the old ones. Tekken 8 does exactly that, perfectly in line with its melting pot nature. It features new ideas, revitalizes the visuals, and offers a ton of modes to keep you playing. Tekken 8 comfortably demonstrates why it deserves to sit atop the iron melting pot that is Tekken.
An unrivaled contender – Abdul Saad (PC)
Tekken 8 is the latest installment in Bandai Namco’s highly beloved fighting game franchise. It takes the series to new heights by introducing several new gameplay features and narrative improvements. After playing through the game, I can confidently say that it is the best Tekken title I’ve played in a very long time, and it is perhaps the best of the series in terms of what it offers to fight game fans.
Tekken 8 is a direct sequel to Tekken 7 and is set six months after the last game’s events. The story follows series protagonist Jin Kazama as he unsurprisingly participates in the King of Iron Fist Tournament yet again. In the wake of Heihachi’s absence, his father, Kazuya Mishima, has taken over as the leader of the villainous G corporation. Yggdrasil, Lars Alexandersson’s rebel army, fights against the corporation and tasks Jin with taking down Kazuya. The story sees father and son face off against each other yet again and introduces new characters that expand what we know about the world and story so far. Tekken 8’s main story mode, The Dark Awakens, blows players away with fantastic transitions, impeccable fights, epic moments, and new revelations. It is perhaps the most exciting story from the series yet. However, it’s also worth noting that new players may be confused with many of the narrative aspects as there is a lot of lore and pre established story beats.
After players beat the main story mode, they can delve into the other narrative modes, including Arcade Quest, Character Episodes, and the standard Arcade mode. Arcade Quest sees players create an avatar to go on a grand quest to win arcade matches and tournaments in order to climb the ranks all the way to the Tekken World Tour itself. This mode serves as excellent extra content that appeals specifically to the core fighting game audience and especially to players who’d like to learn the ins and outs of the game. The game also features character episodes that give players short arcade stories that focus on the series’ characters, all wrapped up with a pre-rendered cutscene. The mode blends both serious and humorous story segments and serves as a nice bonus to narrative fans after beating the main story mode. Lastly, the standard arcade mode, Arcade Battle, gives players a random selection of enemies but with a more challenging variation of opponents, especially if you select the hardest difficulty setting.
Gameplay-wise, Tekken 8 introduces several new features in the form of tweaks and additions. The first and most notable is the new simple Special Style controls. Like the new modern control system in Street Fighter 6, the simple, special-style controls make combat much less technical, which is against what the series is known for. It allows players to execute combos and special attacks with the push of fewer buttons, making combat more engaging and accessible to new players. However, it doesn’t go so far as to alienate veterans, as players using this control scheme aren’t able to execute the more intricate combat moves.
The game also adds the Heat System, a mode characters can enter to perform devastating combos, attacks, and an ultimate attack once its bar is filled up. While I like the Heat System’s direct approach, as it supports the game’s combo-oriented gameplay, I still prefer the previous installment’s mechanic, where players had access to more advanced moves with a hold of a button.
I was able to test out all 32 characters in the brand-new training mode. My favorite fighters are Nina, Xiaoyu, Lili, and Law because of their quick movement and moveset. Other characters like Jack-8, King, and Paul serve as big heavy hitters with devastating attacks. In contrast, others like Jin, Kazuya, Asuka, and Leroy are balanced characters most players can pick up and use. Every character plays their role well, but not all are easy to use. Tekken 8’s training mode is the best the series has ever seen, as it allows players to learn all the easy and advanced parts of the controls and each character’s moves. Players can learn each character’s move by accessing the move list and switching characters with a push of a button; learning combos, special attacks, and seeing replays has never been easier. It also adds new features such as Combo Challenges, which gives players set combos to learn, and Punish Training. This fantastic training option lets players learn how to punish enemies that block too much and use specific moves and counters. It is an excellent tool for newcomers and veterans and teaches moves that surprisingly transfer well to other fighting games.
After learning the combat intricacies, players can then experience the challenging online modes. Tekken 8 uses the rollback netcode in standard online battles; the game also allows players to select more fluid visuals with more input delay or less input delay with more choppy visuals.
During moments of good and bad connections, I had no problems with the online matches as every single one of them played really well despite my opponent’s connection quality, so it’s obvious the netcode works and works well. A great part of the online system is that it also allows players to choose what rank range their opponent is in and how good their opponent’s connection is. So if, like me, you’re a beginner (Tekken 8 specifically) and want to play against players with a good connection, you can do so, but it’s worth noting this will impact matchmaking significantly as you’ll get fewer matches compared to people who fight against players with any type of connection or rank. Additionally, as a result of these settings, players with a bad connection will noticeably get matched with the same type of players.
Another exciting addition to the series is Tekken Fight Lounge. Like Street Fighter’s Battle Hub, players create their avatars and enter a 3D lobby to challenge other fighters, create rooms, and send friend requests. Tekken 8 also brings back the highly beloved Tekken Ball minigame, which is the franchise’s own weird version of volleyball. The aim is to deplete the opponent’s health bar, either by getting the ball to land on the ground of the opponent’s half of the court or by hitting the opponent with the ball. The mode is still goofy, but fun. Other than that, this entry also adds Super Ghost Battle, a new mode that lets players fight the AI ghosts of past opponents and top players in the lobby. These AI ghosts use actual player tendencies and data to fight against actual players, making them as impressive as they are formidable. Aside from training and fighting, players can buy cosmetics with points from online and offline wins. They can also create and customize their characters with the game’s detailed customization system.
Now, in terms of visuals, Tekken 8 is also highly impressive. Immediately upon booting the game, I could tell Tekken 8’s visuals were impeccable. Character models are pristine and incredibly detailed, and their designs are highly intricate and accurate to each character’s narrative or aesthetic growth. The game features several stages, all of which have impeccably rendered, vibrantly detailed backgrounds with fun elements like cool environment transitions and captivating destructive elements. In short, Tekken 8 looks visually appealing on PC in several ways. What’s more, Tekken 8 also features excellent bonus features, including a myriad of accessibility options. These include options for visual impairments such as a color blind mode, control options like button mapping, and more.
Performance-wise, Tekken 8 includes several great PC features including rendering options, DLSS, anti-aliasing, display options, including an ultra wide option, and more. Sadly, the game only has capped 60 FPS as an option, so players who want unlimited frames while punching faces will not get that. The PC version ran smoothly with no frame rate dips, lagging, or glitches.
Lastly, the game also features one of the best soundtracks in the series, with excellent high-octane tracks that match its vibe quite well. The voice acting is also stellar, and you can tell the actors put a lot of effort into their performances as each character notably speaks in their own language, which was surprising. Overall, Tekken 8 blew me away with its excellent, engaging features that are fine-tuned to fit every fighting game fan’s preference. It offers an experience that new and veteran players can enjoy, making it one of the best fighting games in recent years. As such, I’d be surprised to see if any fighting game this year can match it, let alone surpass it.
Jack's background is in law, but he's been writing about games since long before that. He aims to capture a game's essence in (hopefully) new and interesting ways with his writing. Occasionally he will even make his articles fun to read. Results vary on that. Talk to him about Mega Man! Preferably not in the third person!
Abdul Saad is an avid gamer and computer scientist. He's been writing for four years on news, reviews, previews, and more on multiple gaming sites. When he isn't writing or playing the latest JRPG, he can be found coding games of his own or tinkering with something electrical.
Tekken 8 blew us away with its excellent, engaging features that are fine-tuned to fit every fighting game fan's preference. It also offers a battle system that new and veteran players can enjoy...as long as you can take the Heat.