Fighting game fans have been eating nicely of late. With the launch of Street Fighter 6, Mortal Kombat 1 and Tekken 8 all just months apart, if you’re a fighting game fan you’re likely still trying to digest it all. But Tekken 8 is here and it thankfully overshadows most of what has come before. Well, Mortal Kombat 1 anyway. The game was the weaker of the bunch with a cliche, dull story, lack of game modes and shallow fighting roster.
Everyone knows the Tekken series. From its weird and wonderful story modes featuring devil blood to its crazy roster of fighters that includes a Panda of all things. We all grew up playing the game and to have it back means not only the return of nostalgic characters but also more Devil Jin and all the over-the-top action that comes with that.
Tekken 8 is most importantly, a good package. The story mode alone is just a phenomenal showcase that borders a sort of anime-esque style of action. Couple that with new characters and a dark narrative, and you have yourself likely the strongest Tekken story mode in the series.
It kicks off as Jin loses his Devil powers. In an attempt to get them back, he enters the Fist of the Iron King tournament in hopes that he’ll be beaten to a pulp and as he is about to die, the powers will reawaken. The story mode only lasts for about 3-4 hours and spans 15 chapters but the experience is like watching a well-contstructed action movie.
It is filled with some crazy twists and turns and the additional new characters provide some much-needed fluff to the overarching plot. Throughout the story, I played a handful of different fighters too. They all come and go depending on the chapter. However, the campaign is mostly played as Jin due to his central focus in the series.
The main story is a series of fights between the current chapter character and your opponent. It essentially acts as a great place to get your bearings on the game’s system while also watching some ridiculously over-the-top action scenes. It is also beautifully constructed with some fine attention to detail thanks to its camera angles and special effects.
My only gripe was that the in-between cutscenes had a clear lack of HDR. So you always knew when a cutscene was playing as it would look dull in comparison to the fight. It sort of breaks the immersion a little. Not a trainsmash but definitely noticeable.
But if the main story isn’t enough, Tekken 8 also includes the Character Episodes mode which is a separate story mode-like experience that shines light on the full fighter roster. You pick a fighter and there’s a short starting cutscene which provides a bit of insight into their lives. You then fight through some matches and at the end, there’s another cutscene that ties up their current story.
I enjoyed this mode quite a lot. Not only is it nice to have some narrative attached to these fighters but I especially enjoyed learning more about the new fighters. Sure, some of these stories aren’t as strong as others but it is something worth spending time on.
Arcade Quest is yet another story mode. This mode is set in an actual arcade and follows kids who are playing Tekken 8, which is a recent addition to the venue. I was able to create my own avatar which kind of resembled a Chibi-like character. The mode also provided a robust tutorial mode that gave me the barebones basics of the Tekken 8 mechanics and even advanced combos.
This mode isn’t remotely deep but it is enjoyable. The more I played the more I could unlock new customization features for my character and advance into more matches. There was also some in-between dialogue between my “friends”. The whole idea is to capture that feeling of going to an arcade to play Tekken 8.
Speaking of customization, Tekken 8 also includes a full customization system for the main fighters too. There are various things I could change across each of them. This includes equipping a new mask, helmet, shoes, skin and more. You can also dive deeper into this mode and change the fighter’s facial features too. There are also various slots where I could save presets I made for future matches.
Of course, Tekken 8 would be nothing if the fighting didn’t work and it thankfully does. The game’s biggest new feature is the Heat system. This system essentially enhances your fighter with damage buffs and gives them the ability to perform a Heat Dash and also a Heat Smash. All fighters are tweaked differently when they enter the “Heat”. Some get additional effects added to current attacks while others can stay in Heat by performing certain attacks.
The depth of this Heat system makes Takken 8 feel so much more intense than its predecessor. Not only did I sh!t myself when an opponent entered Heat but I enjoyed utilizing it myself and it often resulted in those last-second clutch wins.
The Heat mode also activates when you’re low on health. This adds intensity to the match. Often, I thought I was done for only to have the mode kick in right before I was KO’d. However, the same goes for my opponents. These moments can truly turn the tide of the battle.
The Heat Smash is especially great to pull off. This attack is similar to the Rage Arts but doesn’t rely on your health to be critical in order to pull it off. These attacks are all stylized for each fighter and are great to see in action. They deal some decent damage and pulling them off is oddly satisfying.
Apart from this Heat system, every fighter in Tekken 8 plays differently. The new fighters are especially fun to master. Victor, for example, is a special agent who wields futuristic weapons. He can also teleport around the arena. As a result, you would want to utilize his vanishing acts as a means to get an upper hand in the fight.
Tekken 8 also includes an assist mode that is activated with a press of a button. By pressing L1 on PS5, this mode turned Tekken 8 into an easier game where I was able to pull of combos with one button and even my Heat Smash attacks with another.
You can just spam a few buttons and the fighter would juggle its opponent in the air and perform some outlandish combo attacks. At the same time, you look pretty badass at the game too. This mode is, of course, for those who just want to play through the game without the worry of combo timing and attacks. Great for those who want to experience the story quickly or if you have friends over who suck at games.
I personally used the mode during the more boring Character Episodes. I just wanted to get the character story unlocked and move on with my life. I wasn’t in the mood to get bashed around and “actually” put effort into my fighting style.
With all that being said, Tekken 8 is a great package. It includes loads of modes to spend time in and an impressive roster of fighters. I did have a few issues with the game’s visuals. I won’t lie, I expected more here. The game uses Unreal Engine 5.1 but it is a bit rough around the edges. The HDR has been poorly implemented and it is hard to ignore the various FSR 2 artifacts around objects.
But with those minor issues aside, I enjoyed Tekken 8. It feels like the most complete fighting game we have had in recent months and its accessibility is a big deal too. The Heat mechanic is especially fun to experiment with. I think we’ll be talking about Tekken 8 for a long time to come.
This Tekken 8 review is based on a PS5 code sent to us by Bandai Namco. You can pick the game up today starting at R1499 on digital stores and R1699 at retail. We also unboxed the Collector’s Edition. Watch that below:
Tekken 8 proves it is still the king of fighting games with its massive roster of fighters, a robust list of game modes and exhilarating combat and fighting mechanics.