Tekken 8 Review

Tekken 8 Keyart Header

While I’ve been a fan of fighting games since I was ten years old, Tekken is a series that has always taken a back seat for me. That’s not because I thought Tekken was bad, but it didn’t interest me as much as Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. Tekken 8 has completely changed that.

Street Fighter 6 certainly raised the bar for the fighting game genre last year, and Tekken 8 is trying its damned hardest to rise to that level. This game is a touch more friendlier to newcomers, and includes a whole host of things for you to do straight out the gate.

Tekken 8 still runs off its classic combat system, with the four face buttons of the D-Pad mapped to the fighters’ limbs, adding a directional input here and there to perform special moves. It’s a pretty simple system that caters for players that are happy to dip their toes in with some simple combos, or dive in with some of the harder stuff. However, previous Tekken games could still feel a little overwhelming, especially when you look at the huge moves list of attacks you could learn.

Similar to SF6’s Modern Mode, Tekken 8 has a new Special Style to offer a similar release valve for newer players to get accustomed to fighting games. This can be turned on and off in real time at the press of a button, but when enabled gives a list of available moves in the bottom left corner of the screen and access to one button special moves, or combo starters that easily flow as you press different buttons. There’s also single button power crush attacks and other low attacks.

All of this is intended to help newcomers focus more on timing and spacing than memorising moves, and in practice it works well. I can see this being a good jumping on point for people that have always looked at Tekken but find fighting games too intimidating to give it a go.

Tekken 8 Fighting

Naturally there’s a few new ideas and revised mechanics in Tekken 8, most notably the Heat system. This is a once-per-round mechanic that enhances certain aspects of your character’s kit. Firstly all you moves will do chip damage while Heat is active, but there’s also new Heat specific combo routes that open up, giving further depth to characters. Some combos can end with a Heat Dash that propels you towards your falling opponent to continue a combo you otherwise would have had to end. This, and the powerful Hit Smash will end Heat mode immediately, but they can give you the edge. Unlike other fighters where you build up a gauge, there’s no need to then hang on to for later rounds for Heat to recharge and get it back. Use it or lose it.

Rage makes a return from Tekken 7 but this time without the drive. Now, once your health drops below a certain threshold, you enter Rage in which you do more damage and take less chip damage. Like the Rage in Tekken 7, you also get access to the powerful Rage Arts which does a ton of damage and looks flashy, all at the press of a button. The only downside is that the move is easily telegraphed, so you have to be picky about when you unleash it.

There’s plenty to learn and out the gate, and you have 32 playable characters to choose from, which is a decent if slightly overwhelming number. You’ve also got plenty of modes to choose from.

Each character has their Character Episode with unlockable endings, something which was missing from Tekken 7, so fans of the OG arcade mores will be happy. The stories on offer here are mostly tongue in cheek fun and I found myself enjoying the silly non canon story beats that give you a little insight into each character. There is a separate arcade mode as well, if you just want to duke it out against eight opponents, either CPU or ghost powered.

Tekken 8 Story

There’s also Arcade Quest to help show newcomers the ropes and introduce those new mechanics. In Arcade Quest, you create an avatar and embark on an adventure, rising the ranks of a local arcade scene and eventually taking on the best of the best. Arcade Quest’s main function is to slowly drip feed you the new mechanics and teach you how to use them, as well as letting you unlock some customisation gear as well. You can go around the arcades, challenging various punters and unlock gear if there’s a chest next to their name.

It’s a great little intro into the game and is one of the better ones out there to get you used to the systems. There won’t be much here for veterans of the series, aside from unlocking some customisation bits and extra fight money, and Super Ghost Battle.

Tekken 8 Arcade

This takes place in The Final Round arcade and there you can fight your ghost over and over while the AI learns and improves, meaning as you get better, so does your ghost, which is an interesting way to push your learning. As well as your own ghost, you can download other players’ ghosts, or ghosts created using developer play data. It’s clearly a smart system that doesn’t require all players to be present, but I do worry that this is a feature that will become more prevalent in the future, diminishing the core concept of actually playing people. You can’t replace that feeling, however, and I think other fighting game players will see it. As a learning tool though, it’s great.

Although nothing beats a decent practice mode, Tekken 8 has stepped up its game offering a ton of options to get the best out of your character selection. While not quite at SF6’s level, I’d still go as far as to say it’s a very decent training mode, with all the bells and whistles you expect to take you from zero to hero. Each character has combo trials you can complete which give you a taste of what they can do. Naturally, any move can be pinned to the top, with the ability to demo it before you try it properly. Punishment training also returns to teach you how to deal with your opponents unsafe moves.

Tekken 8 Steve vs. Law

Most of your time will probably be spent online though, either fighting ranked games from the main menu or visiting the Tekken Fight Lounge to challenge other players there. The online experience was very smooth with virtually no lag pre-launch. The netcode seems pretty stable so far so I hope it maintains once the servers go live properly.

The Fight Lounge, while not quite as refined as SF6s version, is a welcome addition and attempt to bring that feel of actually fighting your mates. Also, it’s a chance to show off your sweet customisations you’ve been working on.

That’s right, it wouldn’t be a Tekken game without the ability to put on some daft clothes. Completionists will have a field day trying to unlock everything and there is a lot. It’s just as good as it’s been in previous entries with the ability to customise most aspects of your characters’ looks, with the one limitation being you can’t mix and match with original costumes, which is a slight shame.

As well as your characters, you can dress up your avatar to your heart’s content, make your players profile and UI looks pretty and even create your own musical playlist as you play.

Finally, Tekken Ball is back! Not seen since Tekken 3, this much loved mode is simple and fun, letting you launch balls at your opponent to drain their health. The fact that it can be played online makes it even better and a fun distraction when you want a break from the fighting, although I do feel the interest for this mode will wane a little after its initial hype dies down as people inevitably go online to fight proper matches.

Tekken 8 has started 2024 off with a bang, proving once again why this fighting series is great! It's maybe not quite as newcomer friendly as Street Fighter 6, but has a bevy of modes and new tweaks that means it's going in the right direction to be a game for all players, old and new, and will only get better over time. 
  • Plenty of single player content
  • Fighting is the smoothest Tekken has ever been
  • Tons of customisation
  • Special Style now present for newcomers
  • Tekken Ball is back!
  • There’s no indication if your opponent is using Special Style
  • The move list can be a little overwhelming for newcomers
  • Tekken Ball is nice but limited
Written by
Consummate professional, lover of video games and all-round hero that can be found doing a podcast, writing about games and also making videos. Oh, I have saved the world 87 times and once hugged Danny Trejo. You're welcome.