Another King of Iron Fist Tournament commences as TEKKEN 8 unleashes a destructive punch into the fighting game world, reigniting the long-running 3D fighting series with blazing Heat, quite literally.
One of the coolest parts of TEKKEN has always been how they pay respect for legacy skills, keeping a lot of mechanics and move lists from prior titles intact. What you learned from years of brawling in previous games will be applicable in the newer entries, making someone like me, who tends to dabble in the series on a more casual front to easily get in tune with the fancy new visuals and crazier new mechanics.
Despite many systems feeling quite familiar, TEKKEN 8 is no simple visual upgrade because the developers bring in a new layer of mechanics to spice up the fun with the keyword “aggressive” in bold this time around with the introduction of the Heat System. In many ways, TEKKEN 8 still feels “TEKKEN” but also different.
As mentioned, this new entry of TEKKEN strives to put more emphasis on aggression, rewarding players who dare to get their hands dirty rather than ‘turtling up’.
To achieve this, one of the biggest fundamental changes to the game is how the health system works. Similar to the Tag Tournament series, there is now recoverable health upon taking damage. However, unlike the Tag Tournament series, players can only recover health through attacking, rewarding those who participate in active aggression. Of course, this simple change to the health system is not going to suddenly turn fans who are already used to the defensive nature of previous titles to go nuts.
Heating Up the Pressure
This is where the suitably named Heat System comes in, the flashy new mechanic and the fiery star of TEKKEN 8’s combat system and the developers’ way of encouraging you to get in there and go ham on your opponents.
For the uninitiated, the Heat System puts your character in a power-up state once per round. However, it is more than a mere damage boost because, upon Heat activation, each character will essentially become an overturned version of themselves, restoring all recoverable health, and gaining new moves or properties to existing attacks.
To activate Heat, you have two options – either a single-button manual activation known as a Heat Burst or a Heat Engager, a special attack move that puts your character in Heat, initiates a powerful pushback, and causes your fighter to rush toward the opponent.
When in Heat modes, some characters become absolutely terrifying on the right hands. For example, King living up to his name and becomes a monster with his enhanced Jaguar Sprint, now gaining armored properties while also being able to restore the Heat state timer with certain throws. Other examples include Jin and Kazuya gaining access to their Devil powers, Nina pulling out her firearms in a martial arts tournament, and Yoshimitsu being able to use enhanced sword technique without going into his Mutou no Kiwami state.
This opens up a whole slew of strategies and game plans for every character, and since it is a one-time thing per round, you would have to be very decisive on when to utilize them. While some characters may not feel equal when it comes to the bonuses of their Heat state, each bonus is designed to tie heavily into the characters’ playstyle and fantasy.
All In On Heat
What’s more, during Heat, you also gain access to two fancy combat options – Heat Dash and Heat Smash, the former being a special cancel into a dash for potential mix-ups while the latter acts similar to the now removed Rage Drive as a single powered-up move.
Both abilities open up many new mix-up options and will end the Heat state, making them great tools to throw off your opponents. Since the Heat state can only be used once per round, it becomes absolutely crucial to figure out the most effective way not to waste the opportunities it grants because it ain’t an instant win button.
This is especially true when many of TEKKEN’s mechanics made their return from past titles, including its array of defensive tools such as Low Parries, Power Crushes, and Rage Art, which all can punish careless use of the Heat System.
Sure, the encouragement of more aggressive gameplay certainly succeeds in providing a great impactful sensation that gets your catharsis going especially with the game’s beautiful visuals and booming audio. At the same time, the new layer of mechanics on top of TEKKEN’s already complex combat system can be quite overwhelming, especially for newcomers. This is, of course, par for the course for the fighting game genre and it takes time and practice to lab it out combos and strategies to get the best experience.
Special Style & Ghost Battle
Despite the game’s complexity, Bandai Namco did grant newcomers solace this time around with the implementation of “Special Style”, breaking down the character controls to simpler inputs and giving a sneak peek into each fighter’s playstyle and potential combos. While this may be a great way for players to familiarize the most basic of fundamentals, the feature does not exactly guide them well in learning the characters, considering how simplified the inputs are and how complex many fighters’ toolkits are.
Even so, the “Special Style” provides a great showing of a character’s cool combo sequence, making it a good way for players to select a fighter to main. Another cool element of the “Special Style” is that it is activatable mid-battle, making it a potential part of one’s strategy to gain quick access to combos with simpler strings.
At launch, TEKKEN 8 will house a total of 32 characters to choose from. While there are only 3 distinct newcomers, every returnee is being decked out with new tools thanks to the introduction of the Heat System, making the roster size huge by today’s fighting game standards.
If you are dedicated, the game itself facilitates players with a training mode equipped with many adequate features. One such feature is the Ghost Battle, a cool new system that puts you in simulated battles with combat data from other actual players, helping you practice in the most realistic battle scenarios without engaging in actual matches.
Never-Ending Mishima Family Drama
Another great option to learn the ways of TEKKEN is through the story mode, which once again, has us embroiled in the conflict between the members of the Mishima family.
Yes, the story of the TEKKEN series can be extremely convoluted but the game does provide quick recaps of previous titles to catch you up. Without getting too much into spoiler territory, Kazuya holds another King of Iron Fist Tournament but this time his ambition is to create a world inhabited only by the strongest, and his son, Jin has to step up to punch his jerk of a father in the face again.
The story is, of course, what you would expect from TEKKEN, a mix of over-the-top cheesiness with serious epic brawls sprinkled in between, though the pacing could be better. Each chapter is relatively short and sometimes involves other characters besides Jin, but they become less relevant as the story continues. That said, Character Episodes did make a comeback, highlighting each character, especially the quirky ones like Kuma and Panda in entertaining endings.
TEKKEN Ball & Other Fun
If you ever get bored of kicking and thrashing your opponents, this latest entry does offer the return of the much beloved TEKKEN Ball from TEKKEN 3. For those who do not know, TEKKEN Ball is conceptually similar to volleyball, except you use the ball itself as a weapon, striking it to launch it at opponents to chip away their health.
In TEKKEN fashion, the more you hit the ball with combos, the greater the speed, the greater the strength of the ball would be, resulting in greater damage. It is certainly a fun way to play TEKKEN with friends without getting too sweaty into optimizing combos and mixups.
Fashion also made a return in TEKKEN 8 with its character customization, allowing you to dress up your favorite fighters in drip or odd quirky getups with a bunch of available clothing and accessories. The playable fighters are not the only characters to dress up this time around because much like its competitor Street Fighter 6, TEKKEN 8 has a lobby system with customizable avatars, but more chibi.
TEKKEN 8 truly reinvigorates an already terrific fighting game series with its new emphasis on aggressiveness, done in ways that fit seamlessly into the series’ identity. Like many fighting games, it can be daunting to hop on, but TEKKEN 8 strikes a balance in providing series newcomers with accessibility, especially with its robust tutorials and “Special Style” control scheme, while retaining much of the games’ mechanical technicalities.
The newly improved visuals are also an absolute treat, especially coupled with its head-bopping soundtrack. Meanwhile, the story is as captivating yet cheesy as ever and the game also offers plenty of other content besides endless battles such as TEKKEN Ball and character customizations packed with options.
If you are hoping to try out the series for the first time, TEKKEN 8 is a great entry point, providing the ultimate TEKKEN experience while imbuing fresh elements that push the series a step forward once again.
TEKKEN 8 was reviewed on a PlayStation 5 and the game is slated to launch on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Windows PC via Steam on January 26, 2024.
Feel the power of every hit in Tekken 8, the latest entry in the legendary fighting game franchise from Bandai Namco.
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- Aggressive and rewarding new mechanics that elevate yet still retain the TEKKEN feel
- Intriguing story mode
- Robust tutorial, training mode, and “Special Style” that makes TEKKEN more approachable than ever
- Huge roster at launch
- Rich side content, ranging from different modes to fun minigames
- Great visual presentation and an amazing soundtrack that gets you dancing
- Story pacing could be better
- The combat can be pretty overwhelming at the start