Tekken 8 beta impressions - survival is no game

Jin Kazama with Devil Gene
(Image credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment)

Jumping into the closed beta for furious fighting game Tekken 8 feels like nothing short of a spectacle. It’s been a while since I’ve been driven to invest so much time into a fighting game, but there’s something about Tekken 8 that encourages you to be the very best. 

Between its breathtaking visuals and fluid combat, you can’t help but lose yourself in it for hours at a time, and even when you’re coming out at the bottom of the ranking you still feel victorious. The experience of Tekken 8 is not only fun when you win, but also when you lose too, simply because you constantly feel rewarded for giving it your best shot, and that in itself marks the potential of one of the best fighting games.  

I’m gonna start a fight 

Bandai Namco; Tekken 8 – Nina Williams wurde entlang des neuesten Gameplay-Trailers enthüllt!

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

I’m an incredibly competitive person when it comes to fighting games with my first Tekken being Tekken 3 on the PlayStation 1, and while the winner screen is usually associated with my opponent, every odd victory I get in Tekken 8 reminds me of why I have been so invested in this series in the first place. 

But with that said, it had been a while since I’d played Tekken 7, so going into Tekken 8 against what I assumed to be a load of players who had been training for years was intimidating. Fortunately, the beta’s tutorial walks you through everything you need to know, including very basic mechanics like blocking, and also introduces you to the new Heat System, a separate gauge underneath your health that is designed to enhance your power and cause more damage to your opponent, and how to make the most of its ten-second active period. 

There are two types of tutorials, one for more experienced players (which is not what I would call myself anymore despite how many hours I’ve spent in previous games) and one for those who need a little more guidance. I went for the latter since I’m a bit rusty, and it immediately felt like I hadn’t ever put my controller down. Sure, it takes you a while to get back into the rhythm of things, and a lot of characters have adopted new moves, but, generally, the second you’re in a tutorial or practice screen, muscle memory kicks in and you’re soon stringing together attacks. 

With new moves and attacks for the vast majority of the roster, there is a pretty significant element of re-learning characters you may even be very familiar with. This will be easier for people who have spent hundreds of hours practicing in Tekken 7, but even that doesn’t prepare you for the number of new mechanics you have to learn. Paired with the new Heat System designed to help you perform a more cinematic attack and shave off a larger chunk of health from your opponent once per match, I feel as if Tekken 8 relies more on practice than any of the previous installments due to how much there is to learn and retain.  

Once you’ve got to grips with its core mechanics and simple combinations, each hit feels as though it carries weight, feeling significantly more aggressive than other games - but you do have to be incredibly precise with timings. This makes it all the more impressive and satisfying when you string together multiple hits to send your opponent barrelling into the air. It’s a rewarding, albeit occasionally frustrating, experience, but it’s enough to drive you to keep fighting and become better - which is always the sign of an incredible fighting game. 

Community is key  

Jin and Kazuya during Sonys State of Play 2022

(Image credit: Bandai Namco Entertainment)

Playing online against fellow real-life fighters is often the main appeal of most fighting games, and Tekken 8 already has one of the strongest communities there is. Because of this, there’s always a fight to jump into and a player ready to help you practice. Matches are fast and you’re paired with players in the same skill level (in line with the in-game ranking system) which makes for a fair fight. 

My only fault with online battles is how you have to change your active fighter. Instead of being able to switch your character out before a rematch, you have to go back to standby mode and then enter another menu, scroll down, and change your character from there. Obviously, when you have a main and you stick with a single character you probably won’t find yourself swapping out characters frequently, but when you’re still getting a feel of each player and their new styles it can be pretty annoying to keep backing out of fights to change. 

Outside of this, the matchmaking process is incredibly simple and speedy helping to maintain the fast-paced nature of the matches. One of the new additions to the game, the fight lounge, also makes it significantly easier to access these online fights. Your avatar simply jumps in, sits at a cabinet, and when a fighter is ready you will be asked whether or not you want to accept their request. 

I was initially skeptical when the fight lounge was announced. To me, it looked a little jarring in comparison to the hyperrealistic and genuinely breathtaking settings and character design of the rest of the game. In fact, the appearance of Tekken 8 is so enchanting it’s almost as if you could step into your screen and watch the fight unfold in front of you rather than being the one in control. Each character is brought to life through their animations which help you connect with those you play as, or infuriated by how cocky some of those you fight against are. 

But in contrast to this, the fight lounge adopts cartoonish-looking avatars and similarly-styled hub areas like the Tekken Dojo and the Arcade. However, after spending some time in this lounge and finding a friend, I started to appreciate the arcade-like experience it’s replicating, and my skepticism quickly dissolved. Plus, it’s just a way to quickly match with other players rather than being a place to hang out, so even if you don’t love it, it’s not somewhere you have to spend a huge amount of time. 

Gunning for the crown 

Yoshimitsu Tekken 8

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Still, the bombastic fighting game experience that Tekken 8 offers is practically flawless, even with a few months to go until its full release. It’s fast, furious, and incredibly impressive. Everything looks as fantastic as it feels to play, and it’s simultaneously simple to pick up and challenging enough that you have to practice and learn new things. For new players, it’s a fantastically detailed fighter to pick up, and for long-term fans, it’ll feel like a drastic step up even from 2015’s Tekken 7

The game’s January 26 release date can’t come around soon enough, and you best believe I’ll be there on day one ready to jump online and have my confidence handed back to me by another player. But, I’m determined this time to become the King of Iron Fist, and I’m preparing to not sleep until I’ve perfected every combo there is to offer. 

Our list of the best fight sticks will have you equipped with the very best for Tekken 8’s release on January 26.  

Kara Phillips
Evergreen Writer

Kara is an Evergreen writer at TechRadar Gaming. With a degree in Journalism and a passion for the weird and wonderful, she's spent the last few years as a freelance video game journalist, with bylines at NintendoLife, Attack of the Fanboy, Prima Games, and sister publication, GamesRadar+. Outside of gaming, you'll find her re-watching Gilmore Girls or trying to cram yet another collectible onto a shelf that desperately needs some organizing.