From that first glimpse of Kazuya’s Tekken 8 character model at the end of the Tekken finals at Evo 2022, I’ve been eager to see more of the first Tekken game in eight years. But, no matter how much time I’ve poured into beta tests or watching reveal trailers, nothing has scratched the itch quite like finally sitting down and losing myself in the first few chapters of its story and additional game modes.
Tekken 8 (T8) was worth the wait, offering hyper-realistic graphics and combat you can almost feel through the screen each time you land a hit. From what I’ve witnessed in a hands-on preview, I can confidently say it makes for an unforgettable experience. Without straying too far from the classic 3D fighter formula Tekken is famous for, T8 still manages to carve its own identity through new mechanics, characters, and game modes.
To rise again
Delving into story mode, I immediately got a sense of what Tekken 8 is all about; always being prepared for the next battle. After meeting a few central protagonists (or reintroducing myself, having seen them in previous games), I dove head-first into tense hand-to-hand action. Boasting seamless transitions between cutscenes and combat, Tekken 8 quickly got its hooks into me despite how little time I had with the story itself. Within the preview, we only got to experience the first four chapters, which soon fly by once you’re stuck in and jumping between brawls.
Tekken 8 does a fantastic job of introducing you to characters that play a huge part in the story through cinematic cutscenes that cover the events of the previous game. It’s been a while since I went through the story of Tekken 7, so having a refresher helped to reconnect me with the characters before going head-to-head with them.
From the get-go, the visuals are what immediately struck me as one of the most impressive parts of the experience. Going off the closed beta test and the reveal trailers, I knew the graphics of Tekken 8 would be impressive, but Tekken 8 appears so realistic it felt like at any moment it could have grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me into my screen. Yet it still maintains the iconic over-the-top look the series is known for. If I wasn’t fighting for my life, I could’ve easily spent most of the first chapter admiring all the details in each environment, but I had a story to progress so had to leave it for full release.
This over-the-top vibe carries into combat with flashy animations that bring a new life to fights. Each hit feels as if it packs a weight thanks to the animations that accompany them, and when I strung together combos I couldn’t help but feel impressed with myself. Even the simplest of moves felt seismic, which is massively assisted by the newly implemented, simplified control scheme called “special style.”
King for a day
With Special Style controls, the game is made a lot easier for both new competitors, and those returning players who are a bit rusty (like me). Similar to Street Fighter 6 and its modern control system, Special Style makes combos and moves that otherwise require multiple inputs simpler, making them much more approachable for newer players. This control setup can also be toggled on or off throughout matches rather than having to exit into a settings menu, which helps to uphold the seamless nature of Tekken 8.
In addition to simplified controls, the Arcade Quest mode helps walk you through everything you need to know about combat too. Instead of whisking you through several screens of inputs you have to learn, Arcade Quest is a gentle process that takes you through everything from basic attacks to air combos to learning to string patterns together and face off with everyone else in the arcade. It’s a less intimidating way of getting your skills up to scratch and is one of the most thorough tutorials a Tekken game has ever received.
Another part of combat that stuck out to me is the new Heat system, which is one of the most significant additions to the game. This helps make combat more impressive both to pull off and to watch. I’d go as far as to say that this is where the real tension of a match lies since you never know when your opponent will activate their Heat, and it can drastically change the entire tone of a match when doing so. If you need to turn a match around quickly, the Heat system is your best friend, but it quickly becomes your enemy if your opponent is biding their time - which I fell victim to several times during the preview.
A taste of what’s to come
Regardless of your background with the series, whether you’re stepping into the ring for the first time, or returning having spent years training, Tekken 8 promises to deliver an unmatched, immersive fighting game experience that I think will have players engrossed for years to come.
The theme of training to better your skills is laced throughout every game mode and reinforces the competitive nature of Tekken, and clear efforts have been made to make the experience as approachable as possible without sacrificing any of the technically impressive visuals of combat. If you’ve been waiting for the best time to get stuck into Tekken, then this is it.
Even for those entirely new to fighting games, it manages to hold your hand just enough to get you off the ground without feeling like you’re being coddled, yet it still feels as fresh and exciting as a new game should for veteran players with all its new characters, mechanics and visuals. It’s a truly captivating experience whether you’re playing through its story, Arcade Quest, or just jumping in for a quick 1v1. I think we’re in for something unforgettable when it releases on January 26.
We’ve got a complete list of the best fighting games if you’re looking for a way to hone your skills before launch. However, if you’re looking for another way to prepare, you might want to check out our guide to the best fight sticks, too.
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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.