Tekken 8 had some pretty big expectations to meet, but it exceeds every single one. It’s a concrete addition to a well-established series and manages to add complexity to an already solid combat system. Every battle feels as though your life is on the line, the mark of a fantastic fighting game.
Combat is more fluid and streamlined than ever
An in-depth tutorial makes understanding controls simple
Arcade Quest avatars are lifeless
There’s just not enough single-player content
Why you can trust TechRadar
Platform reviewed: PS5
Available on: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release date: January 26, 2024
If you’ve been waiting for a fighting game that will push you to your mental limits, but reward you through a level of satisfaction unfelt in the genre when successful, then Tekken 8 is bound to deliver. The seamless fluidity of combat will raise the hair on the back of your neck, and hits feel heavy enough to knock the air out of your lungs in real-time - Tekken 8 is nothing short of a revelation. Offering an evident step up from the previous installment to the fast-and-furious fighting game franchise, there’s a huge amount that marks Tekken 8 as what I can confidently call one of the best fighting games in recent memory.
Tekken 8's most immediate impact is the visuals, bringing the roster of beloved characters - and some new faces - to life in a way we've never seen before. But as soon as fights start flying, you'll see combat that keeps you sweaty palmed at the edge of your seat. The entire experience of Tekken 8 is designed to draw you in, stick with you, and keep you thinking about every fight to see how you can improve. Each match, character interaction, slow-motion K.O., and flurry of blows will have you analyzing how you can simply be better.
You'll have some help getting there, though. Newly implemented control schemes such as Special Style, and the introduction of Arcade Quest - which serves as a way to get familiar with the game's basic mechanics and controls in a more hands-on way rather than a simple tutorial - also make the game more approachable than ever. For anyone who has been intimidated by Tekken in the past or anyone who’s been considering returning to the series after some time away, all of these features help you feel ready for anything no matter your skill level.
If you don’t know, get to know
Whether you’re looking for an expansion to the story that Tekken has been carefully weaving together since the launch of the first game in 1994, or you’re looking for a way to refine your skills and combos, Tekken 8 offers everything you need and more. For most, The Dark Awakens will be your first port of call - a single-player story mode that whisks you through the history of the game and why its ensemble is constantly going toe to toe in combat.
This is where you get to witness the cinematic experience of Tekken 8. Cutscenes entwine together so seamlessly that you could easily re-watch the entire story without any combat and still feel as involved. As you work your way through the chapters on offer, it’s as if puzzle pieces are slotting together to help you understand the fighter’s motives and reasonings behind their fury. The campaign experience also gives you plenty of chances to test out different move sets and see which characters are fun to play so you’ll know when you’re ready to jump online.
Although fairly short, having taken me about three hours to complete, The Dark Awakens wastes no time in answering questions that players have had about the series for years. But, even though I praise how satisfying it is to have age-old questions finally answered - or at least touched on in passing - many new players may leave with more questions than they came with.
There is a lot to learn about Tekken before jumping into its story mode, and, while everyone gets a firm introduction to who people are and they each have their relationship with characters like Kazuya and Jin explored, there’s a firm chance that new players will complete the mode feeling nowhere near as satisfied as those returning.
Practise makes perfect
On the other hand, Arcade Quest is ideal for anyone more interested in honing their combat skills, filling that role better than a narrative exclusively involving the roster and lore of the series. This mode focuses on you as a Tekken player, which takes the form of a cutesy yet slightly dead-behind-the-eyes customizable avatar, and how you can become one of the best. That’s the dream, being able to waltz into an arcade and immediately assert your dominance as a top contender, but it’s not that simple. Especially not with Tekken. Luckily, the charismatic friend you meet the moment you start the mode, Max, is willing to break down everything from how to block and punish to how to pull off your first air combo as you explore arcades across the map and fight willing NPCs.
Information about how the game works is presented to you in a far more digestible way than any previous Tekken game in Arcade Quest, making it a lot easier to feel inspired to keep pushing forward rather than feeling disheartened as your opponent whips out combos you’ve never seen before. This is a feeling I’m not unfamiliar with in fighting games, but, with Arcade Quest, I could at least take some time to understand why I was missing opportunities to punish a move following a block, or where I missed a window to bring out a combo.
The in-depth tutorial-esque game mode also ensures you have plenty of players to fight against to make sure you’ve perfected your skills in each area too. This feeds into the emphasis Tekken 8 places on how practice makes perfect. Tekken 8 wants you to know that you should constantly be striving to be better - a sentiment echoed throughout the narrative of both story modes.
Power is everything
The Dark Awakens and Arcade Quest set you up nicely to feel prepared enough to take the fight online, which is where you see Tekken 8's true colors shine. As the selling point of the series, there’s always a lot of expectation resting on how Tekken’s combat has been improved over the last game, and, while it’s hard to build on a foundation that has already been set in stone, there’s something about Tekken 8 that feels utterly unmatched when compared to previous games.
Attacks in Tekken 8 carry a weight with each hit. Even basic inputs and beginner combos feel earth-shattering, which is amplified as you start to string together attacks that strip chunks from the health bar of your opponent. Because of how satisfying it feels as you start to master combos, you're motivated enough to learn more convoluted inputs which in turn, make you a fiercer competitor. You can almost physically feel the payoff when you successfully land one in a match, and before you know it, training paired with My Replay & Tips feels like a second home while you learn everything there is to know about your favorite fighter's moveset.
The heat system, a new mechanic that lets you deliver a chain of hard-hitting attacks if timed right or at least some chip damage if you attack into a block, also helps encourage the concept of tangible impact. Hits are designed to be hard and fast when this ‘heat’ is active, and you’re capable of drastically changing the pace of a match with one well-timed activation against an unsuspecting opponent. As a result, you never know what to expect from your fellow fighters, and this is how Tekken 8 keeps you watching with bated breath and biding your time to fight back.
Tekken 8’s accessibility options come in the form of its color settings, which can be altered depending on a variety of conditions. You can also change the overlay on the characters to make them easier to spot in versus battles. This is the only accessibility option the game offers as dialogue is already subtitled, but you cannot alter the size.
Visuals and models are more polished than ever before. The larger-than-life aesthetics elevate Tekken’s roster, with costumes and poses defining personalities. These visual cues make it easier to connect with the characters you’ve been playing. Idle animations and stages ooze charm, and, if you weren’t fighting for survival in each battle, it would be incredibly easy to lose yourself in the details of the game.
Animations have also been enhanced, which makes matches just as enthralling to watch as they are to play. Moves feel explosive, and characters crash to the floor making visual impacts that stick through each battle. You can even punt your enemies straight through the walls on stages like Ortiz Farm to add to the explosive nature of each match. With Tekken 8, there’s no such thing as half effort. You’re either all in, or you’ll be quickly searching for your next opponent having taken a huge loss. The style of the game reflects this at every turn.
The fluidity of the animations and the tension created by the speed of each battle boils down to an experience unlike any other. The high I get from a win in Tekken 8 is something I find myself constantly chasing, and it’s a feeling I haven’t tapped into through games like Street Fighter 6 or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. In comparison, Tekken 8 essentially offers it to me on a silver platter and tells me I need to work for it, but its supportive modes are there with me every step of the way. It’s safe to say that it feels as if a new standard has been set for fighting games, and it’ll be a hard standard to exceed for whoever feels brave enough.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your playing, it’s worth checking out our guide to the best fight sticks.
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.