Tekken 8 Review

Written by Vince Abella

After almost a decade, the long-running series is back with a title that fully takes advantage of the newest generation of consoles to deliver a product that feels like a proper evolution for the series in every possible way. With one of the series’ best release rosters that only leaves out a few series staples, there is a lot to find and experiment with in what might be one of the greatest fighting games of all time. A fantastic story mode awaits, as do multiple exciting and fresh game modes that fix the barebones single-player experience of its predecessor, with a glorious tutorial system and numerous ways to improve oneself in battle.

Devilishly Good Time

The story mode is a good place to get started for an introduction to most of the characters, while also possibly being one of, if not the finest the genre has to offer. In fact, Tekken 8’s main story does something radically different from 7 by completely removing the infamously boring journalist narrator, letting the events play out in glorious cinematic fashion. The visuals are absolutely gorgeous on a PS5, with turbulent wind having many effects on clothing, like Kazuya’s clothes swaying from the sheer force of the wind, or any character’s appearance getting dirtier from the fights. The cinematics are rendered beautifully, and while you won’t expect any transitions as smooth as those in God of War: Ragnarök or The Last of Us Part II, they keep the action going well enough.

Said cinematics hold a surprising weight to them, with the game having a shocking emphasis on its plot. The story of Tekken has never been on the likes of Kojima or anything similar, but it has (mostly) been dumb fun. It stretches believability at some points, like how lead protagonist Jin starts World War 3 in its 6th mainline entry, but a certain suspension of disbelief must be held, which isn’t that hard considering this is the same series in which bears can fight, a rebellion’s commander can have a “will-they-won’t-they” romance with a robot girl who can make her head explode, and Mokujin exists.

What makes Tekken 8’s story so satisfying is its inclusion of multiple characters and references to the series’ record-winning history. It was quite an unfathomable delight seeing my favorite characters actually be involved in the main events in the plot, and though a few get shortchanged and some long-awaited interactions don’t quite occur, it’s impossible to say I was left unsatisfied.

Unlike the Mortal Kombat story modes, Tekken mostly focuses on Jin Kazama, son of Kazuya Mishima and the deceased Heihachi Mishima, making up a trio of people who just love throwing family members off of cliffs. Tekken 8’s story is somehow even more bombastic than the ones to come before, yet also grounded in the pure rivalry between Jin and Kazuya. Their feud is a bit more personal in this, given that Heihachi is now out of the picture. They, along with some other characters, get some insanely awesome fights that are some of the most fun in any fighting game.

There’s a good amount of variety too, with one particular chapter leading into the final act providing an irreplicable feeling of fun and fan-service that I haven’t quite felt in a long time. The final fight as well might be one of the greatest finales to a fighting game ever, earning the hype it so rightfully warrants. Fighting games are loose with the reasons for fighting, but Tekken 8 mostly has some of the most personal in the franchise.

New Era

With new mechanics and modes, the series makes up for its faults in Tekken 7 by giving proper tutorials and ways for newcomers to be introduced to the revised combat system. Thankfully, much like its campaign, Tekken 8 has managed to make one of the most useful and enjoyable tutorials. Much like Guilty Gear Strive and Melty Blood do, it settles new players in with an in-depth tutorial, albeit with a twist. While those two were more straightforward with their tutorials, Tekken 8 has a mini-story to its Arcade Quest which, while not teaching players the most advanced combos and moves like 3 consecutive EWGFs, gives players a feel for the basics. This is where the new combat system comes in.

Rage changed things up slightly upon its introduction in 6, and Rage Arts and Drives in 7 only further complicated things. Now, Rage Drives received the boot and have been replaced by Heat, which is a bar that, upon activation, adds, modifies and makes every attack deal the also new chip damage. You can regain chip damage through attacking, even if it is blocked, which adds a whole new layer to the formerly defensive game. That isn’t to say playing defensively will result in a loss, as picking and choosing when to attack is still the name of the game. A perfectly timed counter hit can lead to an extremely damaging combo, or a single wallsplat can result in the opponent losing even a third of their health for some characters.

The slightest mistake on anyone’s part can cost an entire match, and it is this formula that Tekken has relied on, and has always succeeded at. It is a true test of skill, patience, and execution. It takes ages to land a Mishima’s Perfect Electric Wind God Fist consistently multiple times in a row, to loop Leo’s KNK cancel for big damage and wall carry, to memorize each and every single one of King’s grabs, or even deal with the bitter, spiteful stares of a friend after you spam Paul’s infamous deathfist to victory.

While these techniques are great in advanced gameplay, newcomers can safely rely on slightly less damaging, though still very viable moves. Special Style is another new addition, letting players perform throws, moves and even some basic combos. The new tornado mechanic allowing for longer, more damaging combos can be absolutely deadly at walls, and move properties being changed from 7 to 8 for returning characters keeps it all fresh and exciting. It’s all very flashy, but options can help make sure they aren’t flashy to the point of being in the way.

Online matches are mostly great, though there is a big issue created by pluggers, or people who disconnect just as they are about to lose. I have been on the unfortunate other end of this, but thankfully, the game allows you to report players who are cheating or plugging. I’ve been able to have smooth matches with players all the way in America, and while it’s no substitute for fighting them (in-game, of course) in a face-to-face setting, it’s more than playable.

Rowdy Roster

Tekken 8 has fewer characters than the home release of 7, but it’s a nearly perfect one, with only 3 new characters combined with a large amount of (mostly) welcome returning characters. Tekken 6 and 7’s roster was dealt a nasty blow with Bob and Miguel being unfortunately cut, but the real tragedy is Eddy Gordo and Julia Chang’s absences, though it is slightly alleviated by the former being confirmed as the first DLC character, and Julia inevitably becoming one thanks to her popularity.

With that said, Tekken 8 has one of the best fighting game rosters on launch. Save for the bears, everyone feels unique, with a fighting style that’s different from everyone else. The Mishimas all play rather differently too, and even Kuma, our resident bear, gets to join in on account of having access to some Mishima moves. Characters have been redesigned, and while Steve got dealt with a shockingly bad hand, the rest of the cast look better than ever.

Azucena, Reina and Victor are the newcomers, and they are very strong characters. Azucena has some broken moves that many (including me) are waiting to get nerfed, Victor is slick and stylish but also really dangerous with his damage output, and Reina is easily one of the hardest newcomers in a long time with some Mishima inputs and heavy execution required. Jun and Raven also make their long-awaited returns after years away, with updated movesets. Jun is already one of the strongest characters in the game, and her slot along with Reina’s for her cool design are far from wasted.

Leo and Kuma have seen improvements in their move lists and character designs for example, with Leo taking an appearance reminiscent of their Tekken 6 outfit thankfully, and Kuma taking on Heihachi’s attire and even having an Electric Bear God Fist. Raven even comes back after being temporarily sent off by Master Raven back in Tekken 7 with a whole host of new moves and cool ninjutsu.

Lots of the cast have massively improved personalities and characteristics. The story provides everyone with some degree of relevance or presence, including ones that some wouldn’t assume would do anything. I keep talking about Leo, but they are my main, and it was a joy to see them be a surprisingly active participant and have their spelunker side actually get explored both in the story and in their character episode. Shaheen’s usage rate might be low, but his interactions with Lili and Asuka gave him more depth than anything in 7 provided him with. Azucena may be a manic coffee queen, but she serves the role as this entry’s wild newcomer, which was served by the similarly tricky and infamous Lucky Chloe.

The character customization is great as well, and though it is disappointing it feels a little incomplete, it is far better than its predecessor, remaining one of the best in the industry. While it worked occasionally in 7, cosplays are what you’d usually spot online. I’ve customized my Leo to look like a host of characters, like Reki Kyan from Sk8 the Infinity and Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4, and so many others have gone wild. It’s not surprising to see Drake (yes, that rapper), Heihachi or Devil May Cry characters. It’s a breath of fresh air especially when put against the disappointment of Street Fighter VI’s limited options.

Evolving Content

One of the worst things about Tekken 7 was its lack of content. Tekken Bowl being available as downloadable DLC, a fine but disappointing and short single-player story mode, lack of a proper versus mode against a CPU and some of the series’ worst character endings compiled the single-player offerings of the title. 8 has thankfully rectified every issue that 7 had. A mix of both new and returning modes make sure even offline players get their money’s worth, with an increased quality for the returning modes as well.

The story mode is a bit longer, and has a lot more playable fights. Fanservice is never intrusive or disruptive as mentioned earlier, and while it’s a great way to get to know the base story, character episodes are mostly back to how they were at their best in games like 6. While there’s no mini-boss, in these, they lead to endings that are quite enjoyable, with a lot of work clearly put into each of them. The arcade mode doesn’t have these characters endings, they do feature bosses, with some being ones no one would have guessed prior to release.

Arcade Quest is brand new, and is one of the best tutorials to a fighting game. It’s not just that it provides players with all the basic knowledge, but that it also provides a look into the eSports scene. Tekken is a community that is filled with people who know each other and care about each other, and this game mode shows newcomers the community experience that’s so valued by many.

Tekken Ball also makes a comeback, and it’s definitely one of the more unserious game modes, and is all the better for it. Hitting people with attacks takes more timing than one would expect, and it’s a lot of fun not worrying about ranking up or down and just hitting an opponent with the right moves with a beach ball.

The last major new game mode addition is the Fight Lounge which allows for players to join servers and match up with each other. Serving as a social hub, you can chat with others, fight 1v1s, spectate, and show off your customizable avatar. It’s like the lobby of Street Fighter VI, and it’s a similarly fantastic addition to Tekken here.

The bonus content is also quite astounding. You can unlock and watch cutscenes from the game and some summaries of previous titles, allowing you to catch up on just who people like Jun are, which is great considering her decades-spanning absence from the series. A jukebox is also a very subtle innovation for the genre, letting players choose whatever music they want for the stages. Nothing quite beats hearing the yodel cry from a Tekken 6 stage while you’re on Tekken 8’s asteroid-crashing-to-earth stage.

The stages are also some of the series’ best. Though there are no infinite stages, and thus, nothing like the stunning Infinite Azure of 7, each one present is lovingly crafted with gorgeous destruction for some of them. They’re all distinct to the point that not a single one can be really claimed as boring. Even the basic arenas have some cool things you can do with regards to combos. Every stage being walled makes them more dangerous, and even if those walls are insanely far away, a skilled player can take you there easily in a few combos.

Easily the most important tool for improving your game comes with the last feature. You can watch other people’s replays, or more importantly, your own, and with the game’s options and settings, you can analyze every bit of your matches. Think you lost because you sidestepped a move that tracks? You can take control of your character at any point in the match to see what you could have done differently. You can learn what attacks you can duck under, or how to punish a move you blocked. It’s probably the best feature in the game for both newcomers and professionals, and it feels like this move should become a regular implementation in the genre.

Another vital tool players can utilize is the Ghost mode that lets you fight A.I of other players, and even yourself. This is incredibly useful in checking yourself and learning your own weaknesses, and while it takes a few matches to learn you, you start seeing patterns and how to fix any flaws in your gameplay, and is another potentially revolutionary addition to the series.


Tekken 8 is the latest among the big fighting game franchises to release, and it is easily the best one of them all. It has a large amount of content with one of the most well-rounded rosters a fighting game could have, gorgeous and explosive visuals, and refined gameplay that I’ll definitely be hooked on for the next few years to come, while also making sure newcomers aren’t alienated. It’s minor issues are all alleviated by the sheer feeling of joy I have of this game’s clear reverence for the series, and it feels like not only the best the series has been in decades, but one of the greatest fighting games of all time.

Score: 10/10

Purchase Tekken 8 on the following platforms:

PlayStation 5

Xbox Series S/X


About the author

Vince Abella

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