Tekken 8 review — Sorry I’m late

I love fighting games, but I’ve somehow never gotten into Tekken. That’s largely due to petty reasons, as I used to be a big Sega fanboy when I was a kid. I liked Virtua Fighter, and Tekken was the enemy!

Whelp, Tekken is pretty much the last franchise standing now when it comes to 3D fighting games. That’s sad, but at least Tekken 8 is fantastic.

Let the iron fists fly

Even though I’m new to Tekken, I had an easy time figuring out how it works. There’s a simplicity and an intuitiveness to it. At a base level, you can just try out a bunch of buttons on the first character you want to try and have a decent time.

And you’ll have a lot of characters to choose from. The base roster has 32 fighters, so you’re going to find someone to gravitate toward. I first went with Reina, a new character who borrows a lot of moves from the currently deceased Tekken mainstay Heihachi. After just a bit of time in Practice mode, which teaches you some combos and explains the strengths of each characters’ moves, I was feeling pretty comfortable with her.

From there, I went to Arcade Quest, a new mode in Tekken 8 that I think everyone should check out first. This is especially true for newcomers like me, as it also functions as something of a tutorial. Here, you make an avatar and go on a quest through different arcades. This is all the while, your in-game buddy is teaching you new techniques.

Tekken 8 has some fun social features.
Tekken 8 has some fun social features.

Unlike in the main story mode, Arcade Quest lets you play as any fighter that you want. It’s a fun way to get practice with your favorite character while unlocking some cosmetic items.

The actual story mode is fun too, although you’ll spend most of it playing as Tekken protagonist Jin. This is a cinematic affair with some impressive cutscenes, although it’s all so over-the-top that it’s almost a bit much. I mean, look, Tekken’s story is pretty dumb. I don’t hate that it’s dumb, and I’m usually happy to go along with its buffoonery. But it is a little difficult to play along when the game’s nonsensical story wants you to take it seriously.

While the story mode does focus on Jin, there is still short character-specific narrative content for each fighter. It’s short, just a round of five fights, but this is where you get to watch those famously goofy and fun Tekken endings.

As you can tell, Tekken 8 gives you a lot to do even if you just want to play solo.

Fights are violent and beautiful in Tekken 8.
Fights are violent and beautiful in Tekken 8.

Fight everyone

Of course, you’ll probably want to challenge some real humans. Tekken 8 has the standard online offerings that you’d expect, with both casual and ranked battles.

My fights mostly felt pretty good, with only a couple of matches having any noticeable lag. Granted, my sample size is relatively small at the moment, both in terms of matches played and variety of opponents. I’m curious to see how well the online fights feel when the game launches.

If you liked Street Fighter 6’s virtual lobbies, Tekken 8 has something similar. You can run around as the same avatar that you created for the Arcade Quest mode. I had a fun time gathering with friends this way, and it made it relatively easy for us to fight each other and spectate matches.

And if you’re looking for some sillier competition, you can also check out Tekken Ball. This is volleyball meets fighting games, and it’s a hoot. You’ll definitely want to check it out with friends in between more serious bouts.

Jin is Tekken 8's protagonist.
Jin is Tekken 8’s protagonist.

Better late with 8 than never

Tekken 8 makes me angry at myself. I know that I’ve missed out on an amazing franchise. But at least I feel like I’m getting into the series at a strong point. Tekken 8 is a robust package that features some of the most satisfying digital fisticuffs I’ve ever seen.

Fighting game fans have been living large in recent memory thanks to games like Street Fighter 6 and Mortal Kombat 1. Tekken 8 keeps the good times going.

Modern Warfare 3 gets 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Tekken 8 launches on January 28 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. The publisher provided a PS5 code for this review.

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