Tekken 8 Hands-on Preview

Tekken 8 is nearly upon us. After initially launching in March 2015, the fans are finally looking forward to what’s next in the series after an almost 8-year run of greatness that was Tekken 7.

Just ahead of its January 26 release date, Bandai Namco Entertainment Asia graciously allowed us to experience the game again, but this time around, offering what almost seemed to be a final build that featured Arcade Quest, the full 32-character roster, Tekken Ball, and much more.

This kind of confidence from the team speaks volumes, and based on what we played, it feels like Tekken 8 is the missing piece to having one of the greatest times in fighting game history where most, if not all, similar titles have their latest entries available.

*All impressions below are from a Tekken 8 build played on a PS5 using a DualSense Controller. We played through 3 hours of the game, ranging from the various offline modes like Story Mode, Arcade Quest, and Versus Mode, along with other features like Super Ghost Battle, Player and Character Customization, Tekken Ball, and more.

Related – Tekken 8 PC System Requirements and Storage Space Revealed

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True to tradition, Tekken 8 continues the long-running story of the series. This time around, six months after the epic showdown between Heihachi and Kazuya, Jin tries to defy fate by facing off against Kazuya, thus triggering a series of events that will set off the latest entry of the King of the Iron Fist Tournament.

Tekken 8’s story mode, entitled “The Dark Awakens,” is packed with cinematics and visuals that blow the past installment out of the water. The visual quality is leaps and bounds ahead, pushing the dramatic storytelling even further.

“Even the quality of the movies themselves is a lot higher than it was in the past installments. There’s also a character episode for each of the 32 characters, so it’s even more volume than we had for Tekken 5 or 6. The volume and quality are a lot more than in past installments, plus the amount of budget spent on it is the biggest to date,” shares Tekken 8 Director Kohei “Nakatsu” Ikeda.

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In chapter 1 of the story mode, players will experience the usual match against Kazuya, and this series of rounds continues over a few sequences highlighted by a couple of quicktime events in between that further involve the players in the ongoing fight. It’s a small but welcome addition that keeps players attention throughout the proceedings.

Without wanting to spoil anything, the most I’ll say is that the story seems to be much more engaging this time around, and while utterly ridiculous at times, it does feel like a story you’ll want to see until the end of the mode, if only to find out what’s next. The formula of fighting and winning matches to proceed to the next phase is still the same, so don’t expect any drastic changes on that front, at least from what we’ve played.

The story mode in fighting games is more often than not an afterthought, but Tekken 8 and the series as a whole have made it such an integral part of the whole Tekken experience that players will surely want to start with this before heading over to the more competitive aspects of the game.

Related – Tekken 8 Collector’s Edition Revealed

Next up is Arcade Quest, which also serves as some sort of tutorial for players taking the next step in their Tekken journey. Players will be exposed to other aspects of the game, like customizing their avatar, earning rewards that can be used to further customize their characters, and even being taught some of the basic systems of the game, like Heat and what it does.

The Tekken 8 development team has made it so that this time around, there’s a clear and logical progression that players can choose to engage with if they want to experience all of what the game has to offer. This is especially useful for newcomers who are trying to learn the ropes and are not simply relying on the tutorial mode to teach them the ins and outs.

One feature that players can look forward to if they fancy customizing their experience is Tekken 8’s robust Avatar, Character, and Player customization suite. There are a TON of selections to choose from, ranging from trinkets and decorations that your avatar can use during arcade quest proceedings to dressing your chosen character like Reina up to look like a glamorous diva as you take her to deliver some beatdowns to unaware competitors.

I loved the way that you can go as far as customizing your health bars and your player information panel, giving you a touch that’s a bit more personal than others. Health bars and gauges are not things you usually see as part of the customization suite in fighting games, so this is a great addition that many will certainly appreciate. This is the most in-depth customization suite yet, and Tekken 8 is bringing out all of the stops.

One more addition to the game that will aid all levels of player proficiency is what’s called the Super Ghost Battle. Long story short, this is a mode in Tekken 8 that will allow players to take the battle against AI ghosts that learn moves and tendencies to simulate the feeling of going up against a real player. As someone who sometimes cannot stand the pressure of losing ranks, this is certainly a great way to hone yourself without fear.

Ghosts have been available in past installments, but Tekken 8 reworks the system from the ground up to incorporate what’s called Q-learning that allows it to learn player-like moves quickly. In fact, Producer Michael Murray even says that the ghosts can even learn tendencies and habits, how often players can land or drop certain combos, and much more.

Players can choose to download other players’ ghosts, or even just go against their own ghost to see where they can improve their technique. Not limited to just one character, a player can create a ghost for all 32 characters to check out all of the possibilities.

tekken 8 heat engager nina law

On top of this, Tekken 8 also has the usual practice modes that are chock-full of toggles that are mind-blowingly detailed, catering to enthusiasts who want to learn every little thing from frame data to even plus and minus frames for attacks.

In particular, My Replay & Tips is a feature that Michael Murray is particularly proud of. This feature was introduced late in Tekken 7’s life cycle but it makes an astonishing return in Tekken 8 with staggering improvements that make it a much more effective tool that puts the information you need to get better with just a few button presses.

Replays are made when players go on matches, and when these replays are viewed, the AI will stop at certain parts of the replay and point out where players could have done better. The advice could range from simple damage optimization from combos (do this instead of that) to more complicated ones like punishing after blocking certain attacks.

Of course, Tekken Ball is available as well, and it’s as fun as you can remember. While we didn’t get to try it out, Murray says that Tekken Ball can be played against online players to make the experience more varied and fun.

Overall, Tekken 8 is shaping up to be packed with content that caters to longtime fans but to newcomers as well. The development team is touting this entry as the “best entry point” for new players wanting to check out the series, and from what we’ve seen, we’d have to agree. With features like My Replay & Tips to Super Ghost Battle and even the breadth of customization options available, Tekken 8 is simply waiting to be unleashed.

Tekken 8 is launching on January 26, 2024, for PS5, Xbox Series, and PC.

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