You can’t have a console generation without a Tekken game, right? The long-running series of fighters finally hits current gen consoles, joining other famous fighting franchises like ‘Street Fighter’ and ‘Mortal Kombat’ in showing gamers what can be done with all of the new, fancy technology. With the Tekken name comes a sense of expectation though; almost all of the series’ previous entries have provided a fantastic fighting experience, so Tekken 7 has a lot to live up to. Thankfully it delivers on all fronts – Tekken 7 is a slick fighter that feels great to play, is incredibly pretty to look at, and is still rich in the bizarre nature that fans have always loved about the series.
You might be feeling a sense of déjà vu with the release of Tekken 7; I mean, it seems to have been spoken about a lot over the last few years. That might be because it actually hit arcades in Japan in 2015. It means that Tekken 7 is technically a two year old game, which can be quite a big deal on current consoles. Some of the games that came out in 2015 on the Playstation 4 don’t look anywhere near as good as the modern releases after all, so it’d be easy to assume that perhaps the game doesn’t feel as slick as something like the more recently released ‘Injustice 2’. You can throw all those thoughts away though, because Tekken 7 doesn’t only look amazing, but feels amazing to play too. This doesn’t feel like some older game that doesn’t embrace the full capabilities of a modern console, but in fact a brand new fighting experience that actually evolves the Tekken formula in a variety of neat ways to make for a more intense experience.
So for those who have been living under a rock for the last twenty-odd years, Tekken 7 is a 3D fighter that challenges the player to pull off slick combos in order to beat down their opponent. The game’s 3D nature encourages utilising the environment to help take your opponent down too, with simple manoeuvres like sidestepping often allowing you to either get the upper hand over a blocking opponent or avoid an incoming attack. It makes the game a more tactical affair and sometimes success boils down to whoever gets their timing right; you’ll be sidestepping, blocking, and picking your moments to attack, but one wrong move can easily see you fall victim to one of the many vicious ten-hit combos that characters can pull out of nowhere. It’s what makes the Tekken series so fun though – it mixes up the need for precision and tactical thought with brutal, fast-paced combat. Button mashing is rarely successful, especially against a player who knows exactly what they’re doing…
To spice things up this time around, Tekken 7 has introduced the Rage attacks that you can use when your health drops below a specific point – you’ll know when it kicks in, because your health bar and character will have a burning red tint to them. Whilst in Rage, your attacks will become stronger, allowing you to dish out more damage on your opponent. It also allows you to unleash your Rage Art: a super powerful move that’ll see you easily wipe out over one third of your opponent’s health bar in a similar way to the ‘X-Ray’ attacks from ‘Mortal Kombat’.
These Rage Arts can be the difference between winning or losing a fight in Tekken 7; there were plenty of occasions where I found myself in a situation where I was about to lose, only to see a well-timed Rage Art help me achieve an unlikely victory. They could almost feel a little cheap at times, especially since you’re guaranteed access to a Rage Art when your health is low, but for me they just add another layer of depth to the game’s combat. I personally think they’re a great addition to the game and add this sense of unpredictability to each fight, especially since an opponent can throw one out from nowhere. Be warned though: if your opponent sees a Rage Art coming, they’re easily blocked. You’ll either want to find a way to string them into your combos or pick the perfect opportunity to unleash them, otherwise not only do you risk losing out on an attack that can wipe out your foe but you’ll also become briefly vulnerable to a counter-attack.
As per usual, there’s a strong roster of characters available in Tekken 7, with plenty of old favourites returning alongside a few new faces. You’ve got characters like Jin, Kazuya, King, Nina, Paul, Law, Hwoarang (though with black hair and an eye patch this time?!), Xiayou, Kuma, and Yoshimitsu returning once again for fans to re-ignite some classic Tekken rivalries, but also newbies like Eliza, Gigas, and even guest character Akuma to add something new to the mix. Once again, all of the characters are customisable with unlockable items, with plenty of bizarre combinations available to make your characters look as cool (or ridiculous) as possible. One thing I could really appreciate was the classic costumes that you can unlock – it’s great to see Kazuya, Jin, and Heihachi in their classic threads, though my personal favourite had to be King’s ‘Tekken 2’ outfit. Overall it’s a great roster that’s full of a wide-range of different fighting styles; each character manages to feel distinctly unique whilst maintaining their style that has remained a constant between games. It’s a great effort from Bandai Namco in pleasing both newcomers and series veterans.
Tekken 7 has taken full advantage of the rise in popularity of narratives featured in fighters, with the game including a full-fledged Story Mode based around the dysfunctional Mishima family (in particular the hatred shared between Heihachi and Kazuya). Let’s face it; the whole Tekken storyline has gone a bit crazy with recent entries, so you can’t really expect some narrative masterpiece here. As a long-time fan of the series though I actually appreciated what it had to offer. It delved a little deeper into the Devil Gene, what caused the bad blood between all of the family members, and a lot of their motives. Whilst these have been explored briefly in previous Tekken games, they’ve never gone into as much depth as they have here. The way it shifts through time is pretty neat too, especially when you’re playing as a younger Kazuya or Heihachi.
Unfortunately, the story is a little lacking as far as gameplay is concerned. Whilst there’s plenty to see as far as the cinematic side of things go (and believe me, some of those FMVs are superb), battles felt limited and typically restricted to just standard one on one affairs with just a handful of characters to play as. Other modern fighters have managed to integrate more characters and a lot more variety within their Story Modes, so it’s a little disappointing to see it so limited here. Some of the boss fights are ridiculous too. Seriously, I made my way through most of the game with minimal fuss, but when I hit that last boss fight I was stuck for well over an hour. Whilst I enjoy a challenge in video game, I don’t enjoy it being cheap – especially when enemies pull off one-hit kill attacks out of nowhere. It just left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth, especially since Bandai Namco managed to nail the cinematic side of the story mode.
An extra addition to the Story Mode is the Character Episodes – one-battle narrative-driven showdowns that feature characters that weren’t included in the game’s main story. These are actually pretty neat, especially with the FMV cutscenes they include at the end of each battle. They’re a nice touch that ensures your favourite characters always get in on the action, especially with classic fighters such as King, Paul, Law, and Eddy having no presence in the Story Mode. I always loved the ending cutscenes for each character in previous Tekken games, so I was glad to see they appeared in some shape or form in the Character Episodes.
Outside of the main story, you’ve also got Arcade Mode (which oddly takes place over five battles instead of ten) and Treasure Battle Mode. If you’re into the character customisation options of the Tekken series, you’ll spend plenty of time in Treasure Battle Mode. Basically, it’s like a Survival Mode, pitting you against a constant stream of opponents with a new treasure chest containing a customisation item being unlocked for every enemy you beat. The rarity of each treasure chest changes between battles too, so you never know what you’re going to end up with. It’s incredibly addictive – especially during the Special Battles where you can unlock an incredibly rare item. I’m not usually a big fan of Survival Modes in fighters, but the constant rewards you unlock make Treasure Battle one of Tekken 7’s most addictive modes. Plus, each character you face off against comes in a wild variety of different costumes, so you’ll never know what you’re going to see next. Did you think Yoshimitsu’s tentacle look was zany this time around? Wait until you see him in a shark outfit…
Of course, you can’t have a fighting game without online battling. Whilst I haven’t had a chance to really check out the Online Modes in depth (there isn’t a massive community of players online given the game hasn’t been released yet), the fights I have taken part in have all played out smoothly with no lag whatsoever. You have options for a Ranked Match if you’re interested in competitive gaming, or alternatively Player Matches where you can set up lobbies and fight against friends or watch fights that are taking place. There are Online Tournaments you can set up too, allowing you to create your own event where you face off against other players in a small competition. I haven’t spent a lot of time in this mode yet due to a lack of players pre-release, but what I have seen of it is great. You create your own brackets of up to eight players or join any that are available and compete for in-game money – it’s really neat and something I can see myself spending a lot of time with when the game officially launches.
One feature exclusive to the Playstation 4 edition of Tekken 7 is the Playstation VR compatibility. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most disappointing experiences I’ve ever had in the headset. Basically, it acts as a practice mode where you don’t actually get to take part in a fight with a winner and loser, but instead just keep beating an AI opponent down until you’re bored. You do get to see all of this up close and personal in virtual reality, but the awkward placement of the camera makes it an unsatisfying experience. Hell, you can’t even check out move lists when you’re in the mode, so you can’t even use it to hone your skills in the game. It was a bit of a missed opportunity; whilst I didn’t go into it expecting epic battles in virtual reality, I was expecting more than a half-hearted practice mode.
Tekken 7 shows why Tekken is one of the most beloved franchises around, with its fast-paced yet calculated combat, impressive visuals, strong cast of customisable characters, and zany nature coming together to offer one of this generation’s finest fighting games. It offers something a little different to the popular 2D-plane fighters that are in abundance right now, with a fun focus on utilising the space around you to unleash massive combos on your opponent. It doesn’t only look great in-game, but is a hell of a lot of fun to pull off.
It isn’t quite perfect thanks to the slightly lacking story mode not really offering enough from a gameplay perspective, but it doesn’t stop Tekken 7 being a must own title for fighting fans. The King of the Iron Fist Tournament is back, and it’s better than ever…
Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release Date: 02/06/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC