Gamers have been spoilt when it comes to fighting franchises throughout the last year, with big-hitting titles like Mortal Kombat 1 and Street Fighter 6 releasing to plenty of critical acclaim. It’s only fitting then that Bandai Namco get in on the action too, with Tekken 8 marking the first new release in the beloved fighting franchise since 2017. And, much like its contemporaries, it just so happens to be absolutely fantastic, with it easily standing out as one of the best releases across the franchise.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Even if you haven’t played a Tekken game in a while, you won’t feel too out of the loop when it comes to the storytelling. Believe it or not, there’s STILL a lot of hostility within the Mishima family tree, with Tekken 8 focusing on the father-son relationship of Kazuya Mishima and Jin Kazama and, of course, featuring another King of the Iron Fist tournament. Sure, the events of the previous game do linger over proceedings (especially with Heihachi’s death) and there might be a few characters you’re unfamiliar with, but even complete Tekken newbies won’t find it difficult to get on-board with the storytelling. It is VERY over-the-top and takes some extreme (and often silly) turns with its action-packed sequences, but it makes the whole narrative all the more enthralling to see unfold.

It also caters for newbies on the gameplay front with its new Simple Style, which breaks down the more complicated mechanics of the game into simple button presses. Activated and de-activated at any time mid-battle by pressing the L1 button, this sees the face buttons of the controller automatically perform more elaborate attacks and stringing them into combos with ease. It won’t be for everyone (especially series veterans who love mastering the 10-hit combos of each character), but it’s an accessible feature that makes button-bashing more satisfying for those who don’t know their way around fighting games.

There are a few other gameplay mechanics introduced this time around, such as the new Heat system which gives you a whole extra set of tricks to overwhelm your opponent. Your Heat Meter is automatically filled at the start of each round, with the player then able to activate it in one of two ways: by pressing the R1 button or by hitting a specific attack known as a Heat Engager (this varies with each character). When activated, the Heat Meter slowly depletes, but your character’s attacks are enhanced, you can perform a Heat Dash to quickly spring upon enemies to unleash a combo, or you can perform a Heat Smash to dish out a tasty high damage move that fully spends your Heat Meter.

“Tekken 8 is an absolute triumph, with the excellent combat, engaging game modes, and breadth of content ensuring it stands out as one of the best releases in the series.”

When used, you can’t activate it again that round, so you’ve got to pick the perfect opportunity to utilise it. Maybe you’ll activate Heat at the start of a round to give yourself an early advantage? Perhaps you’ll use it to finish off a wounded foe? Or perhaps you’ll activate it to counter a vicious combo? It’s flexible in its design to cater to different strategies in-battle and there are plenty of opportunities to use it your advantage, but be warned: your opponent has a Heat Meter too, and won’t be afraid to use it…

With other elements like the Tornado combo mechanic that allows players to utilise upwards attacks to leave opponents vulnerable for combos and the Rage system which powers characters up and offers access to special Rage Arts when their health it low, there’s a LOT going on across Tekken 8’s fighting to keep players invested in its mechanics and constantly learning new strategies to implement in any given situation. It feels more nuanced and action-orientated than any other entry in the series, with the fast-pace and constant slew of stylish moves making each showdown a thrilling affair that’ll keep players on the edge of their seats. Best of all, everything is implemented in an accessible manner that doesn’t overcomplicate how the game feels to play, with no need to rely on complex button-presses or stick-wiggles to get the upper hand over your opponent. It makes the game more streamlined and enjoyable to play, whether you’re completely new to Tekken or have been with the series since its PlayStation origins.

What complements the excellent fighting mechanics are the selection of game modes players can indulge in, with plenty here to especially keep the single player crowd happy. The Dark Awakens is the game’s story mode that focuses on the aforementioned narrative, with players battling through a string of showdowns that push the tale forward. It doesn’t revolutionise storytelling in fighting games, but the roughly four-hour romp is full of surprises and expertly highlights the strengths of the lore of Tekken. On the other hand, Arcade Quest sees players making their own little avatar and leading it through a variety of vibrant arcades as they battle other AI Tekken 8 players, with the core mechanics of the game taught along the way. In some ways, it’s almost like a fleshed out training mode, but growing in stature with each arcade victory was a lot more rewarding than I expected it to be. Then you have the Character Episodes, which give each character of the game their own mini story to see unfold over five battles. Each episode has an illustrated introduction sequences to set up their story and an over-the-top FMV ending to conclude it, which I absolutely LOVED – I missed the ending sequences of characters in Tekken 7, so seeing them return was a massive treat.

Check out some screenshots down below:

There are other modes to dive into too, such as the Super Ghost Battles which allow you to battle AI-controlled ghosts of other players of varied skill levels, the Tekken Fight Lounge which allows you to socialise with other players and show off your avatar before facing off in battle, Ranked and Player matches to get a more traditional online fix, and even Tekken Ball, which hasn’t been around in quite some time. There’s a rich roster of thirty-two characters at launch, with returning favourites such as Jin, Kazuya, Paul, Nina, King, Asuka, Hwoarang, and more joined by new combatants Azucena, Victor, and Reina. Reina stands out as a particularly interesting character, especially with her move set that adds its own little twist to that of the Mishima bloodline, but there really is something for everyone here. There’s just SO much on offer in Tekken 8, but nothing feels like filler; everything has a purpose and offers a different way to experience the brilliance of the game. And with so many characters to play as (as well as a TON of customisation options to unlock)? Yeah, I know I won’t be done with the game anytime soon…

The cherry on top? It all looks absolutely gorgeous, with Unreal Engine 5 really showcasing the detailed character models, the stunning landscapes you battle across, and the stylish pizazz that comes with every crunching hit you land. What more could you want?

Tekken 8 Review

Tekken 8 is an absolute triumph, with the excellent combat, engaging game modes, and breadth of content ensuring it stands out as one of the best releases in the series. It offers plenty of flexibility in its fighting mechanics to cater to both Tekken newbies and veterans, whilst the impressive selection of game modes offer something for both solo and multiplayer fanatics. Add to that the wonderful selection of fighters made up of returning favourites and new additions, the gorgeous visuals that help the game stand out as one of the best-looking titles on the PlayStation 5, and the sheer variety of things you can do and unlock in the game, and it’ll quickly become clear that Tekken 8 really is the king of the fighting genre.

Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, PC