Tekken is one of those names that always knows how to create a gasp among gamers. One only has to simply mention the word to travel with one’s mind back to the magical Nineties, to the time when one would spend entire days in the company of the legendary Tekken 3, whether it was in the arcade or sitting comfortably on one’s couch with a PlayStation pad in hand.
For 30 years now, the Bandai Namco series has been a certainty in the world of fighting games, and it seems to have all the credentials to confirm itself as such with the release of Tekken 8, the new chapter coming to PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S on the January 26, 2024: The start of the new King Of Iron Fist Tournament is now only a short time away, but for the impatient there is the ideal solution to beguile the wait, a demo that gives us a first, concrete glimpse of the great potential of the new chapter. Are you ready for the next battle?
Tekken at its best
After being greeted by the spectacular introductory sequence (taken from the game’s announcement trailer dating back to September 2022), the Tekken 8 demo wastes no time and immediately takes us to the main menu, clearly offering us a small part of its content offering but sufficient nonetheless to understand how much good was done by Bandai Namco with this episode. The Versus Mode either against the CPU or against a friend (offline only, no online here) is the main focus of this demo version but there is no shortage of quick looks at the other top modes, Story Mode included.
Only 4 of the 32 total characters are available in this demo but it is a respectable selection: Jin, Kazuya, Paul and Nina keep us company by clearly showing us how skillfully the developers have blended tradition and innovation. If the basic mechanics remain the same as we have already known for years, the four historic wrestlers demonstrate a partly revamped move pool to accommodate not only the more frenetic and aggressive rhythms at the heart of Tekken 8 but also to bring to life a brand new set of combos and strategies that were impossible to experience in past iterations of the brand, thus proving fresh even for veterans.
The action is heavier, strongly offensive-oriented as opposed to defensive, and never before has a Tekken appeared so explosive in terms of gameplay, a sign of how the authors really wanted to take a major step forward with the eighth major chapter after the success achieved with Tekken 7. However, as is the practice in today’s fighting games, Tekken 8 also winks at newbies to make them feel comfortable with the game mechanics right away.
The new Tekken appears more immediate to learn in its basics, and in this it helps to be able to activate a simplified style of action with which to initiate small combos and special moves through repeatedly pressing specific buttons: this allows anyone to approach the new chapter with less fear, thus obtaining a general smattering of the mechanics in anticipation of mastering them independently after some practice.
The Heat System of Tekken 8
The other key innovation is the Heat System that, when activated, makes our offense more aggressive by allowing us to also perform powerful special strikes (but instantly consuming the appropriate gauge and thus exhausting the Heat phase). The Heat System offers a whole new approach to Tekken fighting not only because of its propensity to attack but also because it gives considerable depth to fights. Logically, a lot of practice and dedication is required to master the new features to the fullest but even those who simply want to have fun without too much effort now have everything they need to enjoy the gaming experience to the fullest with the right compromises, without random button-pushing and without the need to have to learn lengthy and articulate tactics.
Perhaps, however making the Training mode available in the demo as well would not have been a bad idea, just to get an even better understanding of how the new mechanics work in total peace of mind: the Versus forces a classic encounter with a reactive opponent, where instead a more reasoned study phase would have benefited everyone, including experts. Not too bad, however, since just from the demo alone you can tell how much the unreleased mechanics are a weighty addition to the gameplay of Tekken 8, allowing it to renew itself and present itself as fresh despite being faithful to a play style that has been proven for decades but has never stopped refining itself episode after episode.
Between prologue and Unreal Engine 5 jawbreaker
The trial version of Tekken 8 also allows us to experience the first chapter of Story Mode, which is structured much like Bandai Namco did with Tekken 7. We do not know for now how many total chapters will make up the story but certainly the beginning, through an epic battle between Jin and Kazuya in the heart of Manhattan which kicks off the events of the game and the announcement of the King Of Iron Fist Tournament 8, lays the groundwork for a storyline full of surprises and possibly more compelling than its predecessor. Clearly, it is good not to have too high expectations for the game’s narrative compartment as this is not the key element of a Fighting Game but Tekken 8 promises epicin fights in the hope of experiencing a goosebump battle like the one between Kauzya and Heihachi experienced in the seventh episode.
The yet-to-be-discovered mode, on the other hand, is the Arcade Quest, which takes us to create our own avatar and wander through arcades in search of new opponents as we gradually hone our skills as players. At least the initial phase covered in the demo really seems to be a big tutorial aimed at quickly learning the mechanics of the work with objectives and challenges to complete, and therefore, for novice players, focusing on the Arcade Quest might be an ideal and potentially more enjoyable alternative to the Training mode alone.
Finally, let’s close with a round of applause for the audiovisual rendering of the production: Bandai Namco has made the best of Unreal Engine 5 by creating never-before so realistic and detailed characters, state-of-the-art lighting and special effects, and meticulously crafted animations. Tekken 8 aims to be the most visually beautiful fighting game to date, surpassing even the impact of the already remarkable Mortal Kombat 1 (by the way, here is the Mortal Kombat 1 review). The icing on the cake is an audio compartment that has also been profoundly revamped from the past: characters enjoy voices dubbed for the occasion, while musical backgrounds are meant to make fights even more engaging.
Appointment Jan. 26
The Tekken 8 demo proved to be 100% convincing. Bandai Namco’s new Fighting Game builds on all the experience accumulated with the previous game and seems to have taken a major step forward on virtually every front, from play to graphics and sound. The new mechanics aim to elevate gameplay to heights never before touched, and already at day one the full version will be very rich in content designed not only for online but also for single player thus filling one of the major gaps in Tekken 7.
Obviously, one will have to wait for the final game to fully understand the quality of all the content and especially the tightness of the online multiplayer segment, but if this is the premise, then Tekken 8 could immediately establish itself as one of the best games of 2024. And as early as January.