As a clear leader in the fighting game genre, the Tekken series has been a mainstay for fans over the past 28 years. Its brand of one-on-one brawls that oozes power and impact is instantly recognisable, and Bandai Namco and the team behind the franchise are certainly not veering from that ethos in Tekken 8.
The core idea of the latest entry in the long-running series lies in aggressiveness, allowing players to enjoy the thrill and excitement in all fights, complemented by a sheer feeling of destructive power. Having spent about two hours with a preview build of Tekken 8, there is no doubt that the team has a potential masterpiece on their hands.
With ten characters to run through the paces with, including Jin, Kazuya, Jun, Law, Paul, Jack-8, Nina, King, Lars, and the newly revealed Ling Xiaoyu, all these fighters and those to come have benefited from the changes being made to the battle system. The evolved visuals certainly also play their part in delivering the best-looking Tekken game yet.
Evolving the Battle System in Tekken 8
Key to the enhanced experience is the new battle system in Tekken 8. For players used to the Rage system found in Tekken 7, it has now been replaced by the Heat system. Essentially, triggering the Heat state allows an attacker to take the initiative once per round, rewarding aggressive play with an extended time of dominance beyond the initial 10 seconds of use.
Entering Heat can be done by either using Heat Burst, an attack similar to a Rage Art activation, or through Heat Engagers, a variety of moves available to each character that help kicks off combos. The former provides a slight speed advantage even on blocking opponents, whereas the latter sends your opponent flying and follows up with a dash to press the significant advantage.
Continuing the combo and juggling your opponents is not just the right strategy, but it also prolongs the Heat state in Tekken 8., allowing players to make the most of enhanced characteristics, attacks, and even chip damage against blockers. Furthermore, there are also special actions that can be taken during this period.
Successfully connecting with a Heat Engager provides two pips of Heat Energy, whereas a Heat Burst rewards one, and these can then be expended to give you the edge against your foe. The Heat Energy can either be used for a Heat Dash (which closes the gap to an opponent to make it easier to chain combos) or fully used for a Heat Smash (deal huge damage but uses all Heat Energy).
While it may seem the odds are stacked in favour of the aggressor, which they are, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the defender has no tricks up their sleeves. In fact, biding your time to make a comeback is even more possible thanks to the Heat system in Tekken 8., as the team pointed out during our interview. And another component that would help is the Recoverable Gauge, which would be familiar to series stalwarts.
By blocking certain big attacks or aerial combos, players will sustain lower amounts of damage that can be recovered, however, that is not an automatic process like in the Tekken Tag series. Instead, you must either go on the offensive by hitting your opponents or guard their normal attacks in order to recover your health. Our experience made the application clear, as fights can easily see momentum veer from one side to the other with smart play.
Welcoming New Blood
While it may all seem daunting to get into Tekken 8, especially with so many characters on the roster, the development team has certainly made it their mission to not exclude any potential new blood from joining in the fun. The inclusion of a new control method is a clear indication of that, and its implementation is quite remarkable.
At any point in time during a fight, players can toggle from Arcade Style (traditional control scheme) to the Special Style (which combines the Easy Combo and Assist features from Tekken 7). Once you have switched, the game changes its controls to make it easier for players to execute the core moves that make Tekken such a fun game to watch.
The idea is to twist the Tekken 8 experience into more of an action game, where each button has a recommended move or even a combo that suits the current situation on screen, like pulling off air combos instead of your usual ground combo. And depending on the state of your character, they will continue to change to help you learn the ropes.
This will help newcomers get into the right mood for Tekken 8, where the thrill remains and each character remains accessible. The team also said that this would be a good way for even pro players to familiarise themselves with characters that are new to them, a sentiment that we found ourselves agreeing in unison.
It is unlikely that the Special Style control scheme will come into play in the competitive scene, but knowing the ingenuity of the community, it could very well happen. But at the very least, this makes Tekken 8 the most accessible entry yet, making even the most casual of players into a formidable fighting machine.
At the end of the session, it was evident that the team had something special in Tekken 8, and we have never been more excited to jump in, whether it be series veterans or newcomers to the scene. While the game does not yet have a release date, the overriding feeling is that Tekken 8 will smash expectations when it eventually launches, ushering in a new age of aggressive play that is pleasing to both the player and the viewer in more ways than one.