Tekken 8 Hands-On Preview – Having A Ball

A look at the exciting roster of modes coming to Tekken 8.

With thirty years of history behind it, and absolutely no signs of slowing down, Tekken 8 is just over a month away from launching. It’s crazy to think that the polygonal fighter that launched in arcades in 1994 would have had such longevity, but that’s a testament to Bandai Namco’s pursuit of development coupled with a storyline that wouldn’t be out of place in the most batshit insane anime series. Tekken 8 is good to go – but it’s the waiting that’s the hardest part.

The most interesting part of Tekken 8’s development this time around is the lack of arcade presence, which is due to the decline of the arcade scene in Japan, the rising costs of hardware for arcade cabinets and the consistent rise in online gaming. Where previous titles had arcade releases almost 12 months prior to their launch on consoles, Bandai Namco have instead utilised the likes of the Closed Network Test and Closed Beta Test to carry out vital research and development for Tekken next iteration.



Thanks to Bandai Namco Entertainment we were lucky enough to get a last-look preview at the final game before its launch in January, not only experiencing the various modes the game has to offer, but also getting a peek at the underlying narrative that fuels the events of the game – the blood feud between Kazuya Mishima and Jin Kazama in the aftermath of Heihachi Mishima’s death.

STORY MODE

Rivalling the Skywalkers in terms of the amount of chaos caused by one family’s problems, the Mishima blood feud has reigned throughout all of Tekken as the prominent storyline despite a wealth of supporting characters. Tekken 7 made a huge narrative step by ending the original feud between Kazuya Mishima and his father Heihachi, with the latter being taken out by the former. But the fight continues with Kazuya’s son Jin Kazama as he seeks to end his father’s reign as the power-hungry Devil, while controlling his own power and ending the bloodline feud once and for all.

Kazuya uses the power of the Mishima Zaibatsu (business conglomerate) to hold the next King of Iron Fist Tournament, gathering contestants from all over the world in an effort to uncover the strongest fighters – but with grave consequences for the nations who the fighters represent, should they lose.

Playing through the first chapter of the story, we get a near-seamless integration between cutscenes and gameplay. Graphically, the cinematics are almost on par with the actual character models, and the game really tries to make the fights part of the story. We play as Jin Kazama in his battle against Kazuya, with the palpable rage and anger between them growing with each hit. Jin’s inability to control his devil powers eventually consumes him, kicking off his redemption story in Tekken 8 – not only seeking to end Kazuya’s domination, but to not lose himself to his devil powers and end the plague of the Mishima bloodline.

We see new faces entering the fray with their own particular motives such as Reina, Victor and Azucena as well as some old favourites like Hwoarang, Paul Phoenix, Lee Chaolan and more as the world gathers to take place in the next King of Iron Fist tournament. Will Jin be able to reign in his own devil powers? Will he be able to put a stop to Kazuya once and for all? And after so many years, why has his mother Jun returned?

ARCADE QUEST

Arcades just aren’t what they used to be – you can’t rock up on a Saturday morning to find a crowd around the Tekken cabinet, with everyone putting their coin down to be next in line. Thankfully Bandai Namco have created a quirky little side-adventure that adds to the excitement of Tekken as well as helping you unlock all of your character cosmetics in the Arcade Quest mode. Become the master of the arcades as you and your group of friends travel throughout the city, expanding your fighting skills and learning more about Tekken 8 and ways to play. You can also meet, chat with and battle players from across the world in these arcades, while playing through the quirky side-story that the mode introduces, adding an extra layer to the overall game.


As someone who’s played Tekken for a long time, there were certain things I was able to learn in Arcade Quest that I had never really thought about before, and as you progress through the arcades, the more things you learn about the game and practical techniques to help you become a better player. After competing in one of the tournaments towards the end of the first chapter of Arcade Quest’s story, the difficulty noticeably increased and I had to rethink my fighting strategies, keeping me on my toes.

After winning a fair bit of gold in the Arcade Quest mode I was able to customise my fighters the way I wanted to as well – and there are almost limitless opportunities to make your fighter look the way you want. As a Jack-8 fan (and a Jack player for many years) I know that there’s going to be a blend between cool, science-fiction cybernetic enhancements, and ridiculous over-the-top outfits as well. So I put Jack-8 in business attire with a bread helmet.

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SUPER GHOST BATTLE

To help you become a better fighter and to learn from players all over the world, Super Ghost Battle is a feature that’s been included in Arcade Quest and is something that can help you train against other fighters without actually fighting them. Tekken 8 uses advanced AI technology to replicate your play style and the play styles of players whose ghosts you match with, to provide extra training challenges to make you a better fighter. Taking a similar form to Arcade Quest, you can meet players and battle their ghost data, which is recorded and recreated for you to fight locally, as more of a live and ever-changing practice mode.

This was a great mode to put my skill to the tests with. Rather than simply playing the game’s artificial intelligence, your opponent really feels like a proper player and isn’t as predictable, making you rethink and adjust your strategies to win the match. Plus you get to see a great number of wild and wacky customisations from around the world of your favourite characters. The more you play against the AI, the better it learns how you play with certain characters, too – if you don’t block, the AI won’t block, so if you’re an aggressive player the AI will learn from your moves and create your ghost almost exactly how you play.

TEKKEN BALL

That’s right, it’s back! Last seen in Tekken 3, (or the Wii U version of Tekken Tag 2, but who played that, am I right?) everyone’s favourite beach ball mode has made its triumphant return in Tekken 8! Little do many know that Tekken Ball was conceived as a mini-game to help people learn juggling combos which are now a mainstay in Tekken’s fighting mechanics. Charge up your most powerful hit, learn to block incoming attacks and throw your opponent off as you play this twisted version of volleyball. With a wide range of ball types to choose from and unlock, Tekken Ball now incorporates the Rage meter too in an explosive burst, as well as a charge bar at the bottom that builds your attacks.

The reintroduction of this fan-favourite mini game is both a testament to Bandai Namco’s love for its fans as well as its history.

PRACTICE MODE

Have you ever watched a Tekken match and seen some ridiculous combinations take place? Or what about wanting to know where your playstyle works, and where you’ve got room for opportunity? Practice Mode is a longstanding feature of most Tekken games, and instead of just being paired up with a training dummy to demonstrate your character’s moves, here it’s actually a great place to fix your flaws and make yourself a better fighter. You can train with targeted moves, practice combinations, or just plain mess around – but don’t sleep on the mode as a way to make yourself a better fighter!

VS MODE

When you weren’t powering through Arcade Mode unlocking characters or messing around with other modes, VS Mode was always great for one-on-one battles. Even better was when you and some friends all sat around the TV taking turns to dethrone the champion.

Thankfully, VS Mode is back, allowing you to play either against the CPU or your in-house rival. After some significant time with the other modes, I went head-to-head for a few rounds with GameHub’s Ed Tran, cycling through characters we hadn’t yet had a chance to play as, to see who would come out on top. VS Mode is a staple when it comes to Tekken , allowing for rematches or quick changes to go head-to-head with the CPU or for those party sessions when you have guests over, and keeps the arcade feeling of the game alive.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As a long-standing Tekken fan I’ve been hanging for this release, and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to wait the extra month post-Christmas for its release. With returning features from previous games as well as gameplay shifts that welcome new players and experienced players alike, Tekken 8 takes everything that came before it and really beats it into shape.

Tekken 8 launches on January 26th for PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC. Standard and Ultimate editions are available to pre-order here.


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