Tekken 8 review: Brilliant brawling for experts and newbies alike

Tekken 8 punches its way onto Xbox Series X|S tomorrow, offering plenty of content for veteran and novice fighting fans. After spending some time with it, here's what we think.

Tekken 8 review: Brilliant brawling for experts and newbies alike
Tom West

Tom West

Published

The next chapter in an ever-evolving story arrives on Xbox Series X|S with Tekken 8 on January 26, but don't let limited knowledge of the story so far or a lack of experience with fighting games in general, stop you from picking up this impressive brawler. After spending the last week punching my way through each of Tekken 8's modes — and getting punched back on plenty of other occasions — I can safely say that this is a great place to start for newcomers.

Tekken 8 is stacked with features perfect for fighting game fanatics, but also some creative ways to help newcomers dive into the genre. Although I've dabbled with Tekken, Mortal Kombat, and Killer Instinct in the past, I'm a casual button-mashing machine with very limited skill. So, with that in mind, I'm going to focus on Tekken 8's highly accessible nature for newbies, as Bandai Namco has knocked it out of the park with this entry.

As a less experienced player jumping into Tekken 8, the new Arcade Quest mode is a brilliant place to start. It acts as a self-contained, single-player experience but offers you a ton of customization rewards for your profile as you progress, while also teaching you the fundamentals of Tekken 8's features and mechanics. Unlike the well-crafted and spectacular character models found elsewhere, however, Arcade Quest puts you in control of a customizable Nintendo Mii-style avatar, which I've found to be the most disappointing aspect of Tekken 8, as it singles out Arcade Quest aesthetically — unlike Street Fighter 6's new World Tour mode.

With that out of the way, however, I'm delighted to say that the rest of the mode is an enjoyable experience and excels at holding your hand while you learn the ropes. You'll start the mode with your avatar entering its first arcade, where you'll quickly make friends with a group of players and begin to fight your way through several themed arcades filled with a variety of characters that will increase in difficulty — and goofy dialogue — as you progress through the story. You'll need to battle other CPU-controlled players in the arcades to level up, which will in turn unlock the arcade's final "boss" and a way to travel to another arcade, where you'll learn something else about the game.

Tekken 8 impressions: Non-Tekken heads welcome for a fistful of fun on Xbox

Although navigating the arcades and meeting new characters to fight uses the Mii-style aesthetic, the actual fights are played exactly like the rest of the game. Each arcade is a self-contained space that you can fast-travel to via your pal, Max, who also acts as your guide and trainer for all things Tekken 8, so don't expect any open-world gameplay like the aforementioned Street Fighter 6.

Max's tutelage covers everything, from basic fight moves to character customizations, offering you a way to learn the ropes of the game at a comfortable pace. The idea is to have you finish Arcade Quest's final tournament with a decent understanding of fighting in Tekken 8, and it achieves it very well, thanks to on-screen tips, fights aimed toward particular styles and moves, and character-specific training courses. There's no pressure to perform well and the included difficulty settings give you a bit of control over how challenging Arcade Quest is. Playing Arcade Quest also unlocks the Super Ghost Battle mode, which is another great place to put your skills to the test when practicing.

Tekken 8 impressions: Non-Tekken heads welcome for a fistful of fun on Xbox

While Arcade Quest, depending on the amount of effort you want to put in, takes around the same amount of time to finish as the main story, there are a host of smaller modes to jump into for even more training. Practice is an obvious choice for practicing combos on static dummy characters, while Super Ghost Battle offers fights with CPU characters of varying levels, a computer-controlled 'ghost' character equipped with AI learning that mimics your style, or another player's ghost. If you're not confident enough to dive headfirst into the PvP portion of Tekken 8, this is an awesome place to start, as you're able to simulate PvP battles as a way to practice without putting yourself out there for the world to see.

For something a little more hands-on than Practice mode, the My Replays and Tips mode is a great place to check out. It stores your previous fights and lets you chill out while watching them unfold all over again, but with the bonus of displaying tips for moments you could have used a particular move to exploit your opponent. You can even hop in and practice the technique via a ten-second segment of that particular time during the fight. I've used it a little bit during my time with Tekken 8, and have found it pretty helpful, especially when looking at footage featuring my own butt getting whooped.

Tekken 8 impressions: Non-Tekken heads welcome for a fistful of fun on Xbox

With all the fundamentals behind you, you'll help Jin Kazama take down Kazuya Mishima in the main story mode, The Dark Awakens, with ease. I mean, you could button-mash your way through it on easy as I did, but I think I would have found a bit more satisfaction if I had tackled Arcade Quest and the other training modes first! As a player who regularly gets himself whooped in PvP and not a massive fan of the Mii-style Arcade Quest avatars, The Dark Awakens and the Character Episodes (miniature stories featuring five fights explaining each character's motive to join The King of Iron Fist Tournament) have been my favorite places to spend my time.

You don't need to know anything about the previous games' stories to find enjoyment in The Dark Awakens, as I've found Jin's struggles to accept his Devil blood to be an enjoyable storyline on its own, and the long, entertaining cutscenes filled in enough of the blanks to keep me going — I mean, I still don't know why a Panda is hanging out with everyone, but that is of little consequence. Sure, some parts didn't quite add up for me due to a lack of knowledge about past plot points, but who cares when I'm throwing down with King in a coliseum? If you do want to get up to speed with the story so far, Bandai Namco has added short, comic-style recaps for each game in the gallery, but to be honest, it doesn't paint the clearest picture.

Tekken 8 impressions: Non-Tekken heads welcome for a fistful of fun on Xbox

I've spent around 18 hours playing so far, unlocking 40 of the 47 Tekken 8 achievements along the way, so they certainly arrive at a steady pace. Most are miscellaneous, focusing on performing Wall Breaks or using the new Heat feature, and each mode looks to have at least one achievement linked to it. You'll need to try your hand at everything Tekken 8 has to offer to nab the completion — even Tekken Ball, which is beachball with fighters. It was a good bit of fun at the start, but in my experience, Tekken Ball got old quickly, so I'll not be returning for more.

Summary

Overall, Tekken 8 is a blast and hits all of the right notes for players of all skill levels, and with plenty of modes available, you'll be kept busy even if the endgame PvP zone isn't your cup of tea. With 32 fighters at launch and more to come, there is bound to be a favorite hidden in the roster for everyone — I've grown fond of King, Nina Williams, and Brian Fury myself — and a fairly customization suite gives you the tools to make each character your own. Without a doubt, Tekken 8 has the muscle to lead the way as my favorite fighting game to release in recent years.

Whether you're a battle-scarred Tekken veteran or a fresh-faced newcomer to The King of Iron Fist, Tekken 8 is a very easy recommendation for me to make. If you fancy throwing some punches yourself, Tekken 8 launches for Xbox Series X|S on January 26.
9 / 10
* A review copy of Tekken 8 was provided by Bandai Namco for this review.
Written by Tom West
Tom has been playing video games since he was old enough to hold a controller, experimenting with a number of systems until he eventually fell in love with Xbox. With a passion for the platform, he decided to make a career out of it, and now happily spends his days writing about that which he loves. If he’s not hunting for Xbox achievements, you’ll likely find him somewhere in The Elder Scrolls Online or fighting for survival in Battlefield.
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