Fighting Review

Tekken 8 – Review | The Next Battle Begins

It’s a new year and already we have the arrival of another installment of one of gaming’s most influential titles. January of 2024 sees the release of Tekken 8, the latest in a long line of games that spans back to 1995.

A seven-year-old me played Tekken and attempted to button bash my way to victory, having absolutely no concept of combos, or really fighting games in general. It’s been an unbelievable 29 years since I was first utterly fascinated by the character lore printed in the booklet. It’s been almost three decades of seeing a story grow, develop, and become more convoluted, and witnessing the evolution of a game from a simple fighter to what is essentially a competitive eSport. Yet, for all the years that Tekken has been here and all the ways it has innovated, nostalgia is never really what keeps me coming back. The main reason I return to Tekken is because it always seems fresher and more refined with each iteration. Whilst there have been some missteps, the fact that a series has kept my attention for the majority of my life makes me all the more excited to step into the arena for the eighth game and see if being declared the “King of Iron Fist” is as pleasing as ever…

Tekken 8 - Devil VS True Devil

The Dark Awakens…

Stories are not generally the focus of any fighting game. Back in the day, there were really only loose narrative threads that tied things together. That said, still holding the Guinness World Record for having the longest-running continuous plot of any game in the medium, Tekken has always been a series with a story to tell — although it has definitely sprawled over the years.

The generational struggle between the Mishima’s and the constant patricide is continued in Tekken 8. With Kazuya killing his father Heihachi at the end of Tekken 7 and regaining control of the G Corporation, he turns his attention to killing his son, Jin Kazama. Jin wants to eliminate Kazuya and his forces once and for all to return the world to a state of peace. This ideal is made more difficult when Kazuya defeats the ancient evil Azazel in battle and absorbs his essence, transforming into True Devil Kazuya. The narrative splits off eventually, seeing you play as characters trying to lead the resistance against the G Corporation whilst buying Jin time to recover from his ill-fated battle with Kazuya. Meanwhile, Jin, having lost the ability to transform into a Devil, needs to discover the strength within himself left by the hereditary ties to the Kazama’s and his devil genetics from Kazuya. Seeking a deeper understanding of his lineage and incorporating his dark side in the right way gives Jin the power he needs to put an end to the Mishima bloodline.

Characters’ individual struggles are told over the course of 15 exhilarating chapters which, for me, amounted to perhaps three hours of gameplay. The story is short, focused, and achieves what it needs in order to set the stage for each Tekken fighter’s inclusion.

Tekken 8 - Steve VS King

Game Modes

There are a multitude of ways to enjoy Tekken 8, with a good spread of content to play through. The roster features 32 characters, with three entirely new fighters (Azucena, Reina, and Victor) and a new model of the series staple android, Jack. As with any title of this genre, there are classic Versus battles pitting you against the CPU or another local player. There’s also the online lobby where you can rise through the ranks and compete with players at a similar skill level to yourself. Tekken 8 boasts cross-platform play, so you needn’t worry if your friends are on a different platform.

Story Mode is as it sounds: you fight through the game’s main story arc, with cinematic cut scenes and dialogue transitioning into key fights between characters. This culminates in an epic clash between father and son, Kazuya and Jin, somewhat repeating the cycle of Kazuya’s rivalry with his father Heihachi. The Character Episodes offer that classic experience of fighting your way through consecutive battles against the CPU to achieve a standalone character ending which is unrelated to the events of the main story.

Arcade Quest is a strange game-within-a-game side mode. You create an avatar and go from arcade to arcade to complete challenges by engaging in bouts at Tekken 8 arcade machines. Talking with an NPC called Max will unlock more quests to complete, having you rise through the ranks of the arcade scene whilst also learning the ins and outs of the game itself.

Super Ghost Battle harnesses the power of machine learning to create “ghosts” that respond to your own playstyle. By selecting this mode you can experience something closer to playing against another human without having to participate in any sort of ranked multiplayer.

First introduced in Tekken 3 back in 1998, Tekken 8 sees the return of Tekken Ball! This hasn’t featured in any of the titles since the WiiU release of Tag Tournament 2 which was in 2012, so being able to play an explosive game of melee beach ball is a welcome inclusion.

Alongside all of these, there’s also the feature of being able to earn in-game currency to spend on things that you can use to customize each fighter, with an editor that allows you to alter the appearance of characters in myriad ways. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in Tekken 8 and no doubt there’ll be something to enjoy for players of any skill level.

Tekken 8 - Purple Fireball

The Heat of Battle

In terms of gameplay, the basic mechanics of Tekken 8 remain in keeping with the previous iterations — albeit utilizing the finer shape processing of Unreal 5. The face buttons are all allocated to a specific limb (both fists and both feet). Using directional controls in combination with, or sequences of, the face buttons allows one to chain together combos. This will all be very familiar to regular players of fighting games. There is the Rage system, which triggers when you are pushed below a certain health threshold. Pulling off your Rage attack unleashes a devastating special move that can turn the tide of battle back in your favor. Every bit of damage you take reduces your health bar — obviously! However, sometimes you will see a white gauge that represents recoverable health. If you deal damage or hit a blocking opponent, you can recover segments of your health. However, if you get hit again, the amount of health you can recover decreases.

These things are not entirely new to the genre, although they do contribute to the overall speed and aggression of Tekken 8. In terms of new mechanics, the game brings to the arena two systems: Heat and Special Style.

The Heat System provides a significant buff once per round. Whilst in the Heat state, all your attacks do increased damage. Even in instances where your opponent is blocking, your attacks will still do chip damage. Whilst the opponent can recover these little bits of damage, the idea is to mount up the pressure, allowing for an incredibly offensive playstyle. Also, you can seize upon an opening by hitting R1/Bumper consecutively to issue a string of attacks known as a “Heat Burst”. You can perform combos called “Heat engagers”. These are standard moves that immediately provide you an opportunity to string into a Heat Burst by pressing R1/Bumper at the right moment. Not only does the seamless integration of Heat reward aggressive play, but the fact that the gauge replenishes between rounds means there is no reason not to use it.

The other distinctive addition is the aforementioned Special Style. Simply pressing L1/Bumper toggles on Special Style, which enables you to weave together combos without the requirement to memorize the button combinations. Switching to Special Style means you can enter an aerial combo by merely pressing △/Y three times. You can also trigger a character-specific specialty move by inputting □/X. This entire system supplies the player with two major benefits. Firstly, if you’re one of those players (like me), who doesn’t want to try new characters because learning new combos can be laborious; Special Style mitigates this issue. Turning on Special Style when using an unfamiliar fighter means you can just focus on movement, spacing, and timing without the need to incorporate complex combos. Secondly, the fact that you can just press a button to engage or disengage Special Style means if you’re a seasoned pro, there’s absolutely no need to use it — you can even disable the function altogether and remap the bumper to serve a different purpose.

These new systems taken together with the more familiar features help casual players get to grips with the game. It allows players who are new to fighters or even the franchise as a whole to play in such a way that they aren’t excluded from accessing special moves or silky combos. It gives intermediate players interesting ways to weave in moves and strategies that they might otherwise struggle with. Lastly, for the experts, you can be especially aggressive and your offensive can genuinely dictate how effective you are in battle.


A Tekken game that hits high standards and feels excellent to play is not a new notion. To that end, I don’t feel it would be right for me to list all the things that make it a good fighting game. But what makes it a good Tekken game? Well, it brings the franchise roundhousing its way into the current generation of platforms. Utilizing Unreal 5 engine’s incredible power, this is a game that is aesthetically phenomenal. It looks stunning and performs well technically, even with HDR enabled. The character designs are brilliant on the whole and the anime fan in me beamed when I saw Kazuya’s “final form”. The 16 arenas are also pretty decent, though I have to say they were sometimes a bit basic.

The inclusion of Heat and Special Style as seamless integrations makes Tekken 8 perhaps one of the most accessible titles in the series. Whilst I’m sure this will irk a certain section of purists, having a larger player base can only be a good thing not just for the future of Tekken but for the multiplayer scene also. Cross-platform play, streamlined controls, and extremely precise hitboxes ensure that there will be a vibrant community and playerbase for the foreseeable. On a similar note, the developers seem to have found a way to enable players of any skill level to partake in their vision for an aggressive fighting game experience. Finding openings and throwing out powerful moves no longer seems like some arcane art, available only to an elite class of players.

I’m not sure I’ve encountered anyone who plays a game in this genre for their campaigns/story modes. Actually though, Tekken 8 has some nice touches which make the story feel a bit more interactive. Early on, you get to take part in the King of Iron First Tournament, which is a simple knockout event. But, you can select which fighter you play as in each bout. I got the impression that victors in specific rounds affect who turns up where in a later chapter. It may not be RPG levels of choice, but the whole thing really did amuse me a lot. Later on in the story, you switch from the simple side-on fight screen to a mini-musou-style game in which you bash your way through hordes of G Corporation soldiers and elite Jack-7 units. These things may seem like minor additions, and in a way they are. That said, they’re little embellishments that make the story mode engaging and entertaining.

Tekken 8 - Musou Mode


The issues I found with Tekken 8 are few and far between. A few stutters and dropped frames in the musou section were a little noticeable, though performance in actual fights was always consistently good. I feel as though the Arcade Quest, whilst quite useful, had a format which I could only describe as “childish”. The Metaverse/Miiverse-esque premise not only looks stylistically jarring, but the whole thing feels as though it was the side project of another team of developers and shoehorned into the final version. Aesthetically and thematically, it sticks out like a sore thumb and I feel there was surely a more coherent way to include the challenges and lessons of this game mode.

The absence of Treasure Battle or some such equivalent was disappointing to me. Earning loot, even if only cosmetic, was something that created a goal or aim — I wanted to make my fighters look better, though I needed to fight with them to achieve that. So far, I haven’t found a similar way to find gear for the fighters other than earning Fight Points and redeeming them for bits and pieces. Tekken Ball felt a little odd to play, though I didn’t try it on the hardest difficulty, so perhaps it would have benefited from a more aggressive CPU opponent.

The Story Mode has a few Quick Time Events which are never necessary in any game. Fortunately, they are used sparingly and, whilst being redundant, act only as a very miniscule blemish on an otherwise solid game mode.


Aside from a few minor gripes, there isn’t a whole lot that’s not thoroughly great about Tekken 8. The fluidity of the combat, the option to be able to streamline combo strings, and the impressive attention to graphical detail are top-tier. The game only lacks in the most peripheral of ways, but what has always been gratifying about Tekken still pours out from every inch of this latest entry. Tekken 8 is not just a contender, but a champion amongst a legacy of worthy competitors.


Platforms: Steam (PC), Xbox, PlayStation 5
Purchase: Humble Store (PC Steam)

If you enjoy Fighting games, then perhaps you’d like our review of Demon Slayer: The Hinokami Chronicles or Guilty Gear -Strive-.

Many thanks go to Bandai Namco for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.

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