Tekken 8 is full of good modes, great tools, and a story that’s dumb fun – Preview

Tekken 8 is launching with a healthy array of ways to play, for players of all dispositions.
Tekken 8 Character Roster

This year has shown us that fighting games are still good, and have the potential to get bigger and more approachable going forward. Street Fighter 6 flaunted a multi-hour RPG campaign, a distilled control scheme, and a bustling online social space to foster friendly competition (and it still bustles, six months later). Mortal Kombat 1 leaned even harder into the bombastic, cinematic story mode the series is known for, dishing out those eye-popping thrills that make you think a fighting game movie could be okay, maybe. And now Tekken 8, which launches on 26 January 2024, is promising a mixture of all those things, plus a few extras of its own.

Beyond the enduring fighting mechanics, Tekken 8 is launching with a stack of new modes and tools to cater to a whole spectrum of potential players. After spending a few hours sampling a bit of everything on a near-complete version of the game, it’s hard not to get very excited about the menu on offer, especially as someone who played Tekken 7 to death.

Read: Tekken 8 Preview – Hands-on impressions, insights from Harada

Story Mode

Tekken’s lore has always been dumb fun – it’s a story about a family feud that involves angels and devils, impossibly powerful corporations, and also, there’s a fighting tournament featuring at least two bears, some robots, and a wrestler who does not actually have a jaguar head, but you could’ve fooled me. And that’s not even getting into the truly crazy territory.

The last entry in the franchise, Tekken 7, had a cinematic story mode that explored some of this wildness, but its overall presentation and narrative hooks didn’t feel nearly as strong as the Mortal Kombat style of storytelling that clearly inspired it.

Tekken 8’s story mode turns things up a few notches, leaning harder into blockbuster action movie territory. It makes sure to ground the scenario in the real world, which helps raise the stakes, and frames the narrative as one of global rivalry and espionage – at least, at first.

Image: Bandai Namco

It’s still ridiculous, though, and that’s where the real magic lies. It kicks off with one of those world-ending fights that usually punctuates Marvel movies, with longtime protagonist Jin Kazama facing down with his father, Kazuya Mishima once more, in the middle of Times Square, New York City. It begins, as all good stories do, with Jin riding a motorbike up the side of a skyscraper, doing a somersault, and throwing the bike into a helicopter carrying Kazuya. Perfect.

The escalating series of battles, which you play out, sees Jin and Kazuya transform into Devils, but Jin eventually loses the fight. In the aftermath, Kazuya establishes a new world order – one whose hierarchy will be decided on by, you guessed it, a fighting tournament.

With Kazuya disabling the world’s capabilities for ranged ballistic combat – because this is fighting game story, dammit – the stage is seemingly set for each major region around the globe to decide on a representative champion that will help them fight for a place in Kazuya’s messed up world. Meanwhile, Jin rejects the supernatural Devil gene that makes him stronger, and begins getting visions of his mother once more.

Image: Bandai Namco

It’s a great setup, and there’s just something about solving world crises through a one-on-one fighting tournament that is incredibly entertaining, and of course, right at home for the genre. I can’t wait to see how the tournament is presented and plays out.

Arcade Quest

New to Tekken 8 is Arcade Quest, which shares a lot of ideas seen in the RPG mode of Street Fighter 6, and mixes it with the concepts of the Treasure Battle mode, which already existed in past Tekken games. The conceit is the same – fight a bunch of computer opponents in a stream of fights, work your way through the ranking system, and unlock cosmetic items for your fighters along the way, which you can then take online.

Image: Bandai Namco

But Tekken 8’s Arcade Quest places that system in another light story mode, set in a magical world where arcades still exist, and everybody loves Tekken. You’ll flesh out a customisable avatar, hang out with a group of friends who all enjoy Tekken 7 for a variety of different and wholesome reasons, and play against opponents located in the arcades throughout a city to eventually compete professionally (and take out a not-so-wholesome champion).

For newcomers, Arcade Quest also acts as a gradual onramp to Tekken in general, stepping you through a number of basic concepts in its first chapter, and having you put those into practice as you explore the opening location.

In addition to cosmetic items for your fighting characters, you’ll also unlock outfits and accessories for your player character too, which you can eventually take to Tekken 8’s equivalent of an online social space, the Tekken Fight Lounge.

It’s a nice new layer that brings a bit more personality to Treasure Quest, but it also seems to serve as an approachable entry point to Tekken in general, too. It doesn’t feel as involved as Street Fighter 6’s World Tour RPG mode – you’re not mixing and matching fighting styles, you’re literally playing Tekken 8 as is – but so far, it’s a nice balance of flavour and an endless buffet of people to fight.

Super Ghost Battle

Of course, if playing those predetermined computer opponents gets a bit dry, Tekken 8 also features a mode called Super Ghost Battle, where you can fight against opponents that behave like other Tekken players.

The setup requires you to fight against a CPU-controlled opponent, which will learn the moves you use most, your habits, and your quirks, and then it will adapt its approach – it might know to block a combo string you rely on too heavily, for example. The more you fight against it, the more it will learn, and hopefully, the more you will learn too.

Image: Bandai Namco

From here, you’ll be able to take your ghost online for other people to fight, and you’ll be able to challenge the ghosts of other players, without actually having to fight them live. The assumption here is that you can get an idea of a particular player’s habits as you encounter them in the Tekken Fight Lounge, learn how they like to behave, and work out how best to beat them.

Which leads to quite possibly the most impressive new aspect of Tekken 8, the Replay Tips.

Replay Tips

Competitive fighting game players all say the same thing: if you want to get better, you need to study your replays to see where you went wrong. That’s all well and good, but what if I’m not clued in enough to know what to look for? Tekken 8 attempts to solve this problem with its Replay system, by injecting its own tips as you review a match – and at this initial stage, it feels pretty useful.

As you watch a replay, the game will identify key points in the match where you may have messed up – a place where you got caught out by an attack, or an opportunity you neglected to seize, for example. At these points, it will pause the replay and provide a suggestion on what you could’ve done in that situation to gain the advantage.

Image: Bandai Namco

This might be a combo string that you can easily execute after launching someone in the air, an attack that would’ve come out faster than an opponent’s attack, or an ideal follow-up after blocking an assault. And of course, the game will allow you to instantly recreate the situation in practice mode, so you can have a go at executing it for as long as you like, before jumping back to the replay.

As exciting as Tekken 8’s Story mode and Arcade Quest are, the execution of these Replay Tips is so good and snappy that I can definitely see myself quickly jumping into a replay post-match to work on my flaws, drill in some new techniques, and hopefully, become a better Tekken player.

Tekken Ball

And if I get tired of trying to be a better player, I can just go and play Tekken Ball, the volleyball mode that debuted in the legendary Tekken 3, and makes a return here. It’s still a lot of fun. That’s basically all you need to know.

Image: Bandai Namco

It’s wild to think about the fact that Tekken 7 never died. Since its arcade debut in 2015, it has retained its popularity and player base, and it continued to be a very prominent and exciting game on the competitive circuit, for both the pros and the spectators.

For Tekken 8 to forcibly take over next year means that it needs to offer something meaningful. After playing it for about a dozen hours this year, across media previews and beta tests, I think it’s got a pretty good chance of doing that.

It looks fantastic. I love how aggressive the new mechanical tweaks are. It’s very flashy when seen in action. And now that I’ve sampled its smorgasbord of single-player and offline game modes first-hand, I’m more anxious than ever to sink a ridiculous amount of time into it, for real this time. Here’s hoping that I’m not wrong, and that Tekken 8 will give us another ten years of excellent fighting game action – if not more.

Tekken 8 will be released on 26 January 2023 on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

05/15/2024 08:06 pm GMT

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Edmond was the founding managing editor of GamesHub. He was also previously at GameSpot for 13 years, where he was the Australian Editor and an award-winning video producer. You can follow him @EdmondTran