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Tekken 8 review – Living up to a grand legacy

One of gaming's grandest and longest-running family feuds finally reaches its conclusion in the vicious, hard-hitting Tekken 8.
tekken 8 review gameplay

Jin Kazama and Kazuya Mishima have been locked in a family blood feud for as long as I’ve been playing games. I know this because Tekken 3 is one of the first games I ever played, and one of the only titles to ever get banned in my household (apparently doing the Tekken moves on your siblings is frowned upon). It was in this 1997 classic that Jin was first introduced, as the son of Kazuya, the inheritor of the evil Devil Gene. Across multiple Tekken entries – spin-offs, anime series, films – Jin has fought his fate as a member of the Mishima Clan. In Tekken 8, this chapter of his story finally comes to a spectacular, long-awaited close.

In many ways, Tekken 8 is a game of endings and beginnings. It caps off one of the longest and most prominent family feuds in gaming, while also ushering in a new era of bombastic, over-the-top battles and sleekly-styled multiplayer fights. It’s hard-hitting, intense, and sharply designed, with a well-refined sense of identity. There are new characters, and old, and each gets space to share their story and make their mark on the battlefield, within the main storyline and beyond it.

As in past Tekken games, Tekken 8 is not only a fighting simulator. While the majority of its game modes and unlockables revolve around fighting – and it’s likely to make a splash at future EVOsTekken 8 also features one of the most well-rounded narratives of the Tekken series, capping the story of Jin and Kazuya in an attention-demanding Story Mode that provides context and stakes to your many battles.

tekken 8 story mode jin kazuya
Image: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Tekken 8 wastes no time in unravelling its tale of father-son rivalry, as its Story Mode opens directly in the midst of battle, as Jin fights against Kazuya, and attempts to absolve his past crimes in the process. But while Jin is powerful, Kazuya remains a formidable foe – and in triumph over Jin, he sets his sights on a higher goal: the total destruction of modern society.

With a plethora of Tekken fighters absorbed into the orbit of this battle, Jin must reckon with his Devil Gene, re-learn the value of friendship, and eventually set about making things right – even as Earth descends into chaos, and Kazuya attempts to destroy everything in his path.

Read: Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth review – An abundance of riches

Story Mode leans heavily into anime tropes in its approach to storytelling, with much of the blockbuster narrative focusing on Jin and Kazuya one-upping their rivalry, but with a short length of around 4-5 hours, it’s punchy and impactful more than it is cheesy. You’re thrust immediately into the action in Story Mode, and introduced to a wonderfully diverse cast of characters, each with their own ideals, approaches, and combat styles.

You learn more about their motives and goals – and you can dive deeper with each individual in their standalone Character Episodes, each of which provide new background, and a reason to connect with your favourite Tekken fighters.

tekken 8 gameplay
Image: Bandai Namco Entertainment

In this approach, Tekken 8 excels. In the earliest days of the series, fighters were reduced to bare story moments and aesthetics. Tekken 8 feels more generous to its cast, with each character feeling fully-rounded and realistic. Sharp, deft writing in the Story Mode and Character Episodes provides much-needed character illumination, with the narrative serving a welcome dual purpose: to introduce fresh and returning faces, while drawing the decades-spanning drama of Tekken to a satisfying end.

It was partially this storytelling that led me to my new favourite fighter, Victor Chevalier, an elite soldier of the United Nations. His introduction oozes cool, providing plenty of reason to invest in him – and to experiment with his unique moveset, which is fast, flashy and involves guns, swords, and high-speed teleportation.

Forged in Story Mode, my connection to Victor Chevalier was further solidified when bringing his skills to the freeplay fighting modes and Arcade Quest of Tekken 8, where you can knuckle down on perfection and work on your combos. In Tekken 8, you can play as any fighter – and in Story Mode, it’s a requirement to try multiple. But beyond this mode, you can sample as you like.

You can create custom looks for your fighters, or simply head into battle with your chosen favourite, working to learn their combos and weaknesses as you tackle fight after fight. You can experience traditional Tekken combat the hard way with the traditional style fighting mode – which requires a smorgasbord of button-mashing combos and will likely inspire finger blisters – or you can jump in with the new Special Style, a simplified and more accessible version of combat.

tekken 8 fighting game review
Image: Bandai Namco Entertainment

In either mode, you’re in for a tough battle – as Tekken 8 can be unforgiving – but the choice is yours, and newcomers will likely be grateful for the option. Even with muscle memory kicking in, I found far more reward in Special Style and its graciousness, as it allows for free-flowing fights without the stress of hitting exactly the right buttons on cue.

With flow in full force, you can pull off devastating combos in either style, forcing your opponents into submission and enjoying the mean rush of locking them into high-damage combos as you kick-kick-uppercut your way through rounds.

While there is an element of repetition in these battles, Tekken 8 does well to alleviate it across multiple modes, particularly in its aforementioned Arcade Quest mode. Here, you create a custom avatar and set about conquering NPC fighters in one-on-one battles that allow you to gain experience and customisation points, providing a reward for refining your moveset and well-acquainting yourself with your chosen fighters.

It’s a simple dressing up of the game’s primary matches, but provides enough bells and whistles to keep battles consistently rewarding, providing a reason for continuous return.

With more accessible gameplay, very neat introductions to its array of fighters and their individual quirks, and new fighting styles for newbie players, Tekken 8 feels like an incredibly worthy fighting sequel geared to overtake its predecessors. If you’re familiar with the Tekken series, there’s nothing quite groundbreaking in the game’s approach to fighting combat, but even with Tekken 8 building on the blocks of 7, it remains a compelling and glorious fighter – one buoyed by its lofty, blockbuster ambitions.

Four stars: ★★★★

Tekken 8
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios and Arika
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date: 26 January 2024

05/15/2024 08:06 pm GMT

The PS5 version of Tekken 8 was provided for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are rated on a five-point scale. GamesHub has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content. GamesHub may earn a small percentage of commission for products purchased via affiliate links.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.