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Tekken 8: A New Era of Gameplay – Hands-On Review

Get with the system, or the system will get you.

New "Sanctum" stage in Tekken 8

Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to be invited by Bandai Namco to their offices in Irvine, CA, along with a group of journalists and social media influencers, for an immersive hands-on event with their latest fighting game, Tekken 8. I had the opportunity to dive deep into the game’s mechanics, explore the character roster, and experience the new features and changes for myself. Over the course of several hours, I engaged in countless matches, honing my skills and getting a feel for what the game had to offer. In this article, I’ll share my thoughts and impressions of the event, as well as my overall impressions of Tekken 8.

Visual Quality & Detail

Tekken 8 is taking the franchise to the next level with its stunning visual quality. As a Tekken fan, I was blown away by the level of detail and graphical fidelity, even having seen compressed trailers online beforehand. The characters, stages, and animations are all much more intricate and vivid than in previous games, creating an immersive experience that draws you in from the very start.

The game’s impressive visuals are made possible by being built on the Unreal Engine 5, which takes full advantage of the latest hardware capabilities, including advanced lighting, shadowing, and special effects. The result is a truly breathtaking game that is sure to impress both old and new Tekken fans alike.

Tekken 8 uses Unreal Engine 5

Tekken 8 uses Unreal Engine 5

I had the chance to play on almost all of the stages, with Arena and Urban Square being my personal favorites. They are both vibrant, fun-looking, and give off a unique vibe that adds to the immersive experience. Additionally, Yakushima, Jun’s stage, offered a peaceful backdrop to battles, with calming music to match. Sanctum, a new stage, was particularly interesting, as it changes after a wall break to look like a whole new area with a new variation of the music. Rebel Hangar was also cool, but I found myself gravitating towards the other stages. All of them are great, and there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t mind playing over and over again on.

One of the most exciting new features in Tekken 8 is the damage and decay system, which adds a level of realism and grit to the game. Characters may wake up with dirt on their clothes, face, or body, depending on where they fell, and will remain that way until the very end of the match. This detail hasn’t been shown in any trailers yet, making it a pleasant surprise for those of us who got to experience it firsthand.

Tekken 8 was clearly designed for next-generation platforms, and it shows. The level of graphical detail is too much for older consoles or low-end PCs to handle. However, the lighting, shadows, and special effects all add up to create a truly breathtaking game that takes full advantage of the latest hardware capabilities. As a Tekken aficionado, I can’t wait to see what other surprises the Tekken Project team has in store for us in this vein.

Character & Stage Select Screens

The character and stage select screens in Tekken 8 were impressive, with a sophisticated yet simple design that met my expectations. However, it’s important to note that these screens were likely not the final versions or representative of what they will eventually be in the fully developed version, as this was just a hands-on event strictly to test the game.

The loading screen, as you can see here, was pretty simple as well. And though the characters were not animated or anything, I still liked it a lot. I’m certain it is just a place holder at this point within development, and as things progress there are certain to be more character movement/interaction, HUD elements and information on the screen, such as rankings, player profiles, stats and more. So yeah, those fake character select screens you’ve been seeing, just ignore those.

Tekken 8 (Alpha) versus load screen

During the hands-on event, I was able to play as 10 different characters, each with their unique fighting style and moveset. It was exciting to try out Xiaoyu, Jun, Jack-8, Lars, King, Law, Paul, Jin, Kazuya, and Nina and see how they’ve been revitalized for Tekken 8. Additionally, we had access to five different stages to battle it out: Yakushima (Jun’s stage), Rebel Hangar, Urban Square (Evening), Sanctum (a new stage), and Arena (King’s stage). However, it’s worth noting that some of the stages that were shown in trailers, such as the coliseum (Paul trailer) and the dilapidated building stage with the helicopter flying in the background (Nina trailer), were not available at the event.

While in-game, we had access to various options such as controller settings and sound settings. However, from what I remember, there were no settings available to adjust the graphics at the time. As far as load time on a PS5, games didn’t take long at all to load, around 10 seconds max. But again, consider that this game is still in development and all of the game’s features are not yet in the game. And depending on the actual mode, it could greatly differ. I’m still confident that the game will have phenomenal load times though, just based on this experience alone.

Heat System or Bust

Let me get this immediately out of the way: the Tekken you have come to know and love is a thing of the past. With the introduction of the Heat System, Tekken 8 is a fresh, new approach to the franchise that changes everything. It’s an entirely new game.

In previous Tekken games, the gameplay focused on footsies, playing the neutral game, knowing when to attack, poking, and defensive strategies. But with the Heat System, everything is turned upside down. Even as a seasoned Tekken player, I ironically found myself having to play more patiently than before. But I’m more than aware that this is due to still having to learn the new meta of Tekken 8. There were times when I expected to attack, only to receive blowback from my opponent executing a Heat Burst. Even something as simple as a jab wasn’t always entirely safe to throw out.

Heat Engager

Heat Engager

Playing within the bounds of the Heat System is a must, and players who love to play aggressively will thrive in this new Tekken world. For those of us who are used to “the way” of previous Tekken games, it may take some time to adapt to the new mechanics.

There’s a lot of information to keep track of as well, such as your Heat Timer, Heat Energy, Recoverable Gauge, and more. And not only do you have to pay attention to your own Heat information, but also that of your opponent.

While it may take some time to adjust, it’s clear that the game requires players to think more strategically and adapt their playstyle to fit the Heat System.

The Music Soundtrack

Tekken 8 doesn’t just impress with its visuals and gameplay mechanics, but also with the direction the soundtrack is headed. All of the music in the game is refreshing and reminiscent of the classic Tekken tracks of old that fans have come to cherish. The tracks provide a nice layer on top of an already visually satisfying game with aggressive gameplay.

Unlike in Tekken 7, the music doesn’t try to take center stage and be the main attraction. Instead, it sits comfortably in the background, creating a nostalgic and chill atmosphere that gracefully adds to the experience. I could listen to these tracks for hours and never get tired of them.

Gameplay Discoveries

Some interesting discoveries were made during the our time with the game. Firstly, many noticed that backdashing has been considerably nerfed in Tekken 8. And it’s no wonder, as the meta of the game is “aggressive.” They want us in each others faces.

Rage Arts underwent some changes too. Remember when you could punish a blocked rage art with a rage art? No more. And with a 13-frame start-up, they can’t be launched either.

Thirdly, spring kicks no longer cause knockdowns in Tekken 8. Similarly, low parries no longer provide combo extenders, which is another significant change to the gameplay.

A new mechanic in Tekken 8 is that forward-forward (hold) will now make your character run. This isn’t to be confused with instant moves though. They’re not the same.

Additionally, get-up kicks no longer knockdown, and Magic 4 no longer launches. These changes add more depth to the game’s mechanics and require players to adjust their playstyle accordingly.

Lastly, wall bounces, which were introduced in Tekken 7 with Geese Howard, didn’t carry over to Tekken 8.

Overall, these gameplay discoveries show that Tekken 8 is a fresh take on the franchise that changes everything players have come to know. While it may take some time to renew your mind and muscle memory to these changes, the game’s extra layer of strategy and depth make it an exciting.

Controller Style: Arcade vs Special

The Controller Style feature in Tekken 8 is a next level mechanic for casual players. It’s a game changer for the franchise and quite a few of us at the event were wondering how the Tekken community would receive it. The Controller Style feature includes the traditional Arcade Style, where the player executes everything and makes all the decisions, and the Special Style, which is where things get interesting.

Special Style is not like the Easy Combo and Assists feature in Tekken 7. It has been combined and evolved in Tekken 8. Each button has a recommended move and combo for each character, and it changes depending on the state of the character. These new controls make fighting your opponent in Tekken 8 feel more like an action game specialized for casual play.

Special Style

Special Style

And the most interesting part is that you can turn it on and off while in a match. All you have to do is press L1 on your controller or stick to turn it on or off. This feature is significant because it allows players of all skill levels to enjoy the game’s thrill and excitement.

However, not everyone at the event was a die-hard Tekken player. Fighting against opponents who used Special Style gave them an edge, as punishes and combos were always performed to perfection. It will be interesting to see how the community reacts to it when the game releases.

One issue with the Special Style feature is that it’s currently too easy to accidentally turn it on and off with L1, which could actually interfere with ones desired gameplay. The Tekken Project team was given feedback on this issue.

Fun Factor

The fun factor of Tekken 8 is through the roof, even with the introduction of the Heat System and all its complexities. Despite not having the time to fully practice or explore the new mechanics, jumping into matches and figuring things out on the fly was still an enjoyable experience.

As stated previously, this isn’t the Tekken we’re used to, but that’s not a bad thing. The Heat System brings a fresh and exciting new take on the franchise, and it’s clear that Bandai Namco is committed to making Tekken 8 the best it can be.

During the hands-on event, everyone was having a great time, even when they didn’t fully understand what was going on. It’s a testament to the game’s design and the overall fun factor of Tekken 8.

Even with the new mechanics and system in place, Tekken 8 still feels like a Tekken game at its core, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. It’s familiar yet new, and it’s clear that the TEKKEN Project team has put a lot of effort into making it a fun and engaging experience.

On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s easily an 11.

Final Thoughts

Tekken 8 is truly a remarkable game that has me excited for the future of the franchise. I believe it would totally outdo Tekken 7 in sales. It’s refreshing to see Bandai Namco take risks and explore new directions, because as we all know, video games that don’t innovate and push the envelope eventually grow stagnant and die. The heat system in Tekken 8 is a prime example of how a game can be revitalized by taking a chance and shaking things up.

The game feels like a whole new experience that will usher in a new era. The beautiful visuals, the unique personality of the characters, and the intricate details of the stages and more make it fun and engaging.

What’s even more exciting is that Tekken 8 is still in its alpha stage, and we have yet to see all of the modes and innovation that’s in store for us. The possibilities are endless.

Co-op Tekken Force mode with these visuals? Yes, please!

Thanks for the opportunity, Bamco.

Aziz Peregrino-Brimah aka Zee the CEO | Founder / Editor-in-chief of TekkenGamer | Gaming has been a passion of Zee's since the early days of Atari and ColecoVision. His first experience with Tekken was in the early 90's, and it was Tekken 3 that sealed the deal. True story... As a teenager Zee once received his Winn-Dixie paycheck and spent it all at the arcade the same day. Needless to say, his mother wasn't pleased.


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