Reviewed on PS4, copy supplied by publisher.
Aside from the obvious exceptions of people turning into demons, robotic super soldiers, and hair gel that could probably glue a super tanker to the ceiling, Tekken has always been a more realistic fighter than most.
As with its ilk, such as Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive, and even Soul Calibur, to a point, Tekken‘s combat has always been slower and more technical than the likes of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Killer Instinct. Here it’s less about jumping and spamming special moves, and more about timing and carefully avoiding your opponent’s attack so you can counter with a devastating combo. There’s air juggling too, which is hardly realistic, but even this is all about restrained button pressing, and simple button mashing rarely elicits the best result from any fighter on the roster.
Tekken has always been a game about skill and the ability to learn the complex nature of its fighting engine, and Tekken 7 is arguably the pinnacle of this.
The latest in the long-running series about one of the most dysfunctional families in video games, Tekken 7 instantly shows its colours as a love letter to fans of the series. It’s a game packed with new features and a hefty amount of reminiscing. Available in the game you’ll find every movie and cutscene from all past Tekken games ready to be unlocked, and you’ll also be able to listen to the entirety of Tekken’s soundtrack, from the first game to the last, available to listen to on its own, or as you pound away on people’s faces.
The vast character list features the majority of the game’s fighters, spanning the whole series. The story, what there is of it, focuses on the relationship between the members of the Mishima family, revolving around the father of the year candidate and hair-style guru, Heihachi Mishima.
The main story mode is a clear homage to events of past games, exploring the cruel history of the father and son relationship between Heihachi and Kazuya, and is told by a faceless reporter who is pulled into the latest rivalry between the family. It’s a tale that clearly panders to hardcore fans, but even as someone who’s played the majority of the series, I found it to be dull, poorly written, and just not all that enjoyable. It has some good moments, but the relationships between many characters involved isn’t handled well, and it’s just a generally tepid experience.
In fact, the dominance of ‘guest’ fighter, Street Fighter’s Akuma, was the only major thing that held things together for me, and despite his part-time stature, he ends up being the most interesting and impressive element of the story, if one that’s shoehorned in rather ham-fistedly.
Alongside the main story there are also additional chapters for the rest of the line up. These barely qualify as story, though, aside from a few blocks of text, and each chapter is a single fight. It gives you something to do, but it’s hardly a great feature.
The thing is, it doesn’t really matter, as Tekken is all about the fighting, and it’s here where you’ll find the best version of the game to date. The fighting engine has clearly been painstakingly tempered into the most fluid and complex version yet, and it remains one that’s friendly to new players, and the complex beast advanced players look for.
Learning the ins and outs of each character, mastering the timings, and having iFrames become second nature is all part of the experience, and there’s a great level of depth here if you want to dig deep for it. If you’re not concerned with such things, and you’re happy to simply play the game by hitting buttons and landing the odd special, it’s fun too. Indeed, the story mode even accommodates this with story-specific options for easy special moves and a fighting mode that turns the game into a pseudo 2D fighter with semi-auto combos.
Some new elements are added to the combat in this installment, with the first being Rage Arts. These are Injustice-style supers that can be triggered when your health is low. They’re flashy combos that do a lot of damage and can turn the tide of battle. The other feature is Power Crush, which essentially stops your character flinching when hit, and you can continue your attack. Both are nice additions, with the latter being by far the most important, and mastering it is going to be a major key in your success, both online and off.
A major strength of Tekken has always been the focus on real fighting styles, creating a melting pot of combat options. As always, the roster of characters runs the gamut of martial arts, from Jeet Kune Do to pro-wrestling, and boxing to Capoeira. There’s a wide range featured, often augmented by some flashy effects and slo-mo supers, but usually still grounded in reality to a point. It creates a rich tapestry of fighters, meaning you’ll be playing for a very long time as you explore the possibilities of each, and eventually settle on your mains.
The rock solid fighting is the core of the game, and this is delivered in a multitude of ways, including the aforementioned story, single fight, local versus and tournament modes, and the online component
The online play is fairly solid, although it does suffer depending on connection quality of either involved party. Nothing new there. For the most part, however, I found bouts to be perfectly fine. Playing against people in other countries like the UK or US often encountered some lag, but it wasn’t as bad as other fighters I’ve played recently, so I’d say the net-coding here is a little more robust. It should be noted, however, that new players will probably end up being beaten to a pulp over and over again, so be prepared for plenty of hazing until you skill-up.
Another mode is Treasure Fight. This is tied into the other major feature I need to cover, and that’s the customisation. Tekken 7‘s character customisation is impressive, to say the least. During play, especially during the treasure fight mode, you can unlock new items that can be used to customise fighters. These items range from simple costume parts, such as pants, shirts, hats, and so on, to more unique options like back-worn swords, assault rifles, and even giant Pizzas.
The mixture of absurd to serious items leans heavily to the crazy side of things, but some seemingly aesthetic items actually open up new options in battle. Weapons for example, can actually be used in combat, including guns, and other items can bestow other abilities. It’s a great feature, and the plethora of items and options available is immense, much like Injustice 2‘s impressive loot drop system. Items can also be purchased with fight money, which you can also find in game, so by grinding away you can unlock more gear, and there are character-specific items too.
The amount of content in the game is impressive for a fighter, and despite the story, which I just found to be clichéd and tiresome, there’s a lot of mileage to be had here. The customisation alone gives you plenty of reasons to grind away to unlock more options, and the online component is solid. By far the best feature, though, is the most important, and that’s the superb fighting engine that makes a game for both new and veteran players, delivering yet another high-class entry into the Tekken series.