A ballsy return for Bandai Namco’s Tekken series, Tekken 7 sets out to be the fighter of the year and possibly the fighter to own this generation. The question is, does it fulfil it’s lofty expectations?
The past few years have had a fare share of fighting titles, with old favourites like Killer Instinct making a come back, newer titles like NetherRealm’s Injustice series and some completely out of left field titles like DragonBall Xenoverse. The return of Tekken brings me back to the early days of PS1 where this arcade brawler dominated so much of my early time with that system and much of my pocket money wasted in arcades. And of course Tekken wouldn’t be Tekken without the individual and somewhat iconic roster, including Paul, King, Heihachi and Yoshimitsu. It is hard to believe that two decades have past us since Tekken came around, but it feels so good to return to the “King of Iron Fist” Tournament.
The first thing which came to my attention is that Tekken 7 is somewhat visually underwhelming. Perhaps this is the fact it’s been in the making for some time and has been in Japanese arcades for almost two years. This feeling could also be apparent due to how we have been spoilt with Mortal Kombat X, and the more recent Injustice 2. Tekken 7 does however shine in other areas, specifically the design of fan favourite characters such as Jin, Kazuya, and Heihachi who each seem to have received a little extra TLC during development.
The stages where fights commence look really nice with destruction throughout. The Unreal Engine 4-powered game showcases what the engine can really do. Tekken 7 runs at a fairly stable 60fps with a rare drop here and there, mainly in story mode where a lot can go on during once sequence.
The soundtrack is equally impressive. Something about Tekken tunes really amp up the fights. I’ve always felt pumped whilst playing Tekken titles and this particular entry to the series has not disappointed.
The expected staple of modes including story, arcade and multiplayer all feature. One addition, however, is the new full-fledged story mode called the “Mishima Saga”. Broken down into small chapters featuring CGI cut scenes and a story so out of left field it can only be described as a “Tekken story arch”. This bizarre and chaotic storyline pens back to the start of the Tekken timeline when Heihachi could walk without creaking and Kazuya wasn’t old enough to legally drink. Sadly, the fighting in between the story is not all that interesting. It feels saturated with fights against nameless soldiers and Jack clones. There are a few good fights with important characters but most are meaningless. The presentation and insanity however, help make up for the lacklustre moments.
Customization returns with more depth than ever! Every character can be outfitted with new costumes and accessories to liven up their look. Some are universal, while others are character-specific. I enjoyed giving classic characters such as Hwoarang their Tekken 3 look which really brought me back to my youth. Players can also customise celebrations, give auras, and even tan their character’s skin.
After all the customising, my hype took over so I jumped online looking to kick some ass which I did against a few players but my experience was short lived with poor match making quality and lag 50% of the time. Alongside poor loading times, this has already put me off playing Tekken 7 as much as I’d want and will probably push me back to MKX. There are only so many times you can play against the CPU.
The gameplay is exactly what you would expect from any Tekken title even with a few tweaks here and there to make the game more smooth and enjoyable. While casual fans likely won’t notice the subtle changes, hardcore players certainly will. Damage scaling is now a thing, and it negates what some of the ridiculous damage long string combos do. Sidestepping has also been tweaked to feature slower, more methodical movement. Finally, the forward and backward movement has been adjusted, for example; jumping actually feels like jumping now. These minor additions make a large impact on tournament play, and it will be fun to see dedicated players figure out how these changes will impact them.
Tekken 7’s biggest new gameplay introduction are “Rage” moves. These are essentially super moves that can be performed with a simple tap of a button (RB on Xbox). They are flashy and over-the-top. When both fighters’ life bars are low, there’s a slowdown mechanic that occurs whilst you’re vying for that essential last hit. The suspense will make for some great tournament finishes. This is where how you move around the arena, your blocking and ducking will really come into play.
Tekken 7 feels like a strong return for the series which was much needed after some absence. After a few bumps in the last decade, this series really feels like it is regaining its footing in terms of how it plays out. Bandai Namco need to be more consistent and build on this by listening to fans. Content is here in abundance for casuals and solo fighters, and the hard-core will love the under-the-hood changes. There is something here for everyone. If Tekken has always been your thing, it is finally time to return. However if you are after just one fighter I’d give Injustice 2 a go before you go ahead and make a purchase, as you may find you’ll get a bigger bang for your buck.