Tekken 8 PS5 Review – In my 28 years playing Tekken (Yes, I’m old), one thing that has continuously impressed me with Bandai Namco Games’ fighting franchise is its ability to consistently evolve with every muscle-flexing, body-slamming instalment.
Whether it’s the introduction of side stepping with Tekken 3, duffing up opponents against walls in Tekken 4 or adding bounds to extend juggles in Tekken 6, the development team has ensured the series’ paradigm is always shifting in meaningful ways and never rests on its laurels.
It’s fitting, then, that Tekken 8 arrives as the franchise is celebrating its 30th anniversary, as it offers what is perhaps the most emphatic and dynamic gameplay evolution to date with the introduction of the Heat system. Narratively, it’s also a crucial turning point, marking the end of the long-running feud between Jin Kazama and his father, Kazuya Mishima, following the gut punch that was Heihachi’s demise during Tekken 7’s climax.
Tekken 8 Review – Welcome To The King Of Iron Fist Tournament
A Strong Roster With Three Fantastic Newcomers
The core fundamentals that have remained the beating heart of Tekken’s DNA since its inception are very much here, albeit packing a visual fidelity that far eclipses those classic CG endings of yesteryear. The mechanics are brimming with the same depth and spectacle you would expect from the series, where lateral movement and frame knowledge is the key to advancing beyond button-mashing mayhem.
Tekken 8 doesn’t mess with these core principles, and is stronger for it; brawls reward creativity, where experimentation with juggles, frame traps, combo mixups and more ensure two bouts are never the same. Blows feel weighty and impactful, while counter hits lead to wince-worthy crumble stuns as your opponent doubles over in pain, before you launch their hapless bodies into the air for more damage.
One key change to the neutral game is the removal of some counter hit properties, noticeably the colloquially-dubbed Magic 4. These right kicks would stun on counter hit allowing for a juggle, although that is no longer the case.
As such, this alters the dynamic of some fights, which makes the keep-out game slightly less threatening for certain characters. This consequently pushes a more aggressive style of battle, which really plays into the Heat system (more on that later).
One of Tekken 8’s biggest strength is that every character feels unique and harbours a distinct play style. Whether it’s the Judo-influenced beat-downs that Paul Phoenix dishes out, Kazuya Mishima’s powerful Electric Wind God Fist or the muscle-busting antics of King’s powerhouse wrestling, the roster is bristling with eclectic charm and begging to be explored.
Newcomers Reina, Victor and Azucena are leagues ahead of Tekken 7 dullards like Katarina or Gigas. Reina brings home the pain by fusing some key Mishima-style blows with stance-based pressure, giving her lethal mix-up opportunities, especially when you have someone backed against the wall.
She’s execution heavy too, as you’ll want to perform just-inputs for Electric Wind God Fist to maximise your combo potential and damage output. If like me you miss Heihachi, then Reina is a fantastic replacement and one of the best female character designs in recent memory.
Victor meanwhile is cut from the same cloth as Raven, utilising special forces and ninja-esque attacks that combine pistols and swords, giving him long reach.
He’s without a doubt the most ostentatious combatant out of the newcomers in Tekken 8, and his move set is awash with visual spectacle. There’s no one else remotely close to his style on the roster, and if flashy fighters are you style, then Victor will shine. In many ways, he feels like an evolution of Noctis from Tekken 7.
Last but not least is coffee enthusiast Azucena, who feels like an amalgamation of Josie and Lucky Chloe, which may sound like nightmare fuel but actually works somehow. Heavy on trickery and acrobatic-style attacks, Azucena has the personality of an obstreperous child that fits her combat to the T, dancing about the battlefield and uttering one liners with key blows.
She’s not the most beginner friendly of the newcomers, but dig into her move list and you’ll find some truly disgusting setups and strong frames.
Jun also returns canonically for the first time since Tekken 2, and is one of the more interesting redesigns. Some of her attacks harm her, and she’s got a bunch of new stances that help separate her from distant relative, Asuka.
The Heat Is On
The Heat system is the real game changer. Each character has a handful of moves that activate Heat when they connect, or simply by hitting right punch + left kick for a quick burst.
Heat lasts about 15 seconds but the meter pauses when you block or land attacks, and essentially gives you access to a powered-up version of your character. You also inflict chip damage on block (some attacks cause chip damage outside of Heat too).
In this state, you can unleash a powerful attack known as Heat Smash or chain an attack with the Heat Dash, setting up frame advantage on block or hit.
Other attacks become more powerful in Heat; for example, Paul has access to a guard-breaking stun on one of his standard strings, while Jin has access to Omen Stance giving him access to a few of his Tekken 3-era move set.
Heat really changes the dynamic of battle for various reasons. Juggles become much longer; you can launch someone, activate heat to bound them, then strike them again for a Tornado (this is Tekken 8’s new bound state, replacing Tail Spin from Tekken 7), and then utilise Heat dash to extend the combo or engage Heat Smash for a chunk of damage.
The amount of experimentation with Heat and juggles is almost limitless; Tekken 8 encourages you to be as creative as possible, and there’s a palpable feeling of satisfaction as you land a 70+ damage combo by dipping into everything this new system has to offer.
Utilising specific Heat actions also drains your meter quickly, so you have to consider the pros and cons of potentially spending it early. For example, if you spend your Heat on one chunky move that’s blocked, then you risk being punished.
On the other hand, you can utilise Heat’s chip damage to press the attack while remaining relatively safe without committing to any huge risks.
Weighing up when to use Heat and when to save it is part of the compelling, strategic thread that makes up Tekken 8’s rich tapestry of fisticuffs; the deeper you dig, the more you’ll find.
Chip damage is an interesting and somewhat controversial among Tekken fans. However, I found it to be an interesting wrinkle to the bread-and-butter mechanics. Some health is also recoverable, as juggles and specific attacks leave a percentage of health up for grabs.
By going on the offense, you can recover this health, which can really make an impact if battles go down to the wire. Granted, it’s not that noticeable at times when bouts are over within 10 seconds, but when you’re both scrapping for that last few chunks of damage, it can really make a difference.
A successful juggle or last-minute Heath Smash can recover enough of your health to keep you in the fight just that little bit longer. It feels great, and makes fights all the more intense for it.
The Most Complete Tekken Experience To Date
I consider myself a pretty decent Tekken player, but one thing I have to note is just how great Tekken 8 is if you’re new to the series. The wealth of practice options and user-friendly tutorials are a welcome addition, whether it’s the standard Practice Mode that offers frame data, details on whether an attack is homing, a Power Crush or Tornado, to the sample combos on offer allowing you to get a feel for juggling.
The Special Style meanwhile assigns specific buttons for things like juggles, low attacks and Power Crush, eschewing the need for specific time and button inputs. This is great for easing newbies into Tekken’s intricate gameplay plan.
Arcade Quest is equally something that really surprised me. While you could easily dismiss it for its cutesy avatars and throw away narrative (you’re a newbie to Tekken and want to rise through the ranks to become a champ), there’s a surprising amount of depth it.
You and your buddies will basically progress across multiple arcades fighting increasingly more difficult opponents, all the while increasing your rank and learning about Heat and the various mechanics. Veterans can skip these tutorials, but newcomers will definitely want to check them out as they’re a fantastic way of learning the ropes.
Once you get to the final stages of Arcade Quest, you’ll actually be fighting some really tough combatants that will give folk of all abilities a good scrap. Even if you’re a veteran fan, it’s worth fighting here (or in the Super Ghost Battle) to test your skills.
Story Mode meanwhile is an utterly bonkers affair that is quintessential Tekken, meaning you have people talking to each other in multiple languages yet understanding each other, including King, who growls instead of actually talking. Embrace the madness and you’ll lap it up.
Jin to be fair is a decent protagonist and has discernible character growth, while others in the cast have a chance to shine as playable fighters without the spotlight being taken away from our devil gene-infused hero. Chapters are short and move at a breakneck pace ensuring nothing outstay its welcome, while QTEs are thankfully kept to a minimum.
The last few chapters genuinely have some epic moments and there’s a welcome gameplay shift that I won’t spoil, but old fans will lap it up. The production values are top-notch and there are some genuinely epic rucks to soak up.
Lore lovers meanwhile can hit up the character episodes for each fighter, which sees you slugging it out with five characters before unlocking an ending movie. It’s fun stuff, and there’s some genuinely decent efforts made here.
Tekken Ball also curiously makes a return from Tekken 3. It’s great (albeit gimmicky) fun for a laugh as you punt the ball to each other, with certain moves setting it aflame and dishing out big damage if it whacks you. Arcade Mode is pretty perfunctory to be honest, and you probably won’t spend much time here but it’s nice to have it all the same.
Customisation also returns with plenty of sartorial choices available to spend that hard-earned fight money on. To be fair, the preset costumes are great as they are, but adding that personal flare is a nice bonus all the same. There’s more to tinker with too, with eye colour, eyebrows, shoes, and accessories fleshing out the proceedings.
A Stunning-Looking Brawler With Amazing Production Values & Personality
One of the best things about Tekken 8 is how it has pushed character identity, both aesthetically and mechanically. For example, certain characters share special intro dialogue (Jin and Lars have an epic fist bump, while Xiaoyu and Panda skip merrily about while discussing what they want for dinner). Lore aficionados will lap this stuff up.
More impressive is how this is implemented into actual gameplay. King for example loses some counter hit launchers in favour of pushing his 300lbs wrestling frame and absorbing attacks, while Kazuya transforms into his Devil alter-ego.
Tekken 8 absolutely oozes visual splendour from every rippling muscle and fabric of clothing. Stages are vibrant and stunning to look at, from the gorgeous sunset on a boat as it cruises the river Seine, the glitter and glamour of Urban Square, the wind-swept sands of the Colosseum of Fate, to the bubbling lava that punctuates the outer space-themed Into the Stratosphere.
The game runs smoothly on PS5 with no signs of any slowdown noticeable, which really makes the animations pop with fluidity. Granted, some legacy animations remain and, when juxtaposed with the overall next-gen polish, are a bit glaring, but overall Tekken 8 looks utterly stunning in motion.
Tekken 8 is an utterly stunning, competent and engrossing sequel that surpasses its predecessor in every conceivable way. The Heat system is a brilliant addition that adds a whole new layer of tactical depth to fights, while the newcomers flesh out the already solid cast of unique combatants.
Aside from being a fundamentally strong fighting game, Tekken 8 complements its punchy combat with a hugely enjoyable story mode and a wealth of learning tools for newcomers. In short, it’s the most accessible, content-rich and enjoyable entry to date.
[Author’s note – Unfortunately we were unable to test the online functions for Tekken 8 during the review process. We will update this article once we have done so. However, after taking part in the CNT and CBT extensively, we found net code was extremely solid regardless of platform or region, so there’s every chance this has carried over to the finished product.]
Tekken 8 is scheduled for release on January 26, 2024 for PS5, PC, and Xbox Series X/S.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.