It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the last proper Tekken game on home consoles – Tekken Tag Tournament 2 released in 2012 on the PlayStation 3, while the now-discontinued Tekken Revolution launched in 2013. A lot has happened in the meantime in the world of fighters. Can Tekken 7 do new and exciting things for the franchise, or is playing it safe the way forward?
New Tech, Same Foes
Bandai Namco Studios has opted to use the Unreal Engine 4 this time around. This should result in similar performance across platforms. The game runs locked at 60 frames-per-second (fps), and doesn’t appear to falter at any time. Anti-aliasing appears to be in full effect, and jagged edges are a rare sight as a result. This is the best-looking Tekken game, to be sure, and while its graphical fidelity may not be as high as Injustice 2, it is certainly pleasing to look at.
Tekken 7 has been out in arcades since March 18, 2015 in Japan, where they still carry some weight in city life. If there’s one area in which arcades still reign supreme, it’s in load times. Since arcade boards are often flash-based, Tekken 7 loads much more quickly in its arcade form than what we have on consoles. Indeed, you can expect some fairly hefty load changes between fights. In fact, some game modes seem to favor running multiple battles in the same stage, perhaps to cut down on loading in additional assets, decreasing load times in the process.
Tekken has always been known as a technical fighter. Tekken 7 is no different in this regard. With a starting roster of 36 characters, there’s bound to be one to match your playing style. From the quick legwork of Nina to the slow but powerful punches of newcomer Gigas, it’s an interesting mix. Then again, there’s always Kuma and Panda if you feel like controlling something more unconventional.
No Holding Back
If you’re looking to get started with a Tekken career, then you’ll need to learn in a trial-by-fire method. There’s no real tutorial to speak of, with just a swath of icons and Practice mode to be utilized as you try to get used to each character. The Treasure Battles (more on those in a bit) are a good place to level up and get used to some combos, as well. Alternatively, running through the campaign mode on easy is another viable option, though the gap between easy and medium is rather large. Essentially, you should expect to play a lot of easy battles as you slowly learn the ropes if you’re not already familiar with the series.
So what’s changed between Tekken 6 and Tekken 7? There are a few main gameplay differences to pay attention to: first is the “Bound System”, which has been replaced by the “Screw Attack.” This launches an enemy airborne and turns them sideways, lining them up for followup attacks. Unlike the Bound System, however, you cannot use a Screw Attack combined with wall combos, which felt cheap anyway. Next, if you are in the middle of an attack and get hit by an opponent, you can continue the execution of your attack if you’re not receiving much damage. This comes in handy when executing the new “Rage Drive” and “Rage Arts” moves.
Once you have received enough damage to enter the reddish portion of your health bar, your character will begin to glow with a red aura. It is here that you can decide to use specialized, damage-enhanced Rage Drive moves and combos, in an attempt to get back in the fight, or you can press R1 or an equivalent combo to launch into a Rage Arts move. These are special finishing moves that are designed to inflict approximately 30% of an entire health bar’s worth of damage. The closer you are to being KO’d, the more damage this super move inflicts. But choose wisely: if you start to perform Rage Drive moves, you cannot use the Rage Arts move, and vice versa. These new Rage moves are destined to be featured on many tournament reels, because they can quickly shift any battle dramatically.
A More Cinematic Attempt
Cinematic campaigns are all the rage in fighting games these days; just look at Mortal Kombat, Injustice, and Street Fighter. Tekken 7 didn’t want to be left out, and includes a complete single-player campaign. It’s quite short – an average playthrough will take approximately 90 minutes or so. Unlike the other games in the genre, you are not given any options regarding who to play as. This is a story about the Mishima clan, and so it does at least feel more focused than other games. Yet there are some quirks that are hard to explain away, like the fact that various characters speak Japanese, English, Italian, and Chinese, all interchangeably, and with everyone understanding what the other is saying. Why Kazuya’s henchmen speak English while he speaks Japanese is unknown and odd, for instance.
Outside of the main story, there are also multiple character episodes set up in pairs. The scenarios take place alongside the main story, and play out a short side story which ends in a certain way depending on which player you chose to fight as. These are all single fights, which results in a disappointing length per episode, and will likely have you wanting for a more satisfying story for each character. What’s here is good, it’s just that there’s not enough of it.
Customize Like A Mad Kazuya
Fighting games have become all about character customization these days, and Tekken 7 has that in spades. While you can earn various unlocks by playing the main campaign, the majority of your treasure-hunting time will likely be spent in the Treasure Battle mode. This is an endless fight mode where you can rank up each of the game’s characters. Win a battle, and you’ll usually open a treasure chest of varying rarity. Win enough battles in a row, and you’ll occasionally face special battles, such as fighting against Akuma or Kazumi, or battles with modifiers, including turbo battles where the speed is doubled, double damage rounds, or the extra rare Aerial Juggle, where only air-juggled fighters receive damage.
Unlocks include character-specific clothing and accessories, as well as items which can be equipped by all characters. Some of the more eccentric items include hovering pet fish, ghosts, and even different effects for when you hit your opponent. When you’re done accessorizing, you can save your character in one of ten preset slots, per character. There are essentially limitless combinations to be made, so having a generous number of save slots per character is appreciated. Running each character through their various warm-up and victory poses to save as a thumbnail for the presets is a fun touch as well.
The Tekken series is a long and storied franchise, dating back to the arcades in 1994 and the original PlayStation in 1995. So for many fans, Tekken 7’s gallery will be a blast from the past. Here, you can view many of the previous console games’ cinematics and endings, as well as campaign cinematics that you have unlocked by playing through the single-player story. It’s a fun trip down memory lane, showing us just how far gaming has come in terms of graphics, presentation, and sound design.
Strut Your Stuff Online
There is online for Tekken 7, of course, with more emphasis on ranked matches than anything else. You can participate in ranked and unranked battles, and multi-stage tournaments. There’s not much else beyond this, and of course your internet connection will play a large factor in how much enjoyment you get out of this mode. While the server population was extremely low during our review, it will be fun to see all the different customizations that other players use. If you find yourself consistently with a less-than-desireable connection, the game’s practice mode does enable you to simulate the input lag you are likely to see, in order to better train yourself for those kinds of matches.
Multiplayer will be the place where fighters come to show off. You can unlock nameplates, titles, and all sorts of graphics to customize the background of your player card. This includes the artwork that shows up for each character, so you can choose a piece of concept art that shows off your favorite character in a new way. You can even customize the graphics around your life bar, to tailor the interface to exactly how you like it. Some nameplates are unlocked only by reaching a certain player rank, and will serve as a way to communicate with other fans just how hardcore of a player you are – or not!
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Pick Your Soundtrack
Speaking of audio, Tekken 7 also features a Jukebox feature. This enables you to tailor the game’s soundtrack to your exacting specifications. Particularly awesome is the ability to play music from all past Tekken games, shuffled. While the soundtrack that ships with the game is more than suitable, and makes the game feel like it was ripped straight out of an arcade, the tracks can feel a little repetitive after some time; this functionality solves that problem instantaneously and permanently.
Tekken 7 remains an addicting technical fighter that constantly beckons you for just one more round. There are so many moves for each character, mastering even one complete move set will take nothing less than complete dedication. While it doesn’t feel as though Namco Bandai has done much to innovate in the genre from the surface, those who prefer Tekken’s brand of fighting than those of Capcom’s or NetherRealm’s will be in for a treat. Fans of the series will feel right at home, while those looking to ease their way into the series will find a lot to chew on. All that being said, Tekken 7 is a formidable entry into the fighting genre, and will provide hundreds of hours of fun for fans and newcomers alike. Just be prepared to learn a lot of new stuff.
Review code for Tekken 7 provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.