While only releasing on home consoles recently, in reality, Tekken 7 has been playable for around 2 years. Having been first released to middling impressions on a limited run in arcades, the next generation debut of The King of Iron Fist Tournament was certainly an intriguing one. Before it's home console release, I was very interested to see what space Tekken 7 filled in today's fighting game cannon. With the recent release of the excellent Injustice 2, the niche but well loved Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 and the polarising and troubled life span of Street Fighter 5 still ongoing, there didn't seem much room left for Jin and pals. If they were going to stake a claim back in a crowded market they were going to have to deliver excellent fighting, a great story mode and a lot of content, and while not without its stumbles, I think they may have done it. Get ready for the next battle.
Tekken’s story mode follows the world's dullest reporter recounting his investigation into the story of Heihachi Mishima. Through some truly horrendous delivered narration, the narrative moves between short fights between a small handful of the characters. The chapters focussing on Heihachi and Kazuya are great and reframe some of the Tekken lore in interesting ways. The integration of cutscenes from previous Tekken games is bold, and although the sudden change in graphical quality is noticeable, it's a nice inclusion. In fact, every cut scene from every Tekken game is available to purchase in game with “fight money”. I know that sounds like it’s a microtransaction trap, but in reality, fight money flows plentifully from most modes and isn’t available for purchase at the time of writing.
Story mode is rather short and the moments that deviate from the story of the Mishima Zaibatsu are profoundly boring. Some cutscenes are fully animated while others use a motion comic motif. It comes across as a cost cutting measure rather than a stylistic one. Characters that aren't present in the story feature in “Character Episodes” which are single fights against a set opponent with a small cutscene following each of them. These endings are where Tekken lets its hair down and cranks the camp factor up significantly. There has always been a weird quality to Tekken (fighting pandas, talking men made of wood, etc) and that is evident in these short character stories.
The main story isn’t completely dry, however, as a special appearance from Street Fighters Akuma takes the narrative in some strange directions. I was surprised how focused the game was on such a significant cameo. It certainly lays the seeds for the revival of the once announced Tekken X Street Fighter, and after playing as Akuma in the game, it does feel like that’s what they are building up to.
Tekken 7 is a 3D fighter, but for the majority of the time, you won’t notice. While dodging into and away from the screen in order to dodge projectiles is a key strategy, I found most of my encounters took place as if the game was locked to 2D. Fights are short, and moves do a lot of damage. Many stages have destructible elements such as transitioning through floors or walls, but the speed at which health decreases is so fast that I rarely used them, or had them executed against me.
Learning and executing combos is a key part of success on harder difficulties and online in Tekken 7. While the strings can be long and have brutally tight timing windows, they are very satisfying to pull off. Even if all you can do is mash, you’ll still be able to pull off some decent enough looking moves. New to the series are Rage Arts. These super moves become available once you reach under 25% health and deal a significant amount of damage, similar to Injustice 2’s bombastic manoeuvres, these can turn the tide of battle in an instant. They can be executed by pressing R1 but are easily blocked. The skill comes in integrating them into a chain in order to use them with devastating effect.
Aside from story mode, Tekken’s offline offerings include a standard arcade mode, as well as treasure battle. In treasure battle, you’ll fight a series of encounters which all have a piece of treasure as a reward. These treasure chests contain the games sizable pool of loot. Again this is similar to Injustice 2, but in Tekken, the loot does not affect stats. Some projectile moves are unlocked with special items like rifles, but these take so long to execute and do so little damage that they are more of a fun gimmick than a game breaking addition. The loot system is a great addition in terms of personalising your favourite characters. The range of options is substantial, ranging from a shower head that will make your character soaking wet to a full outfit for King inspired by New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Kazuchika Okada. Wearing this entire outfit unlocks a special Rage Art exclusively for King, which I use religiously.
Tekken 7 runs at a rock solid 60 FPS but at a cost. The game runs at a sub 900p resolution on an original PS4 and while the character models are all well designed, there is a definite lack of sharpness. There are plenty of stages with a large variety of art styles and themes. Stages also vary in shape, making for interesting strategic changes such as attempting to force your opponent into a corner in order to break them through the wall. However, as I mentioned earlier, fights are over so quickly, that these moments of serendipitous destruction are rare.
Tekken 7’s soundtrack is fantastic. It not only features a host of new loud, energetic and imposing electronic and metal tracks, but also includes the soundtracks to every previously released Tekken game ever, giving the game an insane number of songs to listen to as you play.
The PS4 version of Tekken 7 is PlayStation VR compatible, but its implementation is laughable. In “VR Mode” your options include playing an endless fight against AI on a single stage or looking at characters in the customisation menu. It’s exactly the type of gimmick that should be kept far away from PSVR. Advertising VR compatibility on the front of the box and delivering so little is insulting.
Tekken 7 reminds me a lot of Mortal Kombat 9. Not in its gameplay or gore, but in its function as a celebration of the series. The fighting is fun and easy to learn, the character roster is deep and varied and the wealth of offline content is admirable. While the story mode under delivers in parts, the character episodes are a nice concession for characters that don’t get their due in the main narrative. Tekken's wealth of legacy content is a fantastic addition and something more games should learn from. As is the huge amount of customisation options. There has never been a better time to be a fighting game fan.
|+ Fun, intuitive controls.||– Uneven story mode.|
|+ Large, colourful cast of fighters.||– Poor resolution and detail.|
|+ Significant amounts of offline content.||– Terrible, pointless VR mode.|
|+ The history of Tekken is celebrated.|
|+ Plenty of customisation options.|