It feels like Tekken 7 has been a long time coming. The last entry in the series, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, came out in 2011 and the last numbered entry, Tekken 6, was released in 2007. Although both games were well received, it’s certainly time to give the series a little bit of a refresh. This will also be the first Tekken title to launch on the ‘new’ consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One, alongside the PC release.
But is Tekken really capable of evolving beyond the arcade fighter it originally started as? Can it really evolve into a title that deserves to live on?
Well, we got a chance to play through the first eight chapters of the Tekken 7 campaign, try out the brand new PlayStation VR mode and several of the other new features. And we’re happy to report that there’s plenty of good stuff to report, even if it sometimes feels stuck in the past.
The Same Fighting Style You Know and Love
The best thing about Tekken 7 so far is that it retains the fighting style that’s made the series so successful since its first outing on arcades in 1994. It’s exactly the same action as it’s always been, with players almost instinctively knowing that mashing the face buttons with a few pushes of the left analogue stick will usually let you pull off some utterly ridiculous combos.
Interestingly there are a few new fight features to experience in Tekken 7. Take Lars, for example, who was first introduced in Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion. He can actually shoot his enemies mid-battle with a pistol, introducing third-person shooting into the game for the first time. It’s definitely strange, but actually almost works.
But, whether it’s Panda fighting the animatronic Alisa or Kazuya fighting Nina (again), there’s plenty of combos to discover and now new Rage Arts too. These are extremely powerful moves that work off how much rage your character builds up during a match. You can only use them once before you’ll need to build up your rage again, but they’re the sort of mad frenzied attack that your opponent can’t avoid – especially when you’ve rolled them into the end of a combo.
Don’t expect anything massively revolutionary from Tekken 7‘s gameplay, but that’s for the best. This is tried and thoroughly tested stuff, and as the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
A Story Full of Gorgonzola
The storyline, on the other hand, may well appeal to those long-term fans looking for the same over-the-top, bonkers narratives we’ve seen so far, but also may put off anyone coming into the series afresh. This is the end of the Mishima legacy and most of the drama revolves around the warring G-Corp and Mishima Zaibatsu, as well as the Mishima family itself: Kayuza, Jin, Heihachi and the deceased Kazumi.
Playing through the first couple of hours of the campaign sees you fighting as Heihachi as he battles to retake his position as the head of the Mishima Zaibatsu, taking out G-Corp thugs and even having a bit of a tiff with his right-hand lady, Nina. You are faced with taking on a raft of characters from the Tekken series, including Alisha and Heihachi. It’s fun to work out how to change your fighting style in order to deal with their different attack strengths and weaknesses. Heihachi is a heavy, for example, so taking a few hits from him is going to quickly wipe out your health bar.
For us, the trickiest foe in the opening eight chapters of the story was Claudio. His magic-fuelled ranged attacks mean that it’s incredibly difficult get near enough to unleash Heihachi’s up close and personal tactics. Once we managed to break through his imitable defences, one of Heihachi’s Demon Uppercuts sorted him right out.
That’s what’s so great about the Tekken 7 storyline. It introduces the characters into fights in stages, letting you learn their unique styles so you can later use that knowledge to your advantage in the competitive modes.
But there’s no getting away from the fact Tekken 7‘s storyline is absolutely dripping with cheese. Cutscenes are a mix of ridiculously over the top combat sequences and supposedly emotionally-charged dialogue that just ends up being cringeworthy. The action scenes get to the point that you actually see Heihachi punching missiles. Yes, seriously – it’s like a Jason Statham action movie gone wrong. It doesn’t help that they’re excessively long and most of the footage seems superfluous to the actual plot.
The sections where you’re actually asked to fight are few and far between. So much so that sometimes they can catch you off guard as it’s almost easy enough to space out whilst trying to endure the cutscenes. There is a skip button, but it depends how much cheese you can take, really.
There’s also a strange blend of CGI and hand-drawn, comic book-esque art styles with voiceovers in these cutscenes, which makes the game feel really old-fashioned – and not in a nostalgia-laced kind of way. It’s a shame because this should be the best looking Tekken to date because it’s the first to use the Unreal Engine. It certainly looks better than the series has ever done, but it’s far from the graphics you’d expect from a top of the line PS4 game.
A Pointless VR Mode
In order to try and bring it into the modern age, Bandai Namco has added some extra features, including a virtual reality mode for the PS VR. But it’s another superfluous feature, at least in the stage we’ve seen. It simply sees you playing out practice battles with an AI-controlled character, with no HUD data or general areas. You’re just battling in a cosmic vastness, and it feels incredibly empty and lacklustre.
Thankfully it’s balanced out with a new Jukebox mode that let’s you enjoy the excellent Tekken 7 music whenever you fancy.
Will Tekken 7 be Any Good?
We know what fans want from Tekken 7. They’re not too bothered by a cheesy storyline, because for them it’s all about the beat ’em up. Eccentricity and over-the-top action has always been a key part of Tekken, and in terms of the gameplay this is more of the same in the best ways.
It’s just a shame that Tekken 7 doesn’t make a little more of the new consoles, instead choosing to be iterative rather than innovative.
Tekken 7 launches on June 2 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.