If you look at the numbered entries into the Tekken franchise, it has been a decade since we last had a Tekken game. That is a long time. Since then we have moved from the PlayStation 3 to the PS4 and some have even moved to the PS4 Pro. It has been a long wait to get back to the Iron Fist Tournament but thankfully, good things come to those who wait.
Three dozen, please
Tekken 7 has 10 brand new characters in the mix. While Master Raven uses the same fighting style that Raven used, the others bring something new or unique to the table. From Akuma, the guest star with his EX-gauge instead of using Rage, to Shaheen, a noble warrior from Saudi Arabia with vicious twirling attacks and a couple of moves that start with an attack and end with a throw. There is also Katarina, a speedy kicker who gives Hwoarang a run for his money. Gigas is a hulking brute who uses his long arms and size to close in and toss enemies around or grind them into the floor. Lucky Chloe spins and somersaults while Kazumi will have you wondering how is it fair to bring a teleporting tiger into a fighting match?
While there are a number of characters I miss from the roster, the roster is over double the size that some fighting games launch with.
If new characters aren’t your thing (though I seriously recommend you try out some of them) a roster of 36 characters (or 37 if you pre-ordered to receive Eliza) is pretty meaty. While there are a number of characters I miss from the roster, the roster is over double the size that some fighting games launch with. I can feel I am getting old though. I still can pull of some of the moves from Tekken 3, but after mastering a combo or two, playing through arcade then swapping characters before heading back and I have forgotten all the combos from the first character. Eventually I got them to stick, but it is taking a bit longer than it used to. Eventually I will probably settle on a main or two, but for now it is too much fun learning how to incorporate old moves with new ones. If you played a character in a previous title they control pretty much the same here and that is a good thing. A few moves have had details changed, like being punishable or having stun added when counterhit. This means returning players have a few things to learn, but should be ready to fight in a short period of time.
Give into your rage
The biggest change is Rage and using it as a resource. When you are knocked below 20% health you enter a rage state, meaning your attacks do slightly more damage than normal. This allows you to change the course of the fight with a well-timed combo. Leaving your opponent below 20% health can be really dangerous for you, so keep that in mind as they get to low health. Rage can also be used up to perform a Rage Art or a Rage Drive. Rage Arts are super moves that if they connect properly will start off a flashy combo that does some serious damage. Rage Arts have power crush armour, meaning you can take a mid or high hit while performing them and still land the attack. Just be careful, you are already below 20% health. This attack ends your Rage and if blocked, many of them are punishable so try to finish off your opponent with this.
Learning how to use Rage, either the extra damage for juggles and launches, or using a drive or an art becomes a tactical decision you make during fights.
Rage Drives are more complicated and vary per character. They also end the Rage but don’t have power crush armour. These moves are sometimes big launchers or combo starters and extenders. Some Drives even give you an advantage when an opponent blocks, especially if they are near a wall.
Learning how to use Rage, either the extra damage for juggles and launches, or using a drive or an art becomes a tactical decision you make during fights. Is the enemy at low enough health that an art will finish the job? Can you take that kick and still connect? Rage only happens once per round and there is no carry over, so you can’t store up your super to use in the next round, like you would in many other fighting games. This also means messing up isn’t going to bite you the next round, as you will have access to Rage once again.
Tekken 7‘s story mode is focused on the story of Heihachi and his terrible family feuds and politics. The man has made enemies of so many and the world is plunged into war because of his fight with Kazuya. There are moments of the story that really stood out as a fan, like replaying the opening cinematic of Tekken 5, Kazuya and Heihachi fighting off waves of Jack robots sent to kill them. Moments like throwing Kazuya off the cliff and seeing flashbacks of previous cinematics as two titans fight. Where the story lacks the most is in the telling and the combat. The narrator of the tale, a reporter trying to understand why this war is destroying everything, including his family, sounds like he is reading the lines for the very first time in his worst Geralt impression. The near monotone delivery of a story of tragedy and anger falls terribly flat and I honestly have no idea how it got by the quality controls.
In the combat you have to take on sometimes super-powered versions of characters with a variety of fighters. The game offers some assistance in the form of a story guide button. Hold in L1 and the face buttons each become a special move. Even with this, the fighting is tough and mean, with characters spamming you into the ground or into the air repeatedly. On a lower difficulty level, your punch buttons become two different combos that you can just press over and over. While this will help you beat the level, it does absolutely nothing to teach you how to play the game. It isn’t fun to just hit a button and see a combo fire off, not knowing how to do it yourself. While some players don’t mind hitting practice mode and learning the moves, or watching a few matches then trying to replicate those moves later, not everyone has that drive to learn. When it comes to newcomers, it feels like Tekken 7 hasn’t done anything to help them learn the ropes and layers of strategy involved in a fighting game. This is sad because with a roster full of new characters and such a long time since a release, this is the perfect time to get new blood excited about fighting games. If you were hoping for a nice place to learn how to play, you either need to learn by doing or hook up with someone who already knows what’s what.
It isn’t fun to just hit a button and see a combo fire off, not knowing how to do it yourself.
What it does do well is offer an upgrade on graphics, a solid roster of fighters, solid fights over the internet (unless your opponent lives in PE it seems) and a large healthy dose of nostalgia. All of the cinematics and artworks of the previous games are in the gallery, waiting to be unlocked with fight money. Every game’s soundtrack is there for you to listen to or set your favourite songs to play during fights. It took me many hours to unlock everything and if you thought the serious tone of Heihachi’s family feud would stop the game from its oddball humour, think again. The story scenes for Paul, Leo, Yoshimitsu and many more are completely out there and serve as a reminder that not everyone is involved in the Iron Fist tournament for murder or revenge. The customisation system is greatly improved too with characters holding items or wearing new outfits in a natural way, rather than the previous game’s versions where added items tended to just float near your character.
It has been a while since I played a fighting game until my thumbs hurt and I can already feel my reflexes being honed back into shape. Finding an opening, knowing what move I will use to punish this blocked combo as it ends, choosing between a quick juggle with a screw attack, or use a nearby wall. Is the floor breakable on this level? So many questions pop into your head at any one moment in Tekken and eventually you will have lost hours to perfecting your juggles and reaction times. The layers of strategy and resources available to players is absolutely immense, which is absolutely great for series veterans and technical fighters. That doesn’t stop Tekken from being fun for newbies though. Intuitive controls and being able to learn by watching others play have always been the mainstay of the series and the move lists have handy icons to show if a move has screw or power crush properties, letting you start with those and then flesh your arsenal out from there.
Tekken is just a few game modes short of brilliance.
Tekken is just a few game modes short of brilliance. Team Attack, Tekken Force, Survival, Tekken Ball and all the other zany modes you can think of are sadly missing. What is on offer, including the complex, over the top story of Heihachi and his family, is a right treat though, placing this game with the greats. Enter the Tekken.