I’ve always liked the Tekken series but despite playing it on and off over the years, I’ve never committed to it in the same way that I have to Capcom’s genre defining, Street Fighter. I was always likely to pick up Tekken 7 at some point, but honestly, its impending release wasn’t really on my radar. That all changed when I had the opportunity to try it out in an arcade on a recent trip to South Korea. Korea isn’t exactly awash with arcades, but I came across a Tekken 7 cabinet in Busan and, well, that was that – I was hooked. A limited number of 1000 won bills and an increasingly bored wife curtailed my playing time, but it was clear from the off – I was going to enjoy Tekken 7.
After many hours spent with the home console version, it appears that my initial assumption was correct – I am indeed enjoying Tekken 7. It’s still the Tekken you know and love, but it has been polished here to within an inch of its life. It doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen in other Tekken games, but chances are, it does it better here than it has at any point in the series’ past. The slick gameplay, the great roster of fighters, the mountain of content, the fantastic visuals, heck, I even enjoyed the utterly bonkers story mode. It’s Tekken taken to its logical conclusion……until Tekken 8 shows up I suppose.
The first thing that will grab your attention upon starting up the latest bout of Iron Fist Tournament is just how good it all looks. Arc System Works might be pushing the visual boundaries of 2D fighters, but in the 3D realm, it has actually been a while since we have had a genuine looker. Street Fighter V and Injustice 2 look nice enough in their own way, but neither are visual power houses in the same way that Tekken 7 is. I don’t know why, but as someone who has always loved arcade gaming, I found it pleasingly reassuring to come across a 3D fighter that looks and feels so close to the technological cutting edge. Some might disagree given Injustice 2’s fantastic facial animations, but this feels like the full package, and in terms of moment to moment gameplay, Tekken 7 really does look like a cut above the opposition.
As for the fighting itself, well, this is still classic Tekken; as accessible and endlessly deep as it has always been, Tekken 7 delivers a near endless array of techniques, combos and playing styles for the hardcore alongside almost immediate gratification for the more casual players out there. Despite feeling incredibly similar to Tekken 6, the series remains in a league of its own when it comes to finding that sweet spot between the two extremes that the genre so often exists.
In terms of gameplay mechanics, beyond the new ‘Story Assist’ moves, the big change for Tekken 7 comes in the form of the Rage Art moves that allow you to perform more powerful attacks when teetering on the edge of defeat. Character specific Rage Drive attacks and Power Crush moves that absorb damage from a mid or a high attack, allowing you to continue your attack while taking damage, ensure that there is plenty of depth to this initially basic concept, but as always, it’s the new characters that ultimately steal the limelight.
A fantastic roster combining a huge number of classic characters alongside a healthy dose of new fighters (including the brilliantly implemented Akuma), Tekken 7 arguably has the finest roster in the series’ history (despite the disappointing absence of Roger the kangaroo). I’m not convinced too many of the new cast will go down as all-time greats, but with an array of fighting styles and some rather unique aesthetics on display, the new fighters successfully add to Tekken’s eclectic and undoubtedly unique cast of combatants.
Speaking of aesthetics, Tekken 7 goes above and beyond when it comes to customisation. Unlocked via what are essentially loot boxes (don’t worry, there is no unsavoury micro-transaction business going on here), Tekken 7 has a huge number of collectible tidbits with which to customise your fighter of choice. None of it has an effect on gameplay of course, but collecting the huge assortment of character accessories proves an unsurprisingly compelling pursuit.
The big draw however (well, for me at least), was the inclusion of a large-scale story mode centred primarily around the long-running Mishima saga. It’s arguably a tad heavy on the lore and certainly isn’t short of utter nonsense, but while it falls short of the exceptional Injustice 2 narrative, I for one enjoyed that classic Tekken combination of grandeur and absurdity. I didn’t always know what was going on, but I enjoyed it for as long as it lasted, and it proved a solid introduction to the games’ base mechanic before I invariably moved on to the decidedly less forgiving world of online competition.
Form my experience, Tekken 7 runs very smoothly online….thus giving me zero excuse for the abundance of ass whoopins I was subsequently subjected to. As is the case with most fighters, the world of online combat can be a chastening experience; the Tekken series has always provided that element of a punchers chance (something that is so sorely lacking from the more hardcore likes of Virtua Fighter), but still, unless you’re already well-versed in the ways of the Iron Fist Tournament, expect the learning curve to be steep and the beat downs to be regular (at least until you manage to find your feet).
Still, even if you are getting your ass handed to you, the quality of Tekken 7’s gameplay is such that you can take a beat down and still enjoy yourself. Every aspect of Tekken 7 feels like a learning experience without the game ever overloading you with complex systems and long-winded combos (despite the fact that they are very much there). It’s still Tekken at heart and arguably not all that different from its immediate predecessor, but despite the lack of obvious new features, everything here feels more polished and that little bit more thought out. From the solid online experience and brilliantly absurd Story Mode through to the great cast of characters and the utterly gorgeous visuals, Tekken 7 proves that sometimes, evolution is better than revolution.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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