Bandai Namco

Tekken 8 Tries to Balance Old and New – TGS 2023

Tekken 8, set to launch in January 2024, is generating excitement among fans of the franchise as it aims to build upon the success of its predecessor, Tekken 7. With the gaming market becoming increasingly saturated with fighting games, Tekken 8 is striving to strike a delicate balance between catering to its dedicated fanbase and attracting new players.

During a special press showcase held at Bandai Namco Entertainment in Tokyo, Japan, attendees were given the opportunity to experience an early build of Tekken 8. The game currently features 32 characters, although only 16 were available for playtesting at the event. The character roster comprises a mix of beloved veterans like Paul Phoenix and Jin Kazama, alongside newer additions such as Claudio Serafino and Lars Alexandersson. Notably, all the character models in Tekken 8 have been redesigned from scratch, reflecting the transition from Unreal Engine 4 to Unreal Engine 5.

As Tekken celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, the franchise faces the challenge of striking a balance between catering to its loyal fanbase and enticing new players. To achieve this, Tekken 8 incorporates dual control options: Arcade style and Special style. The Arcade style retains the classic four-button attack scheme, with one input per limb, perfect for fans who prefer the traditional experience. On the other hand, Special style allows players to execute command moves and complex combos with simple button presses, providing a more accessible option for newcomers. Series producer Michael Murray emphasizes the flexibility of Special style, allowing players to toggle it on or off mid-match. This approach offers players the opportunity to experiment and find their preferred control scheme.

One of the key enhancements in Tekken 8’s Special style is the ability for players to combine buttons and directional inputs to activate a wider variety of moves. Additionally, the on-screen user interface has been improved to provide clearer descriptions of each button’s function, making it easier for new players to understand and execute moves. This attention to detail in Special mode helps players quickly grasp the mechanics and flow of the game.

While Special style offers accessibility and ease of use, it doesn’t quite provide the same level of player freedom as the traditional Arcade inputs. Murray acknowledges this limitation and hopes that players will eventually transition to Arcade style as they become more comfortable with the game. Special style, therefore, serves as a stepping stone for new players, gradually introducing them to the complexities of the Arcade controls.

Based on personal experience with Tekken 8, the Special style indeed offers a refreshing take on the game and assists in solidifying fundamental skills. It provides a shortcut for executing long combos with every character, regardless of the player’s previous experience. The inclusion of a Rage Art mechanic, where a devastating special move can be activated with a single button press after accumulating enough meter, adds a sense of speed and power to every round. This, combined with the new Heat system that rewards aggressive play, ensures an engaging and dynamic gameplay experience.

However, Tekken 8’s emphasis on flashy, lengthy combos presents a potential drawback. While maintaining constant pressure on opponents can be rewarding, a single mistake can leave a player vulnerable to devastating counterattacks. The frustration of being helplessly juggled through the air for seconds at a time during a combo can be disheartening. Certain characters, such as Jack-8, with their larger hitboxes, may be more susceptible to such endless juggling. This aspect of gameplay highlights the importance of mastering defense and positioning to avoid being overwhelmed by relentless assaults.

To assist players in navigating the plethora of moves and combos in Tekken 8, the game includes an Arcade Quest mode designed to provide guidance. This mode aims to demystify the extensive move list by highlighting the essential and situational moves for each character. By focusing on a select set of moves, players can quickly grasp the key elements of each character’s playstyle.

In addition to gameplay improvements, Tekken 8 introduces a visually stunning lobby system that resembles a vibrant shopping mall. The Battle Area within the lobby features a virtual arcade where players can customize their avatars and interact with others through text chat, emotes, and stamps. Quick matches offer casual play, while Ranked battles provide a more competitive experience. Similar to a real arcade setting, players can also spectate matches to learn from other players’ strategies.

An intriguing online feature of Tekken 8 is the Super Ghost Battle mode, which utilizes AI learning to create CPU opponents based on individual gameplay habits. These Ghosts evolve over time and can be challenged by other players, even when the original player is offline. This feature adds an element of unpredictability and the opportunity for players to test their skills against progressively intelligent opponents.

To provide players with a sneak peek into the world of Tekken 8 and its new features, a closed beta test will be held in October. The beta will be available to players on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Steam, offering a glimpse into the Battle Area and Customization Shop. These new additions aim to further enhance the overall gameplay experience and give players the opportunity to personalize their avatars.