Tekken 7 is the latest entry in a series that most of us have grown up with over the years. Sit in a room full of random gamers, look to your left, look to your right, and chances are all three of you have played at least one Tekken game.
In my case my fondest memories of the game go back to playing Tekken 2 at a friend’s house on their Playstation and we would go about it for HOURS on end. When my parents would announce we would go over to their house for the day, I would already be dressed and sitting in the car waiting to take off before they even finished their sentence.
Having skipped most of the games until now, I wonder if the series will be able to grab my attention again, some 15 years later.
You’d be forgiven for expecting that the story mode can largely be skipped as the many years of fighting games being released have thought us to expect nothing more than a simple intro, a fated battle vs a rival and some fancy CGI cutscene after beating the final boss in Arcade mode. But Tekken 7 takes a different approach: Instead of having the story depend on the chosen character, you’ll see a pretty decently developed mythos for the Mishima family. It takes off after the events of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and tells us the story of Heihachi’s Mishima Zaibatsu facing off versus his son’s (Kazuya) G-Corp company for domination of the world. It’s told from the perspective of a reporter who has lost his entire family due to the struggle between these two giants, but he never enters the fray himself.
While I won’t go into too many details as to not spoil anything, it revolves around getting Jin (Heihachi’s grandson/ Kazuya’s son) in custody and painting a bad picture in the media for the other company so they can take over the world for themselves. Looking at the history of the entire series, the story has waxed and waned so often and people have seemingly died and come back to life so many times, it’s gotten to be about as convoluted as DragonBall Z or Kingdom Hearts.
It’s only after beating the main story (which counts 15 chapters) that you unlock the Side-character episodes. But disappointingly those fall into the earlier mentioned category where you only get a text-based intro, a singular fight vs their rival and then a cutscene. So don’t count on getting too much background information on your favourite fighter if it’s not one of the Mishima bloodline charactersâ€¦
Luckily the game does have a huge collection of all the videos of past games, which can be unlocked by paying for them with in-game currency. They’re not expensive at all and you could spend hours just watching these. It’s a very welcome addition for people who haven’t kept up with previous events so I for one am happy this was included.
When it comes to the story mode I found it kind of jarring how they re-used said cutscenes from previous games when those look even worse than in-game character models these days. But that’s more of a testament to how far we’ve gotten and how great they look now. During the story the game will often switch between cutscenes using the game engine, to animated style ones, to flashbacks of old ones and also mixing in some new CGI ones.
As for how the game looks while actually playing; it’s without a doubt the best looking Tekken yet and we’ve never before seen characters quite as detailed as they are now. It looks amazing and the vibrant colours just splash off the screen. My main gripe is how almost all male models look like some Gears of War buff boys (a trend we’ve also seen in Resident evil 5 & 6) but maybe that’s just the Unreal Engine’s way of showing off its chops?
But have no fear, as the female chests don’t go ignored:
As for the stages you’ll be fighting in: the level of detail in them differs a lot from one to the other. While I found some stages quite boring, for example the multi-stage jungle one with mostly bland foliage and textures, others are a lovely sight, like this castle interior.
But the backgrounds isn’t nearly as interesting as what’s happening in the foreground. When characters clash there are multiple new visual elements that really got me drooling. When two fighters throw a punch at practically the same time, the game will sometime zoom in on it and enter slow motion to clearly show you who connected first. When you deal the final blow, there is also a really awesome looking final impact like effect with shockwaves and particles that really bring the presentation home.
In the end the game is simply a joy to look at and I’ll gladly forgive its minor flaws.
Tekken 7 comes with some pretty decent soundtracks, but it’s not as if they’re so memorable that I can still recall tunes hours after playing the game. Nevertheless, while playing it I found myself tapping my feet to the rhythm at least a few types and even caught myself trying to time some punches to the beats.
What deserves some real attention here is the effort they put in the voice work of the characters. It’s not like the voice-actors are quoting lines from Shakespeare, in fact some lines are Resident Evil levels of cheesy, but I immensely appreciate how they all spoke in their original language: the Mishima’s speak Japanese, Nina speaks English… I also heard German, Italian and Arabic voices and that’s something you just don’t hear every day in a video game.
When it comes to fighting, the game feels largely familiar, with classic characters still able to perform their signature moves with the same inputs as 15 years ago. The major new element that has been intrduced are Rage Arts and Rage Drives, which are special moves you can only perform when you’re dangerously low on health. The power of these moves also depend on how low you are, so a fighter at 5% for example can perform a Rage Art that hits for up to 50% of the enemy’s life bar at the press of a button (default mapped to R1). Luckily these moves can be dodged or blocked and they can’t be performed from a distance. I was mostly dissapointed with how most of them didn’t look all that spectacular when compared to Mortal Kombat’s bone breaking attacks or finishers or Killer Instinct’s Ultra Combo’s.
While the attack above might look amazing, the most efficient method of beating an opponent is still leg-sweeping attacks or juggling them in the air. In Tekken 7 more so than other games, the combo’s feel difficult to escape from unless you perfectly know the move-set of your opponent and how to block it.
The movement of the characters also feels a tad too sluggish, as if they’re moving on a traintrack. I couldn’t help shake the feeling I wasn’t in full control of them and exactly where they would end up after some directional inputs. It did grow used to it after a few dozen fights though.
Speaking of going through a lot of battles: fighting games are usually great “Pick-up-and-play” type games, but I’ve never quite been as addicted to the effects of “just one more fight” as I have been here. The main benefactor to this was the Treasure battles: simple fights against random CPU controlled opponents that let you rank up and gain both credits and cosmetic items for your characters. It’s so easy to just enter one more battle and you’re always curious what you’ll unlock next. It’s just a shame that you don’t unlock character-specific items.
If you don’t like to wait for the random drop of the item you were looking for, you can always buy it from the store as well, using ingame credits. I really appreciate how there hasn’t been a greedy move here to get you to invest real money: the game throws coins at you with the thousands (in fact you even get 3 million when starting the game, I just blew it all on unlocking the CGI movies). With 36 playable characters, there’s plenty to unlock. The promotion you can earn when winning battles is also character specific, so you’ll have to put all of them through the mill.
When going through these Treasure Battles, you’ll also encounter special events against more powerful enemies (obviously rewarding you with better items too) as well as battles with certain additional gamechangers (like double damage, turbo speed, heist battles where you steal the opponents item…). Again, one can appreciate they put this in as it changes up the pace a bit.
Coming back shortly to the Story mode, I loved how they made changes to the gameplay here as well: there’s a battle where you play as Lars and you can switch into a 3rd person shooter mode with the press of a button. There are even battles where the lifebar is used to further the story, with the enemy’s regenerating because they’re in demon mode or one where Heihachi startsw with an almost emptied lifebar but he takes little to no damage. All nifty Ideas!
I do feel that Rounds are over too fast however; most attacks pack too much of a punch and a round can be over in seconds. I would have preferred if they ditched the “first X rounds won” system and just went with a 200% or 300% lifebar.
Lastly, I’d also like to mention how they let you completely customize your button inputs in the settings. This can be especially useful if you map diagonal button combinations to the unused shoulder buttons (I had X + Triangle mapped to L2 and Square + Circle mapped to R2 for example as those are otherwise hard to push at the same time)
Tekken 7 is a great entry in the series that doesn’t take many chances in the gameplay department but has a bold story-mode and a very addictive Treasure Mode that will keep you coming back to the game time after time.