Plenty of fighting games have been and gone, with only a select few standing the test of time. The likes of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter continue to thrive, yet Mortal Kombat does not so much! But one champion of the genre returns to the stage after what feels like an age (well, 8 years in fact!) and is set to make a stellar comeback. Tekken 8 is the latest main instalment of the ground-breaking fighting franchise which has spanned 4 video game generations, amassed millions of fans, and is seen in every arcade around the world … people, please welcome back Tekken!

What is Tekken 8?

I must admit, it’s been a little while since I played Tekken. Back in the day, Tekken 1 to 3 were massively enjoyed by me and my older brother, with Tekken Tag Tournament being the first game I got for my PS2 back in 2001. We loved fighting games, down to their pure gameplay nature, and the fact we could beat the living s*** out of each other without getting into trouble.

Since then, fighting games have come and gone, and I lost touch with Tekken and others over the years. So, I thought it would be best to return to one of the greatest fighting series ever made.

With a brilliant story overview by Logan Roy (aka Brian Cox!). Tekken is an absolute legendary series, one that’s rooted in gaming and never shies away from its glorious past.

Tekken 8 sees the return of Jin Kazama and Kazuya Mishima after the death of Heihachi Mishima, the series' iconic antagonist and lead in the early games. The world is a much darker place, with great turmoil on the horizon. War is ready to rage across the globe,

It’s just like one of my Japanese anime

Tekken’s legacy and lore span far and wide, which usually involves a father throwing his son into a volcano, or vice versa. For such a long-running fighting series which continues the story, there have been many ups and downs, but I highly respect that after 8 games and a few spin-offs, Tekken manages to flow continuously and evolve with new characters and story beats. Even Mortal Kombat had to reboot twice to seal all its branching lore and mainline stories to be coherent.

Recapping the events of the previous Tekken games and speaking with a few friends who have been long-time fans, it appears Tekken 8 rights a lot of wrongs and manages to grasp a strong focal point for a narrative. Even though I’ve jumped in and out of previous Tekken games, I was able to grasp and understand what was happening here.

While the campaign itself is not very long, it does go all out on the action, drama and twists and turns to keep you invested. What is an interesting thematic element for Tekken over the years is the notion of legacy, with fathers and sons passing on curses, and responsibilities and ultimately coming to conflict over differing ideologies and convictions. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff and I will admit, Eastern creators and media focusing on this type of subject matter do it so well, and Tekken is no exception, due to a strong cast of characters, an immense amount of tension and dramatic flair, and nailing those all-critical story beats.

There are a few moments which go too overboard or overly “anime” for my liking, and the pacing for the second act is a little all over the place, being a drag, or speeding up too quickly to get to the main feature which is the tournament. Thus, certain characters, like Paul are glanced over and lack any real development, which is a shame for fans of those characters. But there are a few new additions to the roaster and plenty of fan favourites returning for a good old punch-up.

New inclusions with the likes of Victor, a cool silver fox (or DILF) UN agent, written in as a figure who’s been hiding in the shadows of previous Tekken games, training certain fighters for his agenda. Asusena, is a fiery, bubbly, happy-go-lucky coffee mogul who’s always moving, back-chatting and confident in any fight. And then we have our most mysterious and intriguing new character Raina, whose appearance is here to link Tekken 7 and 8 in some meaningfully profound ways.

More on them in the gameplay section, but their inclusion in Tekken does help spring some new life into a solid, yet very familiar roast. But that aside, the fighters here cover a wide range of fighting styles, yet add something, be it minor or impactful, to the narrative. And it’s nice to see some returning favourites in a story that hits some great high notes.

Even 30 years on, Tekken is still spectacular in style

While games like Mortal Kombat 1 and Street Fighter 6 do indeed look impressive, I have to say that Tekken 8 just nails it with breathtaking presentation and style. From the opening credits to the very end, Tekken 8 just admits such radiance, passion and an ultra-confident visual flair that I couldn’t stop myself from gearing up, getting into the grove and being massively impressed after countless fights.

The visual presentation is jaw-dropping at times, with everything feeling impressively clean, clear, and vibrantly alive and flashy. Everything looks stunning, with a precision-perfect performance that never let me down, and above all, the killer soundtrack is something otherworldly. Tekken was always a grand master in its presentation, even back in the day of the 90’s arcade. But Tekken 8 blew me away in just how immense it showcases beautiful, cutting-edge graphics, fluent and stable performance, and brings total bliss to your ears with an amazing soundtrack.

All the voices are great, but I must applaud Lenne Hardt as being one of, if not the best announcer in fighting game history!

I will acknowledge a couple of disappointments, with cutscenes being pre-rendered, when in-game would have looked so much better and seamless, and the main menu just being somewhat goofy. It’s one of those menus where you see a main character and each option sees a different part of their body. It’s odd, and even more silly as you can move the camera in a jittering fashion that makes it look hilarious. Not a bad thing, but me and my partner were in hysterics as jittering the camera on an otherwise very serious-looking menu screen.

But otherwise, the presentation is magnificent in every way, shape and form.

Thems fighting words!

Tekken strives for its fighting mastery, being that it does take a lot of time and practice to fully immerse yourself into the flow of the fighting. But Tekken has also been something that anyone can pick up, play and have a great chance of winning.

One story from my childhood was about Tekken 3 (my favourite fighting game of all time), and how one of my brother’s friends would always beat the crap out of everyone. He was a master of the game, and his pick of Eddie always defeated everyone. Then another of my brother’s friends brought his younger sister over to play Tekken 3, having little experience with fighting games. And she massacred the champ and Eddie, with a simple technique which is, a crouch kick! It was awesome.

And this does flow through into Tekken 8 as well, where anyone can pick up and play, even to cheese their way to victory. But underneath a layer of approachability and mayhem, is a deep level of skill requirement and adaption. My partner again is a button masher, and often uses a lot of cheap shots. That’s why I love her. And of course, it’s effective. But then picking one of my favourites Nina, I was able to just fight back against this mayhem of button bashes and nonsensical randomness.

My point is, that Tekken 8 pushes you to adapt, and learn and even a pro and newcomer can have an even chance to win a fight. There are enough characters all with different fighting styles, combos and stats where you can pick a favourite, learn from them, or choose a random character and have at it, and have fun.

While there is a learning curve for many fighters, there are those who are easily very welcoming to newcomers. Like Victor, Raina, and Azusena, all of whom have great sets, combos and weaknesses a pro can exploit if say a certain tactic or cheap move is overused a little too much. Like Victor’s ghosting manoeuvre, which is quick and if off-guard will catch any pro. But these attacks are quite readable and show a certain sign when it will be executed, and thus a counter and effective punishment in a string of combos will level the fight altogether.

There are some balancing issues (at the time of this review), with the likes of Azusena being OP in some regards. But she can be countered, and her OP is good for now to newcomers looking to break into the mastery of Tekken 8.

But in general, the fighting is fluent, reactive, and highly stylised, with some amazing arena interactions, finishers, and stellar move sets from all parties. Everything looks and feels fantastic, and it’s all easy to grasp the basic mechanics of the advanced tactics, such as block punishing.

But there are two major features this time round which aim to spice things up in quite dramatic ways, levelling and potentially ending fights within an instant. These new features come in the forms of recoverable health, and the Heat system, which allows you to execute devastating moves

The recoverable health mechanic is a neat idea, and only seen (if memory recalls correctly) in the Tekken Tag Tournament. Depending on your opponents’ attacks, usually with chain attacks and air kicks that juggle your character, you’ll be able to recover a certain amount of health, providing you land a punch or few within a small time frame. This system pushes players to do as much damage as possible as quickly as possible, but also to counter an avid button basher after they string a long line of attacks breaking their attacks and pushing forward.

It is a maker or breaker of a lot of combat scenarios and one which does give some breathing room for those in a tight spot. I like this mechanic due to it shifting much of the notion in each fight to be offensive rather than defensive. Meaning you won’t ideally see people, pushing away and baiting you in, prolonging fights longer than they need to be.

The Heat System will indeed feel familiar to many fighting fans, who’ve played the likes of the recent Mortal Combat games. It allows players an immense offensive shift right from the start, as you can trigger a devastating attack by unleashing a character’s signature move, or simply hitting the bumper buttons together allowing you to deal extra damage for a bit of time. This all ties in with adding a wonderous layer of spectacle but grants a fighting chance to those on the ropes, as they can save it and take back control of a fight at the right moment.

It does mean that certain characters, those a little faster and more offensive may get the upper hand. Characters like Panda who are much slower but deal a wider area of damage, may suffer somewhat against the likes of Devil Jin. But as this is given to all players from the get-go, it does level the playing field somewhat.  

Overall, the fighting is tight, punchy, versatile, varied, and adaptable to new and old fans of the series. Making Tekken 8 highly approachable, engaging and a bunch of fun no matter what. With the in-depth training modes at hand, any newbie can come in, practice safely and learn everything from the high-end basics to the mastery of professionalism that Tekken strives for.

The extra goodies!

But what fighting games also strive for is customisation, variety in game modes and those little extras to flesh out the venture every time. Fighting games in their design are quite static, as it’s you and another dude fighting in a restricted space. So, the extras do go a long way, and I like what I see for the most part, although a mode is missing if you ask me.

I do acknowledge that Tekken 8 does offer quite a few modes that are great for learning, adapting and even playing against other people in a way where you don’t have to fight a real person. There are the practice modes, PvsP, PvsC and CvsC which are expected, and then there’s the arcade mode which allows players to pick a character, play them, and have their strengths and weaknesses adapted in a computer-controlled version of themselves. We’ve seen this with driving games like Forza Horizon, but in a fighting game, it is quite interesting. You can play against computer control bots, that are fighting in the same manner as another player. This is great for practising and preparing you for actual, real engagements online with other players.

It's a nice inclusion, but nothing I found really to ride home about. However, the return of Tekken Volleyball is here and a lot of fun, as it was in Tekken 3. Plus each character does have their ventures, much like Mortal Kombat’s Konquest mode.

But I do wish there was something a little more exciting and again, Tekken 3 was a killer for extra modes. I had hoped we would also see the return of Tekken Force, the side-scrolling beat-em mode that was so different thematically, that it just stood out and was a lot of fun. And the basis is here already, as a particular gameplay event which occurred in Tekken 6 happens here. Where you face up against waves of enemies and must fight through the hoard. That happens here in Tekken 8 and it’s so much fun. But why no mode just to do this with other characters?

Maybe Tekken Force will return one day (and it's a personal request), and while it’s sad there isn’t a grand new mode here, I do appreciate the training modes and the return of Tekken Volleyball. And there is a great deal of costumes and customisation that will keep you invested for the long run!


Tekken 8 is quite simply phenomenal, and a blazing return to glory after what feels like an age since Tekken 7. As a fan of the old games and a casual player for the last 15 years, I can firmly say that Tekken has once again become my favourite fighting game. Thanks to the remarkable presentation, tightly woven and engaging fighting mechanics, and the highly approachable nature and skill required for masterful combat will indeed bring in a whole heap of new fans.

I loved returning to Tekken for its immense narrative, great fighting, and return of fun game modes that add extra layers to an already great package. While I wish there was another mode or two, considering the scale of this sequel, I really can’t find anything to truly fault Tekken 8. This is a highly refined fighting game that shines bright among the likes of Street Fight 6. I can see Tekken 8 has a long and bright future, that will bring in new fans and make old ones incredibly happy.

++ Amazing presentation, nailing sound design, visuals and performance
++ Great story mode, with cool setpieces and neat twists
++ Stellar fighting mechanics, that's great for pros and newbies
+ Good selection of game, and practice modes

-- No Tekken Force
- Some minor balancing issues

An Xbox Series S/X copy of Tekken 8 was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.