The Tekken series is a fascinating one. Each new iteration brings with it deceptively slight changes which when viewed as an evolution over the last two decades, form an elegant and perfected fighting game formula. In this way, Tekken 7 is really just another Tekken game. There are some slight changes, a graphical upgrade and a new spin on the same old story, but overall it still feels like the Tekken we know and love.
When sitting down to play Tekken 7 I was surprised to realise that I had in fact played every iteration of the series so far. I wouldn’t consider myself much of a fan, but clearly something has kept me coming back to the franchise for my fighting game fix.
I think the appeal of Tekken lies in its relatively grounded gameplay. Each one of the face buttons corresponds to a limb, with long strings of combos built from a very simple input system. The fighting has always felt closer in Tekken. More about punches and kicks than ranged super moves or projectiles. These all feature of course, but success usually comes from a good knowledge of the standard hand-to-hand move set. Tekken 7 is the best the series has ever felt in terms of pure gameplay. An update to the 3D movement system has made it harder to merely sidestep an attack, putting more emphasis on blocking and crouching. A new super Rage move has been added which unleashes a flashy multi-hit flurry which takes down a large portion of the opponent’s health bar. These small additions come together to create one of the most technically sound games ever made.
In Tekken‘s 23 years on the scene, fighting games have changed dramatically. A notable example of this fact came just weeks ago in the form of Injustice 2. What made Injustice 2 feel so fresh was its dedication to providing as much content as possible. The game adapted the fighting genre to modern day, adding RPG elements as well as a story heavy campaign. Tekken 7 definitely suffers from releasing so soon after Injustice 2. It is largely an old fighting game through and through. The campaign is a throwaway spin on the same story we’ve heard a hundred times at this point. Its main offence is that it manages to be downright boring, only utilising a handful of Tekken 7‘s colourful roster. In terms of single player content in general, Tekken 7 is severely lacking.
What makes up for this however, is where Tekken has always reigned supreme, the multiplayer. Say what you want about the lack of content, the actual player vs. player multiplayer is absolutely unmatched. I would honestly rather Tekken just ditch its story component altogether at this point and instead offer up its best parts at a lower price point.
When compared to other campaigns in the series, Tekken 7 is at least somewhat memorable. The addition of Street Fighter’s Akuma brings a new flavour into the mix. A particular segment involves Heihachi and Akuma battling it out. This battle is genuinely thrilling and a true highlight of the series so far. The story also features many flashbacks to previous games, even going back to the original. The decision to include the original cutscenes is a little jarring, but did tug at my nostalgia nonetheless.
Visually, the game really shines. It seems redundant at this point to say this is the best the series has ever looked but it absolutely is. The way the characters move and react during the fight is truly a thing of beauty. It also helps that the performance of the game is stellar throughout. Tekken 7 features an extensive suite of customisation options which are an absolute joy to play around with. The sky really is the limit here as you outfit out series’ favourites in wack costumes of your choosing.
The arcade mode is one area in which Tekken 7 really falters. Previous games have included the mode as an excuse to experiment with the game’s roster, often ending with a great cinematic or two. In Tekken 7, you play a few rounds against regulars, two against Heihachi then fight Mishima. And what do you get at the end, rolling credits, that’s what. It’s almost as if the developers knew that the online multiplayer was the best part of the game so under-baked everything else to drive players towards it. There’s even an option in the story mode to hold down a “Story Assist” button which turns every button press into a combo. This fighting game package is very much on the light side which may have been okay a few years ago, but not in today’s climate.
There’s also a VR mode this time around which was a great chance to bring Tekken into the modern day and offer a new spin on the tried and tested formula. Unfortunately this mode is incredibly uninspiring. You can look at 3D character models or play a training match, that’s it. Honestly, I’d have preferred no VR over what is being offered up here.
Ultimately, Tekken 7 is a fantastic fighting game presented in an extremely light package. The core gameplay is absolutely impeccable but when it is basically the only draw, it leaves an empty feeling. The single player content is uninspiring to say the least and that’s before comparing it to recent entries into the fighting game genre. If you’re a Tekken fan, this is absolutely a must-play, for anyone else though, there’s little incentive to dive in.