Tekken 7 Review: The King is Back

When it come to fighting games, I’ve always been a much bigger fan of the 3D fighting franchises made popular in the mid to late 90’s, such as Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter and Dead or Alive. The combo heavy, agile, fast-paced nature of fighting games in a 3D space suit my tastes more than the complex move sets found in most 2D titles. I’ve always found 3D fighting games more accessible for new players too. In the early days of the original Sony Playstation, I was a fan of the Tekken series, especially the third entry in the franchise in which I wasted many of hours on trying to perfect my Eddie Gordo skills. Honestly, since the release of Tekken 3 I’ve only dabbled a little bit in each Tekken game since and I suddenly gained the urge to get back into the series with the release of Tekken 7 on the PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4. Equipped with a tournament-grade Mad Catz arcade stick and my gaming rig, I grabbed the game on PC and jumped back into the King of the Iron Fist Tournament. So how is Tekken’s first foray on the PC? Let’s jump into it.

The story of Tekken 7 is an odd one that I still can’t quite wrap my head around. Fans of Tekken lore will probably find themselves right at home here, but honestly I was confused throughout the majority of the game’s single player story mode. Basically, the story is narrated by a journalist who’s writing an investigative article about two rival factions at war: the Mishima Zaibatsu which is ran by popular Tekken fighter Heihachi and the G Corporation lead by Heihachi’s son Jin. This journalist also tries to expose the truth behind the murder of Jin’s mother and the attempted murder of Jin himself as a child by the hands of Heihachi.

Narratively, the game swaps between the journalist’s viewpoint and pre-fight in-game cutscenes from the perspectives of characters involved in both the Mishima Zaibatsu and G Corporation factions. During this two to three hour story mode, the narrative goes into some extremely goofy territory involving hot android women, volcano karate matches, and machine gun fights. I personally glossed over most of the story and found myself skipping the majority of cutscenes due to how ridiculous and confusing they were, especially since I lacked the context given from previous Tekken entries. I did find myself getting wrapped up in the game’s conclusion and found small pockets of enjoyment out of the eye-rolling story. Regardless of how I felt about the narrative, the story mode includes a good 3+ hour campaign that fluctuates in time depending on the player’s skill level and chosen difficulty. Once completed, players can return to the story mode to play small character specific stories for each fighter in the roster that lasts only one match each but tacks on another hour or so of gameplay while throwing in goofy mini narratives for each, including one where Josie basically beats Kuma to death for simply trying to return a piece of jewelry.

Tekken 7 has 37 playable characters with 10 of them being brand new to the franchise. Many fan favorites are here, including Jin, Heihachi, Eddie, Yoshimitsu, Law, Paul and more. I was a little bummed that one of my favorites, Michelle Chang, was absent but maybe we’ll see her in a future update. Yoshimitsu has received a big overhaul in design which makes him resemble some sort of creepy alien, which was surprising yet cool. Out of the new characters I found Lucky Chloe (who can admittingly be a little obnoxious) and Josie to be my favorites, both whom I felt very comfortable with their move sets. My favorite character thus far has been the female android Alisa (introduced in Tekken 6) who’s combos include interesting transformations like swapping out chainsaw arms that spin around and catches her opponent into some nasty combos.

Funny enough, a Street Fighter character makes an appearance in Tekken 7. Akuma is included in the roster and actually plays a big role in the story mode, which makes the narrative even more odd. The cool thing about Akuma’s inclusion is that he actually plays like a Tekken character, but all of his signature moves found in the Street Fighter series are integrated into his combos. No longer will you have to pull off quarter circle punches in order to throw a fireball; that’s simply thrown automatically within specific combos. As a result, Akuma feels like we’re finally getting a taste of the Tekken X Street Fighter game (not to be confused with Street Fighter X Tekken which did release) that we were promised many years ago that never saw the light of day. He’s a fun inclusion even though he doesn’t make much sense in this universe as well as within the game’s art style.

I am happy to say that Tekken 7 happens to be one of the better fighting games for those out there who appreciate single player content over competitive online battle modes. Aside from the story mode the game has a typical arcade mode, a treasure mode that nets the player treasure boxes that contain cosmetic items, a local versus mode, practice modes and more. Included is a full character customization mode too that allow players to dress up each fighter with all types of wacky outfits and accessories. I like how Tekken 7 also allows each player to change their featured character portraits, style of health bar and player badges; all of which add a nice element of customization and personality for each individual online player profile. All cosmetic items can be unlocked by earning fight money by simply playing the game, similar to Street Fighter V, or by playing the treasure mode. Fight money is tied to in-game currency only so no micro-transactions are necessary here.

Tekken 7’s multiplayer suite is pretty standard so players won’t find anything out of the ordinary here. Random ranked matchmaking can run in the background while playing offline content that will notify the player as soon as a suitable opponent that matches connection and skill level requirements is found. Stats, ranks and leaderboard data are collected in ranked mode for those who want to climb the leaderboards. If you want to play something a little less serious, unranked player lobbies can be joined where participants will be queued up to fight one another while the players not currently engaging in a fight will spectate the current match. In my opinion, player lobbies are a crucial component to any online fighting game and I’m glad it was included here at launch (unlike Street Fighter V). Tournament mode allows players to join up into brackets and compete, netting the winner a ton of fight money.

While Tekken 7 doesn’t do anything unique in terms of online play, I did have a lot of positive experiences playing online with the PC version via Steam. The latency was low, the netcode seemed strong and none of the fights I participated in felt laggy or unresponsive. I found it amusing to see how other players online dress up their favorite characters in goofy and unique ways too. My only real complaint here is that I found it unnecessarily difficult trying to exit a player lobby when I wanted to stop playing since the game would not allow me to pull up a menu and back out to the title screen unless it was actually my turn to fight, which seems a little unfair to my opponent. I had to literally force close the game in order to leave an online player lobby when I wanted to. That’s a bit ridiculous.

The most important aspect of a fighting game is the actual gameplay and fighting mechanics. Tekken 7 is possibly the smoothest and most responsive title in the franchise thus far. The animations and transitions into combos look great and as a result the actual fighting feels super fluid and responsive. The two biggest additions to the Tekken 7 fighting system are Rage Arts and Power Crushes. Rage Arts are special combos that are earned by dealing and taking damage within a match, which are activated by pressing a set of character specific commands that unleash a powerful combo that can be devastating to your opponent if they’re caught in it. Think of Rage Arts as Tekken’s equivalent to Street Fighter’s Ultra Combos. Power Crushes are moves that will absorb damage which cannot be interrupted by an opponent’s attacks, but can be punished by using low attacks and throws. These two additions give players a few extra tools at their disposal, which both add a tactical advantage if used properly and aid new players by turning the tide of battle in their favor if left unpunished.

Seeing as Tekken 7 is the first title in franchise history to hit the PC platform, I was a little concerned about the port. Was this team experienced enough with developing for the Windows platform? The year 2017 has been fairly kind to PC ports and I was hoping Namco Bandai continued the trend with Tekken 7 and thankfully they have. The game scales across different PC hardware very well and I found my slightly aging NVIDIA GTX 970 to handle the game at 1080p and 60 frames per second easily while cranking up the graphical options to ultra. Plenty of options are available to tweak the graphics in case your system fails to handle the game as well. The biggest advantages of the PC version of Tekken 7 is the ability to play the game at high frame rates in 4K resolution while also having essentially any preferred controller type supported as well. I was able to play the entire game with my Xbox 360 fight stick, which is something I cannot do on any other platform the game appears on.

Tekken 7 runs on Unreal Engine 4 and looks stunning as a result, but it isn’t the best looking fighting game I’ve played this generation. Texture work is strong especially on costume materials and the environments are very detailed with lush jungles, vibrant cities and beautiful lakes of water acting as the game’s stages. Also, the game sports a really cool particle effect system when hits connect to the player models and nice use of motion blur during fast movements that help keep focus on important visual features when needed. Facial animation and lip movements do look a bit goofy here and clipping from cosmetic costume items will happen quite often that makes the presentation look a little jarring at times. I do believe that NetherRealm’s Injustice 2 is a much better looking game that also runs on the older yet upgraded version of Unreal Engine 3, but regardless Tekken 7 is a fairly good looking title. Surprisingly, I’m a big fan of Tekken 7’s soundtrack with some fun electro pop tunes and one hell of a killer main menu theme.

Namco Bandai has released a great game of Tekken here that looks nice, plays like butter and runs extremely well on the PC platform. It includes a good amount of single player content, an as-to-be-expected yet suitable suite of multiplayer modes and solid netcode that make for an enjoyable online experience. There are a couple of strange design decisions surrounding menus but I honestly see those being repaired in a patch in the near future. The game won’t throw micro-transactions in your face but it will try to entice you with a season pass that will include new characters and stages at a later date. Tekken fans will eat this game up while newcomers will find it welcoming and easy to jump into. Now is the best time to return to the Tekken franchise, whether you are a seasoned vet or a newbie who’s curious about the series.

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Josh Faulkner

Josh is a native Ohio-an who grew up in a small town that had very little for kids to do. As a result, Josh picked up video games at a very young age. Video games played a huge part in his childhood and continued to do so in his adult life. Starting out on an Atari 2600 when he was 3 years old, gaming has sort of grown up alongside with Josh and continues to be his biggest hobby. As an IT technician by day, Josh is an aspiring gaming writer by night who founded a few websites including 16 Bit Heroes and Too Busy Gaming, while also dabbling in retro gaming YouTube videos and live streaming events.