Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Arcade
Developer: Bandai Namco
It seems that 2017 is the year of the fighter. ‘Injustice 2’, ‘Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite’, ‘Ultra Street Fighter II’ just to name a few, but there’s a pretty extensive list to consider. With the overwhelming number of fighting games coming at us, it’s difficult not to wonder which one will rise above the others. So far, ‘Injustice 2’ has been hindered by some initial balancing issues. ‘Ultra Street Fighter II’ pretty much limits players to those who got their hands on a Nintendo Switch. Considering all avenues being made available to the widest number of players so far, ‘Tekken 7’ might be the one to check all the boxes.
The latest installment to the ‘Tekken’ series boasts an extensive line of unlockable cosmetics that have a near limitless library of combinations to show off in online competition. Along with new fighters, a brand new VR mode, the first incorporation of the Unreal engine in the series, and a story that expands a bit more on the lore of the previous games, ‘Tekken 7’ has all the making of the best fighter of the year.
The story is engaging at its core, ut lacks a certain charm that could make it more entertaining.
The story focuses on the relationship between Heihachi and his son, Kazuya. The telling of that story, however, leaves something to be desired. A lot of it is told from the point of view of a detective investigating some of the fighters of the King of Iron Fist Tournament. The narration is absolutely lackluster, but that might be attributed to the choice of voice actor. There doesn’t seem to be any enthusiasm or intrigue, even when he begins discussing the dangers that might be coming to his family. Luckily, these scenes are skippable and honestly, you could do without them.
Your first story mode fight is a great visual tool that allows you to experience the troubling relationship between Heihachi and Kazuya. You begin by controlling the child version of Kazuya, attempting to prove himself to his father in combat. From then on, it’s more along the lines of working your way up the chain of fighters, as you would expect, with the occasional horde modes of henchmen to dispatch along the way. The story itself is bogged down by the involvement of the Mishima Corporation and Heihachi’s thirst for power and retribution, but beneath it all, it is very personal and lets you see events unfold from a different perspective. Unfortunately, the way in which that story is told might be the weakest part of the overall game.
The combat is very clean and precise, making learning and landing combos much more satisfying.
Being the first of the ‘Tekken’ series to utilize the Unreal engine, you can tell they made the most of it. The crown jewel of any fighter has to be its style of combat. If you haven’t played a ‘Tekken’ game in quite some time, you might find that as far as move sets and play styles from your favorite characters, not much has changed, which is perfect. Even for some of the new competitors like Claudio, Eliza, or the new crowd pleaser, Lucky Chloe, the combat still feels pretty accommodating for both age old gamers and newcomers alike. Your attacks genuinely feel satisfying upon contact and the limited amount of buttons necessary to achieve each combo will encourage you to learn as many as you can.
Manipulating your “Rage Art’ is literally an art in itself. If you’re unfamiliar, your fighter’s rage art is essentially their ultimate ability: a devastating attack that does charge faster is you receive more damage. It takes some getting used to, but understanding the correct pockets in which to use the individual RA’s is ideal for mastering the game. The most entertaining aspects of these are the cinematic presentation of each one. Getting one off successfully grants a satisfying cut scene in which your opponent is absolutely helpless. Pro tip: it’s best to save your RA for your opponents final rung of health. It takes a while to build, especially if you’re doing well, so save it until you need it.
The unlockable customization goodies are the game’s claim to fame for a reason.
One of the biggest selling points of the game is its “Treasure Battle” mode. During these fights, your victories grant you unlockable chachkies, some being character specific, while some are universal to all characters. This is essentially what makes the online combat so much fun. Despite some of the minor matchmaking issues being experienced as of now, getting to show of the insane combinations of clothing, costumes, and accessories pretty much makes it worth it. If you managed to grab the Day One edition, you were not only given the new DLC fighter, the vampiric Eliza, you were also given a whopping 3 million “fight money”, aka currency. If not, don’t worry, because it’s really not that hard to come by considering it drops left and right from Treasure Battles and Arcade Mode. Once you have enough, spend it on whatever you want, be it the deer head mask, the sombrero, or the inexplicably priced spray tan for any one character, which happens to be priced at a million fight money! If customizing your character weren’t enough, you’re even given the freedom to trick out you online player profile, as well as your own health bar. These are all unlocked the same way as the character accessories, so the whole experience is fun and easy going. Simply playing the game is rewarding in more ways than one.
‘Tekken 7’ is pretty lacking in flaws. Most of its issues can be overlooked, like its long install time, unskippable Arcade Mode intros, lackluster storytelling, and possibly the longest EULA ever. It’s still a very dense game with a lot more content than you’d expect from a fighter. There have always been attempts to add that extra ingredient in other titles that never really pan out as well, but this time around, they seemed to know exactly what to hone. The customization aspect that allows you to unlock pretty much everything just by consistently fighting was clearly the focus here and it pays off. The meat of the game, the combat itself, is clean and precise and doesn’t ask a whole lot of you. Even if you’re a seasoned gamer and a pro at fighters in particular, you’ll find ‘Tekken 7’ challenging and fun, which is pretty refreshing if other fighters this year aren’t making the cut.