Game Review: Tekken 7 (Xbox One)

I wouldn’t say that I am a huge fan of the Tekken series, but I do have some fond memories of playing Tekken 2 back in high school, during an era where 3D fighting games were still in their infancy and online lobbies to challenge players from all over the world was a mere dream at the time. Tekken is one of the few fighting games that hasn’t changed much since its debut in 1994. While the visuals have easily improved since then, the core feel of Tekken, with its substance over style approach, has made the series somewhat stagnant. Tekken 7 is still more Tekken, and depending if that is a good thing or not is really up to you.

Tekken 7 doesn’t really do much to elevate the series to modern times, its “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” approach to its core design makes this newest entry feel, in some ways, like an HD remaster of an older title. Tekken is a fighting series that is more about the actual martial arts of combat than pulling off screen-wide flashy special moves or the degree of violence in its aesthetic. Tekken has a very different feel than the rest of the industry that has upgraded and changed its series with the times. I will say that Tekken 7 is the last time that this series can stay in its comfort zone without changing up what Tekken can truly be.

While it may seem like I am bagging on Tekken 7 for its failure to feel different from past entries, that is only partially true. There are some additions here and there that attempt to breathe new life into the series, but these are small tweaks to the grand design as opposed to large sweeping changes that make it feel fresh and original. Not every game needs to reinvent itself each time, but Tekken is one that has been doing the same trick for far too long.

Unless you’ve been following the Tekken games from the very start, a lot of what is going on is going to confuse you, as there isn’t much in the way of a “previously in Tekken” to have it all make sense. You can use in-game currency to purchase all the cutscenes from the entire series, but jumping straight into this mode can leave you wondering who half these characters are. The story is told through a few central characters, but unfortunately, only the Heihachi stuff is interesting in the slightest. There is this reporter character who has narrated bits in between chapters, but the voice acting is some of the worst I’ve ever heard, and frankly, really slows this story mode to a crawl. Had these moments been stripped out, the story mode would have been far faster paced and more vastly more enjoyable.

The story mode is also told through a variety of formats that don’t quite mesh well together and can make for some awkward transitions. There are static illustrations, in-engine moments and pre-rendered cutscenes that don’t feel like they belong in the same game, let alone trying to tell the same story. Had the game been told entirely through one format, I feel it would have come across far better than it does here. The story starts off fairly ho-hum and only really starts to pick up steam near the finale, giving us only a few fights that are really well put together.

Once you beat the main story, then you’ll have a few rounds as characters that never make an appearance in the core storyline. These small single matches are fun, but since they are split into pairs, each battle can retread on material from the other fighter, with only small variations on their ending. It’s disappointing that there isn’t more given of story for these characters, especially the ones who make their debut here. It’s great to see the roster grow, but without context to who many of these new faces are, they can feel like hollow additions than ones that earn their spot on the roster.

Tekken 7 sees quite a few new additions with Katarina, Claudio, Lucky Chloe, Shaheen, Josie, Eskrima, Gigas, Jack-7, Kazumi, and Master Raven. Akuma, from the Street Fighter series, also makes an appearance as well and is written into the main story path to much surprise. The roster comes to just under 40, with several returning favorites, and series mainstays like Jin, Nina, King, Hwoaring, Ling, and so many more, many of which have been with the series since its debut.

As I’ve mentioned, the core combat of Tekken 7 hasn’t changed much from previous entries and depending on your history with the series, that may be good or bad for you. It’s still a very technical back and forth fighting game that is more about closing the gap and pulling off combo’s to get the upper hand. You can dodge to the sides of your character to move past a flying kick, and use that short window to fire off a few well-placed punches. While button mashing may get you a few wins under your belt, Tekken is a game that requires you to know your characters well, even when playing on easier difficulties. The story mode makes pulling off some moves easier, but those shortcuts don’t make their way into the versus combat that will consume the majority of your time.

Two new mechanics are introduced in Tekken 7; Rage Art, and Power Crush. Rage Art, allows you to perform critical attacks that deal more damage once when the character’s health bar is at a critically low level, in exchange for inactivating the normal attack power increase. Power Crush, allows the player to continue their attacks even while taking hits, although, you’ll still take the damage associated with those attacks. Previous Tekken games have used the bound system, which staggers your opponent to open them up to take additional hits; this has been replaced by the Screw Attack. The difference here is that this makes the enemy spin sideways when they are hit airborne, allowing you to get a few extra shots in until they hit the ground that is. Another difference between Bound and Screw Attack is the inability to use it for wall combos.

Another change to the game is Rage Drive. This allows you to boost certain attacks by sacrificing their Rage Mode. Rage Art also sees adjustments so that the damage dealt to your opponent is affected by the player’s current health bar. Additionally, a few characters feature special meter bars that exempt them from Rage Drive, like Akuma, who comes to the fight with his EX Bar from the Street Fighter series. Eliza is another character that features such a super meter bar.

Tekken 7 allows you to change up your favorite fighters with a variety of novelty items like helmets, new hairstyles, sunglasses, new outfits and more. Want to swap an outfit? Go ahead. Prefer them fighting while wearing a snorkel? Done. There are countless items that will allow you to tweak the characters and in some ways make them your own. While there are hundreds of items to choose from, I did find that there was only a small sampling of quality items. Most of the outfits that you can unlock just are not that impressive, usually just a plain t-shirt or color variations of the same style of pants. Hairstyles, hats, and other accessory style items are what you’ll want to sink your in-game currency dollars for to unlock.

Several of the items are unlocked through the Treasure Hunt mode, where after each battle you will earn items that can be character specific, or unlocked for the whole roster. Some matches will contain higher tier items, or even pay out double the rewards. These matches get progressively harder and can feature more intense encounters with characters like Akuma, or Devil Jin.

The online offerings here are pretty slim with only Ranked or Player matches offered. At launch, matches were fairly easy to find, featured minimal lag and it was rare to see a disconnect. Recently, however; the servers haven’t been terribly great and I’ve had several issues with playing online. As I am not the type of player to invest my time heavily in PVP, this isn’t something I’m losing sleep over but could be a deal breaker for those interested in taking the whole world on.

I played Tekken 7 coming right off from playing Injustice 2, which by comparison is leagues above this in nearly every way. The polish and cohesion that Injustice 2 has is simply unmatched, and just overall is a fighting game that is easier to get into, easier to play and has far more interesting content. That being said, these are two very different fighting games, such as you wouldn’t compare Call of Duty with something like Bioshock despite both featuring a first person view.

Tekken 7 is a series that feels extremely dated, despite the small changes and tweaks to its combat. The new roster is great and full of well-balanced characters, but with the lack of proper character campaigns, they feel hollow and lack the ability to make me really care about who they are apart from some flashy attacks and some truly wonderful character designs. The Treasure mode and the items that come with it are nice but do little to create staying power to a game I feel I’ve played several times over before. Tekken 7 isn’t bad in any real way, there is a good solid fighting game in here, but with so many other options out there that have created fresh and new experiences, it’s a franchise I can only recommend to those that have a special place in their heart for the classics.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to slap someone around as a Panda?

Tekken 7 was reviewed and played via a purchased retail copy for Xbox One.

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