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Tekken 7

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Summary

Available June 2 on PS4, Xbox One and PC

I’ve always loved Tekken for being delightfully bonkers. Its eclectic cast can be arguing over the ownership of a giant military corporation one moment, then enjoying a game of bowling or beach volleyball the next. Tekken 7 continues the tradition being effortlessly over-the-top, but in some cases I worry its inspirations from 2D fighters actually hinder its core mechanics.

While there are loads of 2D and 2.5D fighters out there, Tekken has pretty much cornered the market in the 3D space. However, after crossing paths with Capcom for Street Fighter x Tekken, it’s clear Namco has taken heavy inspiration. Tekken 7’s ‘Rage’ system has seen new moves introduced to help turn the tide of fights when your health is near depletion, and these feel like something straight from Capcom’s iconic series.

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Once a player’s health reaches below 33%, your ‘Rage’ is activated, and you can perform either a Rage Drive or Rage Art. Rage Drives are enhanced versions of moves to deal greater damage. Think of them like Street Fighter’s “EX” attacks. Rage Arts are carbon copies of super moves, and brief cutscenes play as one fighter unleashes spectacular moves and significant damage on the other. This was my first time properly getting to use the two, and while they’re great for adding drama, I couldn’t help but feel they unfairly favour the underdog.

Playing against the CPU, I experimented with different characters, each of which has different command inputs for their Arts and Drives. However, for the Rage Art super move, it a simple press of R1 (on PS4) does the trick, making it effortless to use. That would be fine if the attacks were also fairly reasonable to defend, but often-times they’re not. Because attacks in Tekken are heavily animated – Street Fighter players can cancel out of moves to react, block and counter – defending against an opponent’s Art can be incredibly tricky. It almost deters the leading player from trying to land the final blow.

I understand their implementation, and at times they feel like a solid evolution of the Tekken formula. When I used the Rage Art at the right time it almost felt like a Street Fighter 3: Third Strike Daigo moment, but the problem is it feels too easy to use. There’s a reason I have been put in a situation where I have 20% health and my opponent 75%, and the fact these odds can be overcome quite so easily makes the entire encounter leading up to a Rage Art feel a little cheap.

This is a shame because the basic Tekken combat is still great. Returning to old favourites like Paul, Law and the Mishima family and pulling off the same moves I’ve been doing since the very first game on the original PlayStation is incredibly satisfying.

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While lacking the delicacy and finesse of its 2D counterparts, Tekken has always felt more meaty, and 7 continues that. Playing as Heihachi Mishima and using some of his most devastating moves still looks amazing on-screen as my opponent spends more time in the air than on the ground. Chaining combos and sidestepping attacks is still sublime.

The introduction of some new faces and moves seems to place a greater emphasis on projectile attacks. Again feeling like an inspiration from Street Fighter, new characters are able to attack at any range, meaning sidestepping has a much greater emphasis for dodging.

My new favourite opponent is most certainly Claudio Serafino, an Italian exorcist deadly at range and up close. Claudio’s main strengths are the ability to absorb strikes before retaliating with his own (think Street Fighter IV’s Focus Attacks) as well as being able to fire some sort of spirit arrows at range. This makes all-out attack or defence impossible. I got bested in our opening few matches, but this helped me learn to counter his abilities with some well-timed sidesteps and not get too cocky with my combos.

Claudio also features in Tekken 7’s story mode, which naturally focuses heavily on the Mishima family’s long-running power struggle over the Zaibatsu corporation. Weirdly it’s primarily told through the narration of a no-name investigator, whose life was irreparably destroyed by the conflicts of Kazuya, Heihachi and Jin. Normally I’d be sympathetic to this guy’s plight, but he’s completely devoid of emotion and conviction, so it just becomes cringeworthy.

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The story modes of Tekken games haven’t exactly been Oscar-winning, but the cutscenes have always been fun ways to contextualise the characters. It’s why I’ve grown to love the relationships between the Paul and Kuma, Marshall and Forest Law and Xiaoyu and Panda. For that, I enjoyed the story for what it was, and with a huge pinch of salt. Thankfully the majority of it was delivered in foreign languages, meaning I was ignorant as to whether the acting was ever any good.

One thing story mode does do well is re-tell the history of the Mishima family, from all the way back to the first Tekken when Heihachi dropped Kazuya off the mountain. What it does horribly is maintain a consistent plot. Things are picked up and dropped, introduced then ignored without any sort of conclusion. I haven’t played the final chapter, but considering each segment’s brevity, chapter nine will need to be an epic to tie up all the loose ends.

Lastly, Namco has included a VR mode. I’ve seen a lot of uses of virtual reality, but Tekken’s is the most throwaway of the lot. There are two modes: the first simply lets you fight in a glorified practice mode within a 360-degree environment. It adds almost nothing to the game and only serves to dull its superb visuals, and in fact made animations look worse. The second is a fighter viewer, where you can look around characters as they don different unlockable garments, and is as interesting as it sounds.

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I almost feel as though Tekken 7 would have been better served foregoing VR mode altogether, and instead brought back a beloved mini-game like Tekken Bowl or Tekken Force.

First Impressions

Story mode is fine as long as you don’t take it too seriously, and gives players some nice context to the history of the series. VR mode is poor, while the new Rage systems can cheapen fights by giving players an easy way to play catch-up when losing. Yet I still love Tekken. Perhaps it’s a nostalgia trip, but playing as all these characters I’ve been using for 20 years still has that same spark which cannot be found anywhere else.

Compared to my recent experience with the incredible Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, Tekken 7 is clunky and lacks fluidity, but there’s still a solid fighter here, I just feel it borrows too heavily from its 2D brethren and has misplaced some of its original appeal.

Hopefully Namco can iron out the Rage system to deliver more of the absurd action I adore.

Alex Walsh

May 2, 2017, 8:55 am

Tekken got left behind a long time ago by the Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive series. Shame it doesn't look like version 7 is going to do anything to remedy that :/

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