Due early 2017 on PS4, Xbox One and PC
I’m a pretty casual fighting game player, but boy do I love me some Tekken. While Street Fighter demanded hours of dedication and lightning-fast reflexes, Namco’s fighting game had a pick-up-and-play style which instantly made you feel like Bruce Lee. Well, until you got pummelled by your button-bashing five-year-old cousin. Still, humiliating defeats aside, I found myself eagerly awaiting every new entry in the series. Why? Because the sheer amount of cool that Tekken oozes. From the grin-inducing, crazy characters to the punishing thwack that accompanies every hit, kick and throw, Tekken just effortlessly emanates a sense of fun like no other fighter.
While I probably sound like your grandparents wistfully talking about the ‘good old days’ this isn’t entirely a PS1-inspired nostalgia trip. 2011’s thoroughly enjoyable Tekken Tag Tournament 2 felt like a celebration of everything that was great about the series, delivering a huge roster, the long-awaited return of tag, ridiculous mini games and a story cheesier than your average Hugh Grant film. So five years after you’ve released the ultimate fan pleaser, where do you go next?
Well, forward, obviously.
The first thing that struck me about Tekken 7 is that Namco Bandai has clearly been paying a lot of attention to eSports, as watching fights unfold is now a thing of beauty. There’s been an expected bump in visual fidelity, and players have been given more opportunities to show off than ever before. Not content with nicking Akuma from Street Fighter, Namco Bandai’s Katsuhiro Harada has also taken the liberty of stealing the Capcom brawler’s show-stopping finishing moves, including supers, discreetly rebranding them as Rage Arts. Smoothly done, Harada, smoothly done.
While Rage Arts look cool, these kind of devastating attacks can also completely change the tide of the match with little warning. Essentially, it’s an easy way to make matches feel unpredictable, keeping eSports fans perched on the edge of their oversized gaming chairs.
With the genre largely boiling down to two fighters hitting the stuffing out of each other while giant health bars decrease, fighting games are an eSport that anyone can understand – something Harada is all too aware of. “One thing we’ve noticed with Street Fighter V is that it’s really popular with tournament players,” Harada says, furrowing his brow over the sunglasses he’s inexplicably wearing indoors. “They have record turnouts for events like EVO. I think as a competitive game it’s quite strong and we hope to achieve the same.”
Rage Arts aren’t the only new weapon Namco is employing to steal Street Fighter’s competitive crown, with Rage Drive also added to the mix. While I desperately want to tell you that this let’s you summon a huge JCB to crush your enemies, it’s actually a pretty handy and infinitely more sensible safety net for players. Rage Drive gives you the option to use your filled Rage meter to power up a standard attack instead of taking the risk of leaving yourself vulnerable after a failed Rage Art.
Not content with stopping there, Tekken 7 has added another major new mechanic into the mix: Power Crush. While it may sound like a new flavour of Lilt, it actually allows players to absorb a blow from their enemy, ploughing straight through them and taking no damage – again, giving you the chance to change the tide of battle in one glowy animation.
Still, it’s not all sparkly new mechanics for competitive players. Like with any Tekken, there looks to be a lot of single-player content to enjoy too. As mentioned in our E3 preview, Tekken 7 is the first in the series to feature a dedicated story mode. While previous titles offered an arcade mode with short cinematics for each character, Tekken 7 is going for broke to expand its beloved and bonkers lore.
If you’re expecting an individual story mode dedicated to each character, however, you’re going to be disappointed. “There is one story mode for the entire game; there is not one per character.. but pretty much all the characters will show up,” Harada teases. “We’ve always had character-focused one-player content that players can enjoy. That’s why Tekken is so popular.
“[With Tekken 7] we’ve tried to satisfy both groups by having the tournament ready – fair and balanced gameplay, but at the same time having strong single-player character-driven action.”
As someone who loved finding the hidden depths under Tekken’s deceptively simple surface, these new changes were definitely a bit of a shock to the system. Yet, with the fighting game world changing around us, it’s not difficult to see why Harada decided to implement these changes – he’s hoping to create a more exciting, competitive game.
We’ll have to wait and see whether this goes down well with the fighting game community, but despite all the changes, I still found the old Tekken I knew and loved during my time with 7. The characters are still nuts, everyone has suitably ridiculous new costumes and Hwoarang’s kicks are still as brilliantly overpowered as ever.
That classic Tekken charm still seems to be very much intact and, personally, I can’t wait until next year to master my Rage Arts, get my Power Crush on and finally stick it to my smug little cousin.