Tekken 7 continues a winning formula of easy to pick up and play but hard to master gameplay and great graphics. However, for a genre that is so intrinsically tied to its online systems, this game fails at almost every punch. The story mode, in comparison to games like Injustice and Street Fighter V, is dull to play through as well.
The seventh entry in the series elevates Tekken further with new mechanics and new generation graphics. The rage art and rage drive system switches up the formula that was getting a little stale in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. When you’re low on life, you can unleash a special attack (Rage Art) that can turn the tables. When against unsuspecting beginners, it’s easy to activate but for those more experienced, you have to gauge the timing more accurately, perhaps with a combo string before, as it’s easy to block and players can punish you. It’s similar to the Critical Edge system in Soul Calibur V or Injustice. Rage Drives are more complex. These attacks can interrupt a string of attacks from your opponent and give you an opportunity to start a combo that, like the Rage Art, turn the tide of battle. These inclusions make battles less predictable and can create hype moments between players and the tournament scene. Another nice touch that Bandai Namco added is that the camera zooms in toward the two characters’ moves during crucial moments; you hold your breath to see if your attack hits first. Battles in Tekken 7 feel more dynamic than previous entries because of the new systems that the developers have added.
No one fighter feels the same. They all have unique styles of play to bring to the table; even Panda and Kuma play differently. Akuma brings a taste of what Tekken X Street Fighter could be like as his moves are translated into the game very well, and the characters from past Tekken games have their moves moved over with slight additions that compliment the new mechanics that T7 has to offer. Overall, the game feels balanced with no noticeably overpowered characters.
However, that frenetic pace of Tekken 7 stops there when you go online. The launch of the game is plagued with issues with its online system, but with update 1.02, Bandai Namco improved the ranked mode’s matchmaking. It still takes a long time to get matched with someone. The first time I found someone with this update after 3 minutes of waiting (at around 10 PM), it found someone from Australia with a poor connection; it wasn’t playable. Next, the game was able to find a match within 1 to 2 minutes and was able to find someone with a great connection; the game was fluid. It’s a hodge-podge with its matchmaking right now and while it’s better than launch day (which failed to connect to players 9 out of 10 times), it’s still iffy.
After failing to connect to ranked games during the initial week, I decided to play with my friends in the player lobby system. This also has issues. First, are some spectating issues. The game every once in a while fails to sync up correctly to the match you are watching and when the players win, it can cut off the ending of the match. The syncing is not working in real time either and when players are reacting to the match, it’s a buzzkill because you want to experience that moment with them. Second, how long it takes to get from one game to the next. If you want to play with one friend, you go into the lobby, pick your characters, and wait for the game to load; this can take 2 minutes. Then when you finish the match, you go back to the lobby and do the process again. It’s frustrating. Why not have an option to back out to the character select screen rather than the lobby screen or better yet, a rematch option so you can go back into the action? Also, why not have the option to have simultaneous battles? These are offered in the tournament mode but not in a lobby for player matches.
Despite the disappointing experience online, this game looks fantastic in this generation with an Unreal Engine 4 backing. Weather effects, such as rain, look fantastic, hits feel more intense from the added visuals, and the games runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second. The stages, while looking detailed, look like they were taken from the same stroke from previous titles. You have a few odd stages here and there, but they lack engaging animation or locales. The top of a skyscraper? Seen that one before. How about the top of a mountainside? Yep. A middle eastern town market? Yeah, seen that plenty of times. How about a dojo? Yep, multiple times in the series. Tekken 7 fails at providing unique locations to fight in. Facial animations do look like they were ripped from the PS3 titles as well but everything surrounding the characters is detailed from the flickering of the flames in the Mishima Dojo to the many people in the crowd jumping up and down in the Arena.
One cool feature that Bandai Namco added is the tournament mode. 4 to 8 players can join a tournament with winners and losers brackets. It’s a nice way to bring a community together. Another fantastic mode is training. In Tekken 7, it offers robust options, such as recording yourself for the CPU to mirror, adding various conditions (such as rage activation) in the options menu, and a move/combo teaching tool. The move/combo teaching tool is especially helpful. You can display button prompts on screen (there’s no need to go into a menu). In addition, the game shows how the move or combo is performed and sounds off when the buttons are to be pressed. This mode alone widened my pool of moves and combos at my disposal and greatly increased my enjoyment of the game.
Three more additions to keep people playing Tekken 7 is the Treasure Mode, Character Creation, and Gallery. Treasure Mode has players going through rounds of battles to collect new clothes and accessories for characters while increasing your offline rank. It can be fun to play through round after round as the game changes it up occasionally with varying the formula, such as having double the attack, and including boss battles. Character creation is an inclusion that is great to have as you can customize your characters in wacky or cool ways, but it is disappointing as there isn’t that many interesting clothes or accessories to collect. Perhaps over time, Bandai Namco will add more like Overwatch‘s unlockables, but right now, there isn’t a lot of incentive for me to keep playing Treasure Mode to unlock more. The Gallery gives a nostalgic tribute to the Tekken series. It includes endings, videos, and art from previous games, as well as the cutscenes from Tekken 7’s story mode and art from Tekken 7. One fantastic feature from the Gallery is that every soundtrack from the series, even including Tekken Revolution, is available to play in stages and menus in the game. You can customize the music that is played, which might be needed for a few stages in Tekken 7. Most of the soundtrack of Tekken 7 suits the stages, but some are absolutely irritating with obnoxious (and distracting) dubstep beats. A highlight would be the epic Duomo Di Sirio with its heavy percussion and tasty guitar riffs, so make sure you don’t switch that one!
Bandai Namco pushed the story heavily within its trailers and unfortunately, the narrative within the game falls short of expectations. In a day and age, in which Mortal Kombat, Injustice and Street Fighter V feature strong story modes, Tekken 7‘s is a shallow but confusing mess and only features 10 or so characters rather than the majority of the roster. The characters are one dimensional, you aren’t rooting for either side as both Heihachi and Kazuma are power hungry selfish prats, and the narrative is slow and lacks focus. It lasts around 2 to 4 hours, but this game is really difficult, especially if you aren’t a Heihachi player. To play through the story mode, I had to relegate myself down to beginner mode, as the final bosses are incredibly cheap with recovering health and insane dashes and cancels that will infuriate you. It took me a long time to get through it on beginner mode, which does the hard hitting moves for you with a simple press of a button. One positive I’ll give Tekken 7, however, are the cutscenes and the seamless transition between them and the gameplay. The battles shown in the cutscenes are epic, especially between Heihachi and Akuma, and the seamless transition allows for us to get really into the action.
Another disappointment is that the story mode is substituting the series’ classic arcade endings. Instead of featuring most of the characters in the main story, they give them just one battle and a brief synopsis of what is happening to them. Do you want to find out more about Leo’s mother? No? Well, here’s a silly battle between Yoshimitsu and Leo instead? Would you like to know more about Eddy’s revenge story? Well, too bad as he faces Lucky Chloe and is forced to be a backup dancer if he loses. Some of these scenes like Leo’s and Eddy’s can be funny, but it’s really disappointing in terms of expanding the arcs of these characters. I wish Bandai Namco opted to have the arcade endings instead as they give an incentive for going through the arcade mode. Now, there’s no need to go through it; it feels like an empty shell.
Tekken 7 is an outstanding fighting game mixed with a disappointing story mode and subpar online system. With over 30 unique fighters to choose from and the new additions to the once stale formula, Tekken 7 is a bright spark in the series but there is room to improve. It’s time to return to the Iron Fist Tournament if you haven’t since the PS1 or PS2 era.
A PS4 code of Tekken 7 was given by Bandai Namco for the purpose of this review.