In these modern days, 3D fighting games are a rare commodity. Born from 3D craze of the mid-1990s, with an urge for every single console in the market to enter this new dimension, the genre flourished… until it almost disappear entirely. Let’s face it, in the case of fighting games, a combat in a 3D environment can pose many gameplay worries and few titles have mastered this trend, like Soul Calibur and especially the Tekken series (both published by Bandai Namco). Known for these endless combos, the series had lost some of its punch after the release of Tekken 6, but Katsuhiro Harada wanted to bring back the saga with the might of an iron fist, worked for years with the perfectionist mind of a Japanese developer, and finally gave us Tekken 7 on consoles after a year in Arcades, and might be the series best entry so far.
Since its early days, the Tekken series suffers from many of the genre’s clichés which were too difficult to forget (I’ll refrain from mentioning the horrible Tekken 5 and Tekken 6 which did not help at all). With its lengthy combos, its endless aerial juggles and a certain amount of accessible playability, the franchise did not bother to reshape the gameplay. Now with Tekken 7, Harada’s team had the main goal to get away from the old trends, and get back to the days of being a fun but also very technical fighting game for the sake of the fighting game tournament scene. On that competitive front, Tekken always played a role in major international tournament series like EVO. For that, the franchise decided to expand that by adding native eSports features in the game, such as the possibly to organize your very own bracket online tournaments, participate and spectate matches being played, which help tremendously streamers.
To start with, when to comes to technical gameplay, Tekken 7 says goodbye to the infinite combos to return to something purer and raw, closer to the gameplay feel of my favorite entry in the series which is Tekken 3. In general fighters seem heavier on ground, but lighter in the shock of the punch and kicks, helping push back the opponent without the endless aerial juggle of the previous games. (the nuance is important) And return more quickly to the ground. In the air, the hitboxes seems more reduced than before, requiring players to time hits better to link these famous air combos. The result of all this is shorter but more violent combo threads, which above all will demand a greater mastery of the game, which is what we wanted.
The game is therefore more technical, but also more tensed, with a real work done on the defense and the possibilities to counter-attack. Tekken 7 introduces the Power Crush system, which allow the players to absorb damage from a mid to high attack and use it against your opponent (similar to Street Fighter IV Focus Attack). The Power Crush system doesn’t work on low sweeps or grabs, so don’t expect to abuse or spam these features. This is where the mindgame takes on its importance since you’ll have to be close to active that Power Crush, but at the same opens the door to get countered by a simple grab, and thus reminding you how important attack variation is in Tekken 7. Besides the Power Crush, Tekken 7 enriched the Rage system introduced in the previous opus. With RB (or R1 depending on your console), it is possible to launch a Rage Art attack, a kind of Super Attack (a bit like Mortal Kombat’s Xray Attacks), but also to use the Rage Drive, a unique attack that has the ability to break enemy guard, and initiate longer combos. Tekken 7 of course didn’t forget the cinematic angle of franchise, and added this Super Slow Motion that is activated when both of the players are at low health and are just about to hit each other.
When it comes to the story mode of Tekken 7, it tells the end to the conflict between Heihachi Mishima and his son Kazuya, known as the “Mishima Saga”. The mode will expand with a few different characters other than Heihachi and Kazuya, which could entertain fans of the series. I for one never bothered understand the storyline of the Tekken Series, and this episode is no different as it’s riddled with cliche dialogue lines and scenes. The game story takes a hell lot of time to tell the story, with too many cinematics, but also weird conversations where characters would be enacted by different lanaguage voiceovers, which is a bit weird and illogical. I mean, unless you are at an interpreter party, who would logically start a topic in English (Nina), for a Japanese (Heihachi) to answer back in his native tongue, only to be interrupted by a new Italian fighter (Claudio). Anyway, it might feel normal for people, it’s just weird to hear 3-4 different voiceover languages in the same scene.
At launch, Tekken 7 gives us a fine selection of 36 characters to play, including old ones like Nina, Kuma, Law, but also nine brand new fighters including Claudio, Luchy Chloe and our first Arabic one called Shaheen. The new fighters are necessarily more classical in terms of design styles, adding a great diversity in the roster of the game, without creating useless duplicates. Every fighter has his own personality and it will once again be difficult not to find one that clicks to your style, whether you prefer some like Lucky Chloe with very fast hits and extremely fluid movements, or go for – my favorite so far – Master Raven who’s more technical and relies on counter-attacking, as well as using teleportation and quick dodge paired with Ninjutsu style (Sort of robotic-enhanced ninja).
As it is the case with many fighting games nowadays, including recently Injustice 2 (reviewed on our site last month) you will have the freedom to customize your favorite fighters through a dedicated editor. Clothing, hair, color schemes, and a bunch of – mostly goofy – accessories will create numerous combinations. I wish though that they focused a bit on creating real secondary identity like character specific or exclusive accessories, because most of the alternative set given are mostly just alternate color scheme sets based on the original. If you didn’t get what I mean, I’m referring to ideal secondary cosmetic skins that dramatically change the look of the fighter, maybe with a classical retro look, younger age, etc. As you would have guessed, most accessories aren’t unlocked and require you to either spend money (in-game currency) or do specific game actions and achievements. You can earn money through various existing game modes (online, singleplayer, etc) or spend time in the Treasure Fight mode. The latter, is a like a min-arcade mode, forcing you to beat a succession of enemies and will win a chest after each win that contains a customization item, and the more you chain victories, the more rare the loot.
On the side of the online mode, I’m happy to say that it’s probably the best around from this new generation of fighting games (In comparison to Injustice 2 and Street Fighter V). While it was still difficult to judge the effectiveness of matchmaking since few people had the game when I received my review code, but after the launch week, I faced no problems, with no latency issues, dropping server connection and no frame drops whatsoever.
Sadly my small issue with the game is the general visual look of Tekken 7, which is closer to an older generation game. For a game launched in 2017 – even if it was in Arcade 2016 – it visually looks like a Tekken 6, lacking a sort of finesse. Even if the game is perfectly fluid, using a brand new Unreal Engine 4 custom graphic engine, the general feel is a bit sub-par on couple of points. Menus are slick, arenas are really colorful and special effects pop, but face animations feel crude, and some clothing and other cosmetic parts of the fighters look pixelated around the edges.
But at least, on another artistic point of view, the game has some of the best audio compositions, mixing fun guitar metal shreds and heavy riffs, traditional Japanese and far east instruments and even some Arabian and Spanish influenced tunes. To be honest, that surprised me a lot, as previous games were always playing the clichés of the genre, which you can actually listen to in the PlayStation 4 exclusive Jukebox mode, which acts as a historical music library of the Tekken franchise.
Tekken 7 was reviewed using an Xbox One digital copy of the game provided by Namco Bandai as well as a PC Steam copy of the game purchased by the reviewer. The main review was done by Nazih Fares and the technical PC review was written by Mazen Abdallah after a tested on a PC running Windows 10, with an 8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 via retail and online stores. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• A heavily technical game as always
• Excellent soundtrack and effects
• 36 playable characters at launch
• Plethora of character cosmetic customization
• One of the best online mode I've seen in a fighting game
• What's with this story mode?
• For a 2017 game, it could look a bit nicer
• Some traditional Tekken game modes have been removed