There are some franchises that, at this point, there’s not much for critics to say and that’s really not a bad thing. Nintendo has refined Mario down to a science so perfect it can create a brilliant platformer that only needs one finger to play. Ubisoft’s multiple franchises tend to be one game with a new set of refinements passed on to the next. And Tekken is, well, it’s Tekken. The venerable bear-punching, robot-fighting, cosplay-pioneering franchise hasn’t changed much, in the basics, since the 1990s. But Tekken 7 makes an effort to make the series a bit more accessible to more than just hardcore fighting game junkies.
The basics are still here: You can just as easily boot up this game and play a one-on-one match with your buddies and it’ll feel just like it has, albeit the controls are notably snappier on a standard controller than in most fighting games. And it still has that weighty, crunchy fit; every time you land a hit, you feel it. It looks pretty and sounds fairly good, albeit the franchise’s score remains stranded somewhere in 2005. The voice acting also ranges from quite good to painful, which is a bit of a problem when the story mode includes so much voice work.
That said, there are some changes, and notable ones, to how the game plays, which mostly seem tilted more towards Twitch viewers than gameplay. Fans are already griping that side-stepping is slower and that juggling doesn’t rack up as much damage, although that likely will only affect hardcore players. There’s a new Rage Arts mechanic, a super move of sorts, but although they’re pretty, if a bit generic, they’re not the round-enders they can be in other games. Screw Attacks let you send enemies spinning like a propeller. Finally, the game has a Power Crush system that lets you deliver a hit that can’t be interrupted by a high or mid attack, although you’ll take some damage. Quite honestly, while longtime players will complain, the game feels much more balanced than it did before if you’re playing casually. You’re less likely to get destroyed by somebody whose only move is the side step and fast punch.
Most of these changes are designed to make the game faster and more aggressive, or in other words more fun to spectate. In the actual playing, unless you’re a hardcore strategist in the end it doesn’t have much of an impact; you’ll block more, duck more, and sidestep less.
That makes the story mode here a bit more important than usual. The story mode is a sort of extended tutorial where the game eases you into its new rhythms and techniques, and the easy mode will let you trigger special moves with the press of a button so you can learn how combos work. Yes, it’s training wheels, but it’s there if you need it, or if you’re new to the series, and playing through the game’s story is almost worth it just for the sheer operatic absurdity of the whole thing. Beyond that, single-player is pretty straightforward: Versus mode, an endless fight mode to rack up loot boxes and Fight Money, or the VR mode if you have a PSVR.
And, of course, you can fight online in tournaments, where winning scores you Fight Money to get you silly costumes for your already rather silly roster of characters.
Or you could just chuck it all and invite your friends over for a six-pack and a few rounds. In the end, Tekken really is a social game, in that it’s best played with somebody on the couch next to you. That hasn’t changed, and it never should.
Verdict: Worth A Chance
This review was conducted with Xbox One review code provided by the publisher.