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Hands-on Preview: Tekken 7
by Ryan Jones | May 5, 2017 | Comment Now
The eight year wait is over: the classic punch-up returns.
Hands-on Preview: Tekken 7

Imagine a world where every disagreement could be sorted with a fist fight. The upcoming General Election would be more interesting to say the least.

Tekken 7 (and every game in the series that precedes it) adopts this exact - and bonkers - mentality. Whether someone wants to gain control of a powerful organisation, restore a friend’s memory or settle a family dispute, the solution is always a few rib jabs and kicks to the face.

Some might be put off by this absurd simplicity, and it could well be the reason why developer Bandai Namco felt the need to add a convoluted story into the mix.

When the bell sound, though, this punch-up brawler knows its audience. It’s for those who return home weary from work and want nothing but over-the-top action. And, for that, Tekken 7 delivers. Well, at least, it did during the two hours I had to play with it.

ARCADE ROOTS

Anyone who’s previously played a Tekken game, or almost any other fighter, should be able to pick up the controller and delve into the action straight away. Triangle and Square cover your punches, while X and Circle are used for thumping kicks.

Of course, sequencing these buttons in specific orders will trigger powerful combo moves, but you’ve got to be something of an expert to use these without brainless button-mashing. You can also block and crouch by using the D-pad, which is crucial for success.

Otherwise, there’s not much else to it. That’s no criticism, mind: the control setup for fighters has remained mostly the same since their birth on the arcade and have had little reason to deviate.

All the same, Bandai Namco has still tried to spice up the formula. In the campaign, for example, you’ll be able to unleash devastating moves via “Story Assist”. Sadly, it tends to feel like a last ditch button for cheating rather than a new move to add to your arsenal.

“Rage Art”, meanwhile, is a powerful attack that won’t make you feel guilty. It can only be triggered once your health drops below a certain value. It often tilted the fight in my favour at crucial moments, yet never felt overpowered - since I was only a punch away from death.

SPOILING FOR A FIGHT

Most of the first 90-minutes of the story is spent beating up G-Corp henchmen, which isn’t particularly exciting. They have a basic moveset, while also wielding guns for ranged attacks.

The most fun is had when challenging other fighters from the roster. They all have their own set of traits and moves, which drastically changes the pace and style of each fight. Heihachi Mishima, for instance, has brute-force attacks that rapidly deplete your health bar. But he isn’t the most agile of foes, so as long as you can avoid his attacks and strike precise counter blows, beating him down isn’t as daunting as it first seems.

When I faced one of the new characters, Claudio, I needed to quickly adapt my strategy to deal with his ranged attacks. Fortunately, he didn’t possess a great defence, so when I got a few sucker punches in he fell down rather quickly.

All of the characters look great on the Unreal Engine, which is a first for the Tekken series. Tekken 7 is by no means a stunner – Horizon Zero Dawn makes it look like a pixelated cartoon in comparison – but it’s easily the best looking Tekken game yet.

FAMILY FEUD

The plot revolves around the dispute between family members Heihachi, Kazuya and Jin, which has been a major arc in the Tekken series since its inception. If you thought your family was bad, you should know that these guys have a history of throwing each other off cliffs and into volcanoes.

The story is said to answer many questions that Tekken fans have been pondering for years. I didn’t get a chance to see any of these major plot points during my 90-minute playthrough, as I was restricted to the first eight chapters of the story.

Tediously, the majority of this time was taken up by elongated cutscenes - most of them consisting of evil scheming and cheesy dialogue which didn’t feel integral to the plot. There was also a lot of character hopping – which I realise was done so you could play as everyone in the roster – but in terms of storytelling, it became jarring and disorienting. I never really felt a connection to any of the characters, and I didn’t have enough time with any of them to get a good grasp of their unique traits and moves.

As well as insane action sequences, the story is told through cut-scenes with graphic novel-esque artwork. These are narrated by a voiceover, which contribute to a more relaxed tone which feels at odds with the rest of the story. If I’m being brutally honest, you could cut out at least half of the cut-scenes and the story wouldn’t suffer. At least there’s a “skip” option for those only interested in break-neck walloping.

IN PLAIN VIEW

The other 30-minutes of my playthrough was spent on some of the new modes. Firstly, I played Treasure Battle, where you fight against a series of CPU opponents in order to unlock customisable items. You can use these items to give the roster of characters goofy wearables, such as a flat cap or a sumo wrestling get-up.

Some of the angry-faced characters lost their intimidation-factor instantly, while the Panda looked hilarious in a flashy pair of sunglasses. I can see a lot of people having fun with the deep customisation for online battles.

The Jukebox, meanwhile, allows you to create playlists of soundtracks from previous Tekken games. It’s a delightful portion of nostalgia, but is still more of a tacky add-on than anything substantial.

There’s also a VR mode for Tekken 7. While I expected an immersive first-person view of a punch-fest, I was instead shown a third-person view of a training level. The VR aspect doesn’t offer anything new to the experience, and so feels redundant, especially when the training mode is also available without a headset.

Of course, there are the traditional Arcade and multiplayer modes too, but these are self-explanatory, and yet what you’re likely going to be spending most of your time playing.

TEKKEN 7 INITIAL VERDICT

The 2D fighting genre has had little innovation in the past decade, and Tekken 7 does little to change that. It’s happy doing what it does best: letting you pummel the hell out of your opponents. Sticking to its roots might not convert fighting sim sceptics, but for those who love the Tekken series inside out, that’s a major boon.

New characters, such as Street Fighter’s Akuma, will delight fans and the series’ introduction of the Unreal Engine gives Tekken a much needed visual boost.

And, from what I’ve seen of the early stages of the campaign, the story appears to be as eccentric and dramatic as ever.

Of course, being limited to two hours of play, it’s impossible to tell whether this installment will hold up in its entirety to Tekken games of old. Although, I am confident that any fighting enthusiast will find a lot with joy with Tekken 7.



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