Tekken 8 Closed Network Test Impressions – It’s Good As Tekken Should Be

Bandai Namco is still cagey on when exactly Tekken 8 is coming out (we know it’s coming this year), but they sure are happy to let people sample the latest iteration of the 3D fighting game with the recent Closed Network Test.

The Tekken Project team looks to be taking an evolutionary approach with Tekken 8. Mostly because Tekken 7 is a pretty solid package of a fighting game already. And this refinement, from what I observed and experienced during the beta, left me with a good impression of where this entry is going for.

The network test is primarily to get players to try out the new rollback netcode as well as cross-play. The fighting game community has been championing this specific implementation of netcode as it provides the best experience for a fighting game, and it does show. The matches I partake in with opponents in Japan, South Korea, and even Russia, have been seamless. I can press buttons and they behave as I expected, and opponents move and react in a fair manner. The one instance I find unplayable stuttering is when I was matched up with a PC player who has performance slowdowns- which is indicated in the HUD. Other than that one blip, the handful of matches I experience had little networking issues.

The presentation continues to be top-notch. Though it’s one of those games where the graphical improvements can be subtle. Characters are more expressive, especially their faces in fights. The environment gets beaten up throughout the course of a typical first-to-three rounds match. And the hot dog carts spill out hot dogs when you smash your opponent on them. As serious as Tekken can get, the goofy side of it still lingers which is great.

I love the new pre-match interactions- and some match-up-specific call-outs (Lili and Asuka have unique lines when they do their Rage Art against each other).

And the character select screen is brilliant. The way that the 3D models load up as silhouettes only for a spotlight to shine upon them for the big reveal (and to flex that lighting model) is art. The music, on the other hand, is an acquired taste. I personally don’t mind the repeated chants of 18 “oh”s but the reception of that earworm by fans seems to be lukewarm. The stage music is what you’d expect from Tekken: energetic electronic dance music beats to Electric God Wind Fist to.

Gameplay-wise, Tekken 8 has introduced what’s effectively a special meter. Called the Heat gauge, it requires a specific move- either a universal input or character-specific moves- that gives you an advantage to press on the attack. You’ll be rewarded for your aggression more often. Experienced players can make use of all sorts of buffs and changes to a character when they are in heat, while novice players can still get some mileage out of it by activating and immediately ending it.

On the topic of novice players, there are now Special Style where you can toggle L1/LB to activate. This will turn all face buttons into either an auto-combo or a shortcut to a move with a specific property. This includes a typical bread-and-butter combo, an air combo that juggles opponents, a low sweep and a power crush.

It’s interesting that whenever someone toggles Special Style on, you’ll know it, even online. I’ve seen opponents quickly change plans mid-way and toggle it on to great effect. By that I mean, I was styled on with no remorse by someone mashing the same button over and over. I’m by no means any good at Tekken, despite having played almost all the entries in this series throughout its lifespan. So Special Style isn’t that powerful, though it does give novice players a leg up.

Because boy do they need it. In typical Tekken fashion, the movelist of some of these characters is long. Law has 116 individual moves, for instance. It’s a good thing that there is now a separate list that highlights a character’s most important moves (Law’s list is reduced to 17 main techniques). Most characters have new moves too this time around, some of them related to the Heat system.

Due to the many, many moves each character can do, if you’re just mashing buttons there’s bound to be some cool move that you have triggered. So any fight can still be a spectacle, even if you don’t know what you’re doing. Just press buttons.

Because pressing buttons in Tekken 8 feels so good. When you know a move, it’s really easy to reliably input them. Moves with a diagonal direction plus two buttons will just work. The problem is getting a combo. While doing them individually is easy, tieing them together into a combo is still going to require hardwork, training and labbing. I tried some of the combo trials and immediately give up as I have no time to do this during a limited-time beta.

My main worry is that Tekken 8 will have a problem keeping players motivated to get good. Tekken has always been fun to mess around when you don’t know anything- its skill floor is low- and really comes alive at high-level play- its skill ceiling is high.

The valley in between that two spectrums is something I am still afraid to tread through mostly from looking at the move lists, the combo trials, and the sheer amount of characters I need to learn. It’s just the beta and we’re already at 16 characters. 16! And there’s definitely more to come.

The big takeaway I had with the Tekken 8 Closed Network Test is that gameplay-wise, this is some good-ass Tekken. It’s as good as Tekken should be. Button presses feel good and the network play right now shows promise.

I think it’s safe to say the hardcore and veterans should be sold on Tekken 8 already. For the newcomers and novice players, we still need to see what Tekken 8 is offering for those not interested in climbing up the ranks. Street Fighter 6 showed that fighting games can bring a robust offering for people looking for a strictly single-player experience. Whether Tekken 8 will also swing big, or play it safe and follow what Tekken 7 had content-wise remains to be seen.

Tekken 8 is slated for release in 2023 for the PS5, PC (Steam) and Xbox Series X|S.

Closed Network Test code provided by the publisher.

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