Tekken 7 (PS4) First Impressions

As this review is a First Impressions of a game that is still in development, there will be no */10 Geeks score at the end. Any aspects of the game discussed here are subject to change in the final version.


When I recently interviewed Katsuhiro Harada*, executive producer and franchise custodian of the Tekken series and co-director of Tekken 7, I asked him what he thought about the impact Tekken's legacy has had, and will continue to have, on the fighting game genre. Both he and his interpreter, game designer Michael Murray, were a bit thrown; apparently, nobody had ever asked them such a thoughtful question.

If no-one was asking that then, they'd have to be asking it now. With the impending release of Tekken 7 and the end of a saga that has spanned more than two decades of gaming history, "legacy" is the word of the day.

The plot, which is surprisingly accessible for those who may not have gone through the previous games, concerns consternation between three scions of the Mishima clan: Heihachi, patriarch and owner of the world's best hairdo; Kazuya, son of Heihachi and owner of the world's best eyebrows; and Jun, son of Kazuya and owner of the world's best shoulder tattoo (his hair is still kind of impressive, though). The three men battle it out for control of the Mishima Zaibatsu, one of the two global megacorps vying for world domination. Along the way, characters from previous games - and a bunch of new faces, too - assemble following the announcement of another King of Iron Fist tournament, an event which is sure to not ruffle any feathers, cause any problems or bring back any long-held grudges between competitors whatsoever.

Tekken 7 is to be commended, first of all, for its much greater focus on story this time around. The Saga of the Mishima clan has been around since the first game back in 1994, but it now feels like a much more fundamental element of the game. This may be to the detriment of some supporting players who, while still having compelling backstories and narrative strands of their own, are largely subsumed as cogs in the greater machine of the Mishima story, but the effort the game has gone to in order to make its narrative so prominent and engaging is laudable. Granted, some aspects of that narrative are overwhelmingly goofy almost to the point of camp, but it's still the most centered Tekken has felt in quite a long time.

Going along with the refreshingly accessible plot is the equally accessible fighting gameplay. Tekken wouldn't be Tekken without a cast of colourful characters knocking each other around like each insulted the other's mother, utilsing a host of complicated combos and drawing on demonic/magic/technological energy, where applicable, to kill each other. In both the Story and Arcade modes - as well as some other gameplay modes that haven't yet been announced - Tekken 7 delivers some of the smoothest gameplay I've ever had in a fighting game, button presses feeling much more smooth and requiring fewer finger gymnastics to reliably pull off. The game does present the danger of repetitive gameplay through allowing the player to become confident with one or two go-to button combos - for example, my playthrough with Heihachi usually relied on two-button prompts which resulted in either a lightning fist uppercut or what can only be described as the most skull-crushing noogie ever inflicted - but those desiring a challenge have a host of other moves they can choose to master.

Since its release in Japan back in 2015, Tekken 7 has also obviously had time to refine and polish all its bells and whistles. Visuals are electric and gorgeous, and moves are pulled off with somewhat believable physics, when magic powers or teleporting alien cyborg ninjas aren't involved. Sound and voice acting are pretty great, with the former making every bone-crunching kick, punch and skull-crush noogie feel impactful, and the latter...well, actually, the voice acting isn't that great. The English vocals sound particularly unenthusiastic, but it is interesting to see all characters communicating to each other in their respective languages without the need for translation between them (and on that note, Heihachi's Japanese voice actor sounds like he's having the best time devouring the scenery of every scene he's in).

I'm certainly keen to see the final product of Tekken 7; this is the first time since probably Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 that I've been stoked for a fighting game. As both an ending to a grand saga, and the culmination of a story which started back when I first started out with my PS1 as a youngling, there's a definite sense of full circle all around. Mind you, that full circle might just as well be the roundhouse kick I delivered to Yoshimitsu's face.

- Chris

Tekken 7 is set to release for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC on June 2.

Geek of Oz would like to thank Bandai Namco for allowing us to have a hands-on look at the demo.

* Look for my full video interview with Harada and Murray next Friday, May 5.


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