Tekken 7 is very much the same as every Tekken game that came before it. That’s not an inherently bad thing, but it does feel like the series’ refusal to innovate may be beginning to catch up with it.
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Format: PC (reviewed), PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: June 2, 2017
Copy provided by publisher to freelancer
If you’re just hoping for more of the Tekken fighting game system you’ll find it in Tekken 7 and it’s as mechanically solid as it ever was, but if you were hoping for series growth and innovation you won’t find much of it here.
Having reviewed Injustice 2 just a few short weeks ago, a game that told a compelling story with high production values and naturally woven in combat in its story mode, Tekken 7’s story mode feels disappointingly flat by comparison.
Fights in story mode are awkwardly linked by a narrative that constantly teases answers to questions long time fans have been asking without ever actually giving those answers, while simultaneously failing to give enough interesting plot hooks to draw in players new to the series. As a result, the whole narrative seems destined to disappoint players of both perspectives.
Plot threads are set up that lead nowhere, characters are wedged into the story without progressing it just so they can take part in fights, and the few answers players are given often provide deeply unrewarding conclusions that fail to live up to their hype filled setups. Considering story has always been more prominent in Tekken than its contemporaries, this lack of resolution in a story pegged as the conclusion to a long running narrative is disappointing.
Also disappointing, many of the story mode fights consist of fighting waves of identical generic enemies, one after the other, with a single loss pushing you back to the start of the string of encounters.
On all difficulty modes, Story Mode not only allows but encourages using shortcut keys to activate flashy special moves and progress without using the combos you would normally need to in other game modes. The problem with this is that most fighting game story modes provide a useful environment to test out and learn the ropes of characters for new players. By encouraging these shortcut specials, story mode discourages learning how to effectively use the full roster, which is usually half the appeal of a fighting game story mode.
The main story mode in Tekken 7 focuses almost exclusively on the series’ returning cast of characters, relegating new playable characters to side story missions that lack the quality of presentation or attempted lore weaving of the main story. It’s a shame, because by shunting these new characters aside it’s somewhat ensured the fresh faces will fail to mesh properly into the overall Tekken arc.
Both returning and new additions to the roster fit together well mechanically and provide a good level of balance. Akuma makes the leap from Street Fighter to Tekken and doesn’t seem too out of place, but does feel a little gimmicky when placed alongside the rest of the roster. There’s barely a weak link in the cast, which is likely a result of refining the series over this many entries.
The core combat system in Tekken 7 is still relatively unchanged, which isn’t entirely a negative thing. There’s still an amazing feeling of weight and impact to collisions that’s unmatched by many fighters, there’s still room to fumble and keep your distance while learning the ropes and everything about the visual presentation in combat still sends the message that every player is a powerful badass.
The only real change to the combat system in 7 is the addition of Rage Mode, where players with low health are able to activate what is essentially a Super Move from Street Fighter, a move designed to allow losing players to claw back towards victory and keep wins tighter, but otherwise it’s the same Tekken combat it has been for years.
You can also sacrifice Rage Mode for a Rage Driver (moves powered up by sacrificing that potential super move usage) or activate a Rage Crush, powering through enemy attacks without getting staggered, but still taking damage from hits landed on you. These are yet more ways to last minute turn the tide of a fight, but they do not effect the pacing of the bulk of a given fight.
Otherwise Tekken 7’s offerings as a package are fairly slim. Online functioned well on launch day with minimal lag and fast ranked matchmaking, with a fairly standard and unexciting selection of game modes. On PS4 there’s a VR mode that allows you to watch the fights play out on a giant cinema screen, but it’s nothing to write home about.
Honestly, Tekken 7 is a content predictable fighting game surviving off the back of it’s relatively unchanged combat system.
While that core combat is still strong, I’m personally getting a bit weary of Tekken relying on it’s barely changed core combat to keep it relevant in a world where fighting games are fast evolving into vastly more rounded products. Tekken 7’s combat isn’t bad, it’s just a bit stagnant, and I don’t know how much longer it can get away with that reliance on not fixing what ain’t broke.
I like this entry, but this is probably the last entry that can get away with this.