Tekken 7 is the latest in a long line of fighting games from Bandai Namco. It had a small release in arcades in Japan in March 2015, with an updated version called Fated Retribution with new stages, characters and costumes in July 2016. This version has now been released on Xbox One, and I pulled on my special video game fighting Gi and fired it up.
First impressions are very good indeed, with an atmospheric title sequence showing how we came to be at this point. The attract sequences for Namco fighting games have always been top notch, right back to the first Tekken on PS1, and especially the Soul Calibur games back in the day. Ah, nostalgia, how old you make me feel! Anyway, back to the modern day, and after watching the sequence all the way through, I went to the menu and dived straight into the world of the King of Iron Fist Tournament once again.
Story mode was my first port of call, as you may expect, and things are a little different this time around. Instead of picking a character and following their progress through the aforementioned tournament, this time the story is played out from behind the eyes of a reporter.
In this new world, Mishima Zaibatsu and G-Corporation are at war, and as is usual when big corporations have a scrap, it’s the little people that suffer. The named reporter who narrates the story is one of these unsung victims; when he is away on a job his hometown is destroyed, and his wife and son lost. So far, so grim and depressing. Being a reporter, he decides to do what he does best and investigate the Zaibatsu, in an attempt to get a measure of revenge for his losses.
What follows then are some incredibly well done, but very lengthy cut scenes, explaining what is going on in the world. Jin Kazama is in charge of the Mishima Zaibatsu, and at the start of the story has gone missing, leaving Heihachi to attempt what I think could be called a “hostile takeover”. You are thrust straight into the action as Heihachi, and have to defeat waves of faceless Tekken Force personnel in an attempt to reach the top of the Mishima and a confrontation with Nina, after which he assumes control.
An interesting diversion this time is that each character speaks in their native tongue, with subtitles if they are required. In one memorable scene, we see Heihachi and Nina talking to Claudio, an Italian fighter. In this one cut scene, there are three different languages being spoken, with no indication whether Heihachi speaks fluent Italian, or Nina Japanese or anything. However, it does make more sense when you think about it, so this is actually an interesting design choice.
The story mode is split into chapters, and in each chapter, the setting is explained in a cut scene, and you then have control of usually a different character. In a couple of the chapters, you have to also take part in a kind of tag team type affair, taking control of more than one character. One memorable chapter where this occurs is actually a replay of Kazuya’s ending sequence from one of the older games. As you beat Heihachi to win the championship, G-Corporation send a ton of their Jack-6 fighting robots in to destroy you, and you take control first of Heihachi, then of Kazuya as they fight off the robots. The chapter ends the same way as the end sequence did, with Kazuya throwing Heihachi to the floor and the Jacks jumping on him, before one self destructs in his face! This is a real showcase of how far the game has come, as the graphics this time around are absolutely top notch, and the animation of the characters and overall presentation is top notch.
As you progress through the story mode, you will also start to unlock Character episodes, which can be selected and played through on the story chapter select page. These are single fights for popular characters, with a set opponent and then an often amusing end sequence to be seen. They add to the charm of Tekken 7, as seeing a mini story arc set up and played out for these people is very satisfying.
The controls for this story mode have also been simplified for noobs like me, as I can’t remember all the moves for all the characters any more. With a swift press of the LB button, in this mode you can pull off some of each character’s signature moves with a single button input – LB + A for instance. Obviously, if you know the character’s moves you can do this manually, but it’s a handy prop for when you end up in the shoes of a character you’ve never played before – as I did when I was handed control of Alisa. With this magic button, I was soon jetting about the screen and handing out the beatdowns! Sadly it doesn’t work online, but that’s a different story…
There is another new feature this time around in the shape of the Rage Mode.
As your character takes a kicking, their rage begins to grow, and when their health bar hits a critical point, a new move becomes available, the Rage Art. Fired off by a single press of the RB button, this is a string of moves that can decimate an opponent’s health bar. The damage it deals is inversely proportional to your character’s health gauge, so hitting with it when you have a sliver of health left can turn the tide of a battle in an instant. It can be blocked though, so some tactical play will be necessary to get the best out of it.
The rage you accumulate can also be used to power up some of your attacks, which while sacrificing the bar, will make them stronger across the board. This is known as the Rage Drive, and requires a different direction and button input for each character, which luckily are displayed in front of your chosen character’s portrait each time you start a bout. I tended to stick with the Rage Art, as being able to end a bout if your opponent made a mistake seemed more useful to me.
Presentation wise in the fights, and the graphics have been turned up to 11. There’s a cool function when you hit the finishing blow, which sees the camera slows down and zoom in to where the attack lands, which looks very dramatic and helps to rev you up. The animation is top drawer, and the attacks that can be pulled off by pressing random buttons are breathtaking. The sounds of the crunching attacks landing, and the stages being destroyed sound like the end of the world, and all in all there’s nothing to complain about in the way it looks, moves or sounds.
In addition to story mode then, there are the usual online and offline offerings to work through. Staying offline for the moment – because it’s a wilderness out there – we have a few modes to choose from.
Arcade mode allows you to select a character and play through the arcade version of the game, as you may have expected. This is a good little time waster, but somewhat disappointing as the only reward for clearing it is to watch the end credits; there doesn’t appear to be individual endings for each character.
The next offering, Treasure Battle, allows you to play until your fingers bleed, as long as you keep winning! Every match wins you a treasure box, assuming you are victorious, which contains customisation items for the different characters, and also for your player card when you finally venture online. Treasure Battle also gives you the opportunity to increase your player rank to the top level, whereas Arcade mode can only rank you up as far as 1st Dan. Add to this the expected local offline battle and practice options, and there’s a lot of content to be explored. Mastering each of the characters is not something that’s going to happen in ten minutes.
Having gained confidence that I knew roughly which buttons did what, myself and Yoshimitsu (he’s been my guy since Tekken 2, but now appears to some sort of alien space squid instead of a samurai) headed into the murky waters of the online world.
There are three options this time around; you can engage in a player match, a ranked match or take part in a tournament. Obviously only wanting to dip a toe into the water, I chose player match, set my criteria (no less than a four star connection please) and settled down to wait. A nice touch while the game searches is it sets you up with a sparring dummy, allowing you to warm up and hone your technique before getting into a ruck. The game will show you the name of the person it’s found, and crucially their connection, and gives you the choice of whether to fight or not. To my cost however, I found out that having a good connection doesn’t mean that the game will run well, as my opponent appeared to be using a potato filter on his ADSL line. The game slowed down horrendously, to the point that I thought it had frozen, before suddenly bursting into life again.
Sadly this has turned out to not be a rare occurrence. Every match I’ve played online, whether it be ranked or unranked, has suffered from horrendous slowdown at some point, and despite a patch from the developers, it hasn’t improved matters. Being able to choose the minimum connection in the one on one matches made all the difference here, cutting out red bars so it did lead to some good matches.
However, compared to the horrors awaiting me in Tournament mode, these matches were like a little glimpse of heaven. Searching for a quick tournament netted me precisely zero results, so in an attempt to experience all the game had to offer I went into the search function. The first tournament I joined seemed to being run by a American child, who objected to my connection (it was down to a yellow bar, connecting all the way to the USA) and promptly squeaked something inaudible to everyone but bats and kicked me from the lobby. The next one I joined I had a good connection to, and then the remaining six places were taken by those whose connections ranged from red, to a symbol which seemed to imply they had no active connection at all. And who do you think my first match was against? Yep, Mr No Connection. He proceeded to stutter and and glitch his way to an easy victory, as I literally could do absolutely nothing to him, as the screen just kept freezing and saying”syncing” while it tried to make sense of his connection.
Needless to say I lost horribly, so it left a really sour taste in my mouth as my loss had nothing to do with my skill or lack of it. It had to do with connection issues. This seemed to be the way these tournaments went down, with poor connections ruling the roost.
I retreated to the safer waters of the customisation menu, thinking I’d use some of the items I had unlocked in the other modes. There are a ton of character customisation items to find and purchase, from glasses to facepaint to even assault rifles that can be strapped to their backs. You can make the characters almost unrecognisable, which is tricky in online play as you sometimes can’t tell who the opponents have chosen, making tactics somewhat tricky.
The other area of customisation is for the player, allowing you to have different health bars, backdrops, mottos and many more. Luckily these things unlock fairly easily, especially in Treasure Battle mode, and there are plenty more that can be bought with the Battle coins that you get for each victory. At around 300,000 they aren’t cheap, but the game is generous with its coins, giving out thousands each time you fight.
In conclusion then, Tekken 7 is a very worthy entry into the series, and as a fighting game has few equals. The 3D arenas are a real selling point, with strategic side stepping helping you to stay alive and adding an extra dimension to the game, if you’ll pardon the pun. Offline, everything in Tekken’s garden is rosy, but online it looks like someone has been at it with the weedkiller. The lag, the slowdown, and the bad match ups with awful connections all conspire to rob the online world of any fun. The rare good matches that I got just showed up how much fun online fighting could be, and it feels like a massively missed opportunity.