Tekken 8 Review - The Heat Of Battle
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Tekken 8 Review - The Heat Of Battle

Tekken 8's greatest challenge is building on a fighting game experience that has been refined to close to perfection over the course of eight-plus years, without feeling like it retreading old ground or needlessly upending the foundation laid by its predecessor. Thankfully, it's a challenge that developer Bandai Namco meets by introducing an improved fighting system focused on aggression, an impressive roster of 32 fighters, and one of the most rock-solid online experiences I've ever seen in a fighting game.

The main draw of Tekken 8 is the Heat system, which represents a new wrinkle to an already-satisfying set of brawling mechanics. Certain moves in each fighter's repertoire emit a burst of white energy on contact which, in turn, activates an aura of that same energy around the character's limbs. While in this state, characters can inflict more damage when blocked, gain access to a quick Heat Dash or powerful Heat Smash, and receive a few unique perks depending on the character. Claudio, for example, gets access to enhanced and powerful Starburst attacks while Heat is active, while Leroy can add time to his Heat meter whenever he uses one of his unique parry or reversal attacks, which keeps him powered up for longer. Heat can only be activated once per match, and it's only active for a short period of time, which promotes more aggressive tactics. Although it can be easy to think of this as a comeback mechanic, it has much more strategic utility and versatility which can mean it's used for an aggressive offense or a Hail Mary.

This makes every battle feel like a slugfest, which I find to be a refreshing change of pace for the franchise. Tekken has always been good at getting the adrenaline pumping during a match through the basics of trading fists, but the swings in momentum that a perfectly timed Heat activation can cause significantly amp up the excitement for both players and spectators. Importantly, the new Heat system doesn't pave the way to mindless mashing of buttons to brute force the aggression. While it's certainly possible to win a bout or two by smashing buttons, players who prefer to wait for the opportune moment to strike will often come out on top, and in brutal and cinematic style, they may just need to make some adjustments to account for the unpredictability of mashers. The new Heat System offers a lot to new and returning Tekken players, and the threat of a drastic turn in the tide of a battle at the touch of a single button press makes for tense moments and satisfying flourishes when successful.

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