It's been five whole years since we last had a Tekken game on a PlayStation platform – not counting the free-to-play and hilariously unbalanced Tekken Revolution. As such, Tekken 7 finds itself in a slightly tricky spot. Expectations are high when it comes to the series' latest entry, and with other big-name beat-'em-ups like Street Fighter V missing the mark for many, there's pressure on the Tekken Team to get this anticipated instalment right. Fortunately, Tekken 7 is more than sturdy enough to stand as one of the best fighting games on PlayStation 4.
For those of you who have been keeping up with the game since its original arcade release in 2015, this praise probably comes as no surprise. Over the last two years or so, Tekken 7 has been tweaked and refined into what we now know as the finished console release. The final product is polished, tight, and super satisfying. In fact, we'd go as far to say that this is the most improved that Tekken has felt since the revolution that was Tekken 3 all the way back on the PSone.
That won't mean much to you if you're unfamiliar with the series, though, so allow us to briefly explain what Tekken's all about. Unlike fellow PS4 brawlers Street Fighter V and Injustice 2, Tekken 7 is a 3D fighting game, meaning that it functions on a 3D plane. Characters are free to move around entirely 3D arenas instead of being confined to a linear strip. Movement, therefore, is a big part of combat, and here, that movement feels more fluid than it ever has done in the past.
When it comes to actually smacking your opponent across the chops, the game doesn't stray from the foundations laid by its predecessors, but it does add a few new mechanics here and there. As with previous titles, there's still an emphasis on keeping your enemy in the air with specific combos in order to deal maximum damage, but newly introduced screw attacks make things a little more accessible. When they connect, these blows send an airborne foe into a relatively slow spiral, which allows you to get a few extra hits in as long as your timing is right. Compared to the bound mechanic seen in older games, the concept of screw attacks is a lot easier to grasp if you're new to Tekken. They also allow for some great looking and deadly combos.
Less technical but just as important is the overhauled rage system. When your health drops below a certain point, your character will be enveloped in a red aura, and their attacks will increase in power. However, if a simple damage boost isn't enough to satisfy your bloodlust, you can now use up your rage in order to let off a devastating rage art, which is essentially a super move. As long as you have enough health to absorb any incoming attacks, rage arts will cut straight through your enemy's offensive, dealing more damage the less health that you have. Naturally, these properties make them a fantastic comeback tool, but if your opponent sees one coming, then it can easily be blocked and punished.
Rage arts add yet another layer of strategy to Tekken's general play, and they're a joy to watch unfold. What's more, newcomers can assign rage arts to just one button on their controller, making them easy to pull off. This means that more casual players can enjoy the extra flashiness without having to remember specific inputs. Indeed, any and every button can be remapped to suit your needs, and you can do this directly from the character select screen. It may be a small addition, but it's little touches like these that let you get into the next match that much quicker, which is always appreciated.
Speaking of diving straight into the action, Tekken 7 doesn't skimp on single player content. If you don't want to jump online, the game gives you three modes of play: story, arcade, and treasure battle. Arcade is the simplest of the bunch, presenting you with five opponents to fight and beat before the credits roll. You can't really complain about a standard arcade mode, but we wonder why there are only five stages when previous titles had a few more – it's over just a little too quickly.
Next on the agenda is treasure battle, which is easily one of the most addictive modes to ever grace a Tekken game. Returning players will immediately draw comparisons to ghost battle as you fight a never ending supply of opponents until you decide to quit, but there are a couple of key differences. As the mode's name suggests, treasure is the main thrust here. After every victory, you're presented with a treasure chest which contains a random piece of cosmetic equipment that you can customise your character with. There's a huge amount of stuff to unlock and use to personalise your favourite fighters, so fashionistas in particular will likely end up loving this mode.
Sadly, our thoughts on the much hyped story mode aren't quite so positive. Continuing on directly from Tekken 6, the plot does a surprisingly good job of getting you up to speed with Tekken's mental ongoing narrative. There are some brilliant cutscenes peppered throughout, and series enthusiasts will no doubt enjoy seeing how proceedings unfold, but some frustratingly cheap boss battles put a dampener on things, and it's all over in a couple of hours or so. If your intention is to purchase Tekken 7 primarily for the story mode, then we'd suggest reconsidering; it's a mostly fun ride while it lasts, but it's certainly not the star of the show.
Moving into more competitive territory, the title's online offering is rock solid. You've got ranked matches, casual matches, and the all new online tournaments. Setting up lobbies for friends and strangers alike is easy, and if you're just looking for a quick scuffle, the game will inform you of potential opponents while you train. Importantly, the opposing player's connection strength and ranking are displayed when they appear, so you can simply decline the match if you think it's going to be lag-fest or a massacre.
If you're looking for a bigger prize than a higher online ranking, however, then you'll definitely want to check out the aforementioned online tournaments. They're an excellent addition to Tekken's suite of online options, allowing you to organise competitions for up to eight players, whether they're friends or strangers. Champions get huge in-game cash prizes and treasure chests, so aside from the obvious glory, there's plenty of incentive to get stuck in and test your skills. In fact, we'd love to see an offline tournament mode in the future.
In many ways, Tekken 7 feels like a celebration of the series as a whole. Its story mode features the conclusion of a plot that's been going on for over two decades, and it's sprinkled with moments of pure fan service. Elsewhere, the gallery boasts intros and ending movies from every single Tekken game up to this point, and the PlayStation exclusive jukebox mode features every music track from past titles, allowing you to create your own custom playlists for use throughout the release. As far as bonus content goes, it doesn't get much better than this.
Last but not least, we have to give special mention to the graphics. Running on Unreal Engine 4, Tekken 7 looks superb at times. The stages in particular are a treat for the eyes, and the character models are immaculate. Impressively intricate particle effects pretty up every fight, and, along with some sublime sound effects, help give attacks a real sense of impact. On top of all this, the game incorporates slow motion during critical points in battle, punctuating desperate victories or crushing losses. Combine everything, and you've got a fighter that's both incredibly satisfying to play and great to watch. It also helps that the soundtrack features some absolute bangers - par for course as far as Tekken's concerned.
In terms of gameplay, Tekken 7 is masterful. Its overhauled rage system gives its already punchy combat a whole new dynamic, while helping to level the playing field for more casual players. Its story mode isn't quite the blockbuster that it thinks it is, but the insanely addictive treasure battle makes up for that on the single player front. Meanwhile, its online components can't be faulted – the newly introduced tournaments being a real highlight. Tekken 7 is a fantastic fighting game, and one of the best entries in the series.