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How Tekken 8 Breaks Tradition to Embrace Aggression

GameRant 2/7/2023 Liam Ferguson
© Provided by GameRant

The 2022 Tekken World Tour concluded on February 5, 2023, bringing together the best Tekken 7 players in the world to duke it out for what some thought could be its final official tournament circuit. It turns out the game has at least one more year as the star, but there was some news for Tekken 8 at the event. Before the top eight got underway, Tekken series producers Katsuhiro Harada and Michael Murray came on stage to present a huge swath of information about the upcoming installment.

One of Tekken's original fighters, Nina Williams, was confirmed to return with a suave look and a pair of usable handguns. That detail reinforced Tekken 8’s efforts to bring more flair to the old martial arts series by expanding the number of characters who use weapons in battle. While that provides a small look at Tekken 8's direction, it pales in comparison to the Tekken 8 New Gameplay Mechanics Introduction. This developer deep-dive by Katsuhiro Harada and Tekken Project game director Kohei Ikeda lasted over half an hour, and if there is one thing to take away from it, it's that Tekken 8 will encourage far more aggression.

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Aggression is Tekken 8's New Focus

According to the team behind Tekken 8, this entry was designed around the concept of aggression. Everything from character abilities to mechanics have been tuned to create a more aggressive approach than past Tekken games, and it currently looks successful in that respect. Most of the presentation was centered around the new Heat System, represented by a bar underneath each combatant's health bar. By either using a universal Heat trigger called Heat Burst, or a character's own distinct set of Heat Engagers, players enter a powered-up state not unlike Marvel Vs. Capcom 3’s X-Factor.

In this state, every Tekken 8 character receives some kind of powerful benefit, whether this be new abilities or moves enhanced with guard breaks or juggle properties. In addition, there are also stocks of chain-shaped Heat Energy produced, one from a Heat Burst and two from Heat Engagers. One stock can be used to perform a Heat Dash to extend combos, and all of them can be used up for an especially powerful Heat Smash. During their overview, the developers noted it will be difficult to do anything but defend and gain tons of white health damage against an opponent using Heat, and one wrong move can convert that into regular damage.

Tekken 8 Could Be the Series' Most Distinct Title

Even though Tekken 8 has removed the Rage Drives from Tekken 7, the Heat System has replaced it with even more oppressive tactics. Tekken 8 is primed to be the most offense Tekken title ever created, with the one mercy being that white damage can be recovered by landing hits similar to Bloodborne's Rally. Players of every skill level will be encouraged to stay aggressive, but dominant fighters could become more overwhelming. Even when Tekken was at its most mechanically dense and crazy in the Tag Tournament titles, it never became so dominated by constant pressure.

This has caused a stir in the Tekken community, and discussions on the topic will likely continue long after Tekken 8 is out. In a sea of fighting game franchises experimenting with flashy offensive mechanics and wildly diverse character styles, Tekken has always stood out as a back-to-basics fighting competition. The Tekken cast certainly isn't normal, but their gameplay felt more akin to a realistic hand-to-hand competition. Matches had a lot of defensive maneuvering, and there was a constant flow between slow but tense footsies and bursts of action.

In just about every way it can, Tekken 8 has broken away from this. More characters now use weapons, the Heat System can potentially bypass footsies in neutral, and the sum of these changes has brought a lot of comparisons to Street Fighter 5 and Guilty Gear Strive from cynical players. Whether that's a bad thing won’t be clear for a long time, but either way, Tekken 8 will be the biggest shift in tradition the franchise has ever seen.

Tekken 8 is in development for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

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