With the recent closed betas, Tekken 8 is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated fighting games releasing in 2024. Read on to learn more about our experience and takeaways of the Closed Network Test and Closed Beta Test.
Tekken 8 Closed Network Test and Closed Beta Test Experience
With the recent tests concluded, it’s time that I talk about our experience with the game so far. I won’t be talking too much about character balance as they are still subject to change for the final release. Instead, I will be focusing on how the game feels, looks, and how the new mechanics are as a whole.
Tekken 8 is Visually Stunning
The Tekken franchise has never been one to have bad graphics, and this game is no exception. It looks visually amazing, but at times may be oversaturated with a lot of effects. With the presence of auras, hit effects, and stage clutter there is onscreen, it may prove to be too much to look at and may overwhelm you just trying to move around. Unreal Engine 5 is proving to be quite a spectacle for the franchise, as the character designs have overall been great and the revealed preset costumes for most of the cast have been amazing as well.
Waiting Room Woes
Having a customizable avatar with open player lobbies are definitely not new features in fighting games, but this is Tekken’s first time at taking a crack at it. It’s a fairly standard lobby and customizations with multiple items to dress up your avatar. Some items are bought using the in-game currency or Fight Money earned from playing the game. The avatars’ style certainly looks a lot like a weird combination of a Nintendo Mii and the old Xbox Live Avatars. It was fun being able to socialize with friends with the emote function and interact with each other in the lobby, but there are some flaws to it.
As explained during their previous keynotes, Tekken 8 will have different online queues, namely:
● General Queue - normal queueing process similar to the older games.
● Group Queue - matches you on the same group of cabinets in the same Fight Lounge.
● Direct Queue - similar to the offline experience where you queue against the opponent across you.
Personally, it doesn’t make sense being able to access matchmaking while walking around in the lounge, as the in-game arcade cabinets are rendered obsolete, which was a weird design choice but does streamline being able to play at any time and place. A comparison can be made with Street Fighter 6’s Battle Hub where you can use a shortcut to match with players right away but it does put you in an arcade cabinet when you do so. Tekken 8 doesn’t do this in Beta and puts you in the General Queue when chosen.
Tekken 8 Connection Test
During both the Closed Network Test and the recent Closed Beta Test, I was able to try on both Steam and the PS5. There were a lot of bad connections and flat-out disconnects during the initial Network Test, but the recent Beta Test improved on both of these problems. The only thing that was a recurring issue was that playing with someone with a really low-spec machine can actually negatively affect and hamper the connection of the match. Low-spec machines can cause frequent desynchronizations and will bring about a bad connection, which may result in a lot of delay on both ends.
This experience however is a minor grievance, as the netcode has definitely improved from the franchise’s previous title. When it works, it works well. Tekken 7 players would know the experience of having a sudden lag spike for no reason, or just downright unplayable matches due to the connection. While of course this is just a beta test, the game is shaping up to have a way better online presence than its predecessor, and I'm all here for it!
Tekken 8 Has More Avenues For Offense
With the introduction of Heat and the changes to backdash canceling, there are more avenues for offense compared to the last game. It’s not uncommon to see a Tekken match end in two combos, and by rightfully getting punished for making a wrong decision should be the core component of any fighting game.
Heat, the new mechanic introduced in Tekken 8, adds a new layer of interaction as it can be used for either defense or offense. It’s an "Install" or timed buff which is unique for every character as they have access to new moves and have improved versions of existing moves. You can activate it by using a Heat Burst which is a universal mechanic that has the Power Crush move property. It can be used to either stop or continue offensive pressure or a way to extend your combo depending on the situation.
With the correct use of Heat, back and forths will be more prevalent as Heat Bursts can be used to address hyper offense as well as a way to continue your offense when your opponent tries to fight back. The powered up moves from Heat will also be a focus as well as these moves will be core to each character's offense and how they want to attack. Tekken 8 made use of the new mechanic to encourage immediate interaction and response as while Heat is powerful, it is also limited and depletes fast if you’re not using it immediately.
Backdash canceling, or the community-dubbed “Korean Backdash,” has also been nerfed quite a bit. This was a huge focus on Tekken 7 being able to keep the distance from your opponent and being able to move in and out at will. Though the distance covered by backdashing has been reduced as a whole, it's still the best way to retreat away from your opponent quickly. However, it is now limited since the distance was nerfed to some characters and requires much more proper timing to get the same amount of space from the previous game, requiring you to find other ways to avoid and fight back from the opponent's offense as compared to the previous iteration and not just run away from the opponent.
Power Crush is a move property that allows you to tank high and mid attacks while allowing your move to continue, akin to Super Armor in other fighting games. A common occurrence is that moves with the Power Crush property are unsafe to use and are generally baited by fast recovery moves. In the recent beta, these have occurred far less frequently and have rewarded the player that used Power Crush moves properly with their intended functionality. Due to that interaction and improvements to their speed, these are better options in general.
In response to the improvement of Power Crushes, it may be time to incorporate more grabs to your gameplan to address moves with this property. Heat Bursts and parries are directly countered by Throws or Grabs, since these become unbreakable or inescapable when done in response to these options. Aside from these, Throws can also be used to punish opponents on their recovery frames or the time it takes for them to recover before they can move again and will also be inescapable when done so. These changes to Throws may make it an even bigger option for offense in the release of Tekken 8.
Things Are Heating Up
Heat as a new mechanic is a great tool for each character to double down on their uniqueness. It lets you know immediately what the fighter is great at and what options you have, especially when you’re in this powered up state. Characters’ Heat moves are still subject to change, but I believe that it is an amazing tool to express player skill and character mastery.
I mentioned earlier that you are able to activate Heat in two different ways, the other way is through Heat Engagers. These are specific moves that allow you to activate Heat and push the offensive while in your powered up state. When in Heat, you have even more options to attack with the use of either Heat Dash or Heat Smash. Heat Dash is a special movement option that allows you to perform a dash somewhat similar to Akuma’s Focus Cancel and Geese Howard’s Max Mode Cancel. You can perform this after pressing the dash input on a performed Heat Engager. This allows you to either continue pressure as the attacker when the move is blocked or extend combos during a combo. Heat Smash is akin to Tekken 7’s Rage Drives where it is a powerful move that can turn the tide or continue the offense when done in the correct situation. Every character has a unique Heat Smash, but all Heat Smash moves have the same universal input of Right Punch + Left Kick. While these new mechanics are strong options to use during Heat, the tradeoff is that you will use your Heat gauge completely and will be locked out of Heat for the round.
In the first Network Test, Heat was a very oppressive tool for some characters as they would either deal too much damage, be it from successful combos or chip damage from blocked Heat attacks. This made the game very hard to play for the guy on the receiving end of the beatdown. They changed this in the more recent beta where Heat expired way faster than the initial test. Damage across the board was lessened by shortening combos using Heat. This change encouraged players to be smarter with their limited resource and to use it at the right moment instead of looking to get it off immediately.
Let Harada Cook
Plainly speaking, the game is shaping out to become amazing, and is deserving of its attention as one of the most anticipated games for 2024. The mechanics encourage players to take action and interact with each other more because of how Heat works for both defense and offense. Most of the systems will doubtless get changed over time, similar to the previous game throughout its lifespan. I’m excited about the new designs, mechanics and all the upcoming new things the game will offer. Katsuhiro Harada, the director of Tekken, has been great at adjusting and introducing new mechanics during the lifespan of Tekken 7. Almost every major patch had a new mechanic and big balance changes that were able to effectively extend the game’s life. I personally don’t see any difference with him at the helm once again where I think Tekken 8 will do even better than Tekken 7 due to them now knowing what to do and expect.
Seeing how players will react and adjust according to these is something that I can’t wait to see. Being able to look at the meta develop organically is a special thing in fighting games, as these games take a lot of time to grow and change. From the series’ sudden revival with Tekken 7 and riding its success with its latest entry becoming the most anticipated fighting game of the coming year, the future of Tekken looks bright and I’m glad to be a part of it.
- Special thanks to my friends: Joachim "Gold_Standard" Fuentes, Joe "NorthernCross" Catarata, and Kristian "KG44" Garrido for lending me some of their in-game clips and fact-checking the info for the game.