Review: Tekken 7 — A must-buy for fighting fans

The Tekken series has come a long way since the original game’s arcade debut back in 1994. The franchise’s roster and modes have swelled over the years, with a variety of interesting new characters joining the ranks with each release. Tekken 7 is the culmination of all of that, providing what might be the best fighting game of the year despite both harsh competition and an underwhelming story mode.

It’s worth stating at the beginning of this review that while Tekken fans (who have waited quite some time for this–the original Japanese arcade version of Tekken 7 launched back in 2015) will be the group enjoying this title the most, it’s still possible for newcomers to hop in despite both the time and effort needed to master it. Tekken 7’s story mode makes a successful attempt to ease the pain of learning the various characters within it by mapping special moves to the controller’s face buttons when the left bumper is held, and the game’s various difficulty modes provide even more breathing room just in case that isn’t enough–or even more of a challenge, if that’s what you’re into!

Tekken 7 provides a decent challenge on its own as you learn the ropes, featuring a large roster and mechanics that take time to understand. Some of those mechanics are completely new, like Rage Art (a mechanic which lets you unleash a powerful attack when low on health, although it’ll return your attack strength to normal) and Power Crush, which lets you finish some attacks even if your opponent is attacking you.

Of course, it’ll also take time to master each individual character as well. There’s a character for just about every playstyle, and finding the one that’s right for you is pretty satisfying. When you figure out the characters you like the most, it’s also possible to create your own unique looks for them. This is done by purchasing various outfits and accessories with the currency you earn through playing the game. It’s a nice touch, making the characters you play as feel even more personal.

You’ll be earning plenty of points to spend on these characters in each mode as well, and Tekken 7 is absolutely packed with content. From staples like a local versus mode to online matches and various single-player challenges like arcade and story modes, you’ll be coming back for more often–and you’ll definitely want to. Tekken 7’s mechanics, excellent character designs, and the fantastic soundtrack come together to create a game that’s undeniably fun to play. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect game.

The story mode is a 5-or-so hour long adventure that finally brings an end to the iconic battle between Heihachi Mishima and his son, Kazuya. The story itself is a bit of a slog, feeling like it lasts far longer than it truly does in a very bad way. That doesn’t mean the story mode is bad, however. It’s the best entry point to the game aside from spending a great deal of time in training mode, and does contain some excellent fights–both in the form of gameplay and pre-rendered cutscenes.

For those who don’t know about Heihachi and Kazuya Mishima, here’s a quick recap. Basically, Heihachi was jealous that his son, Kazuya, was shown more kindness by his own father and threw him off a cliff at an early age. Kazuya vows revenge and comes back years later and takes back the company his grandfather laid the foundations for. As the games go by, sometimes Heihachi defeats Kazuya and sometimes Kazuya defeats Heihachi. Sometimes, Kazuya’s son Jin also defeats them both. This conflict has been going on for decades and with the ending of Tekken 7, it looks like Heihachi and Kazuya Mishima finally have a resolution. While the title ends on a cliffhanger, it’s great to see the Heihachi and Kazuya saga come to an end.

The cutscene battles are a blast to watch, featuring both great visuals and fight choreography. However, I experienced multiple pauses during some of the later cutscenes, with the longest one being around 3-4 seconds. To have this happen during the story’s final battle is terrible, and it brings down an otherwise exciting moment.

The story mode has very few attempts to mix things up gameplay wise during its thirteen chapters, and while this isn’t a bad thing, it makes those few attempts feel odd. One segment that stands out is a bit where one of the game’s cast members, Lars, nabs a gun from a soldier. You’ve got the option to use the gun for the entire upcoming battle, shifting to an over the shoulder perspective and rolling to dodge incoming enemy attacks. It’s cool, but really feels out of place when nothing like that ever happens again, ignoring some QTEs.

One of the biggest problems with the story itself–and potentially the reason it feels so long–is the narrator covering it. He’s an unnamed reporter with a dull and monotone voice who contributes next to nothing to the story, but you’ll end up hearing from him for most of it. He has very few interactions with any of the game’s characters, and none of those interactions even had to happen at all! In a version of the game without the reporter the story’s outcome wouldn’t be any different, nor would any of the various events within it. He technically provides an excuse to hear about what sparked the fierce hatred between Heihachi and his son, but he could have been easily replaced in that situation with any of the various characters that are far more relevant to the plot.

This might make it sound like the plot ruins everything it touches, but it’s not the most important part of the game. It exists to provide a reason for various characters to get together and beat the crap out of each other, and it does just that, even finding a good way to seamlessly mix in Akuma from Street Fighter. That doesn’t make the story good, but it means that it doesn’t bring the experience down enough for me to say I disliked the mode containing it.

When it comes to unimportant downsides the game’s visuals also come to mind. While performance is incredibly smooth, everything often looks a bit muddy. It’s a shame, because the art direction is top notch. Character designs are simply excellent, and each stage looks fantastic as well.

While mentioned previously, it’s hard to emphasize just how good Tekken 7’s soundtrack is. It’s good enough that I would be more than happy to purchase the soundtrack on its own and spend some time listening to it throughout the day, and not many games earn that honor anymore. The pulse-pounding songs fit the action on screen incredibly well, and there’s even some slower and serene tracks mixed in.

Overall, Tekken 7 is one of the best fighting games available on Xbox One, if not the absolute best. Had the story been better and clearer, it would’ve received a higher score than our Injustice 2 review. Despite its shortcomings, it’s still an amazing game, and is an absolute must-buy for anyone interested in fighting games, even if they’re new to the Tekken franchise.