LOS ANGELES – I’ve been playing Tekken since I first picked up a PlayStation 1 controller, and I’ve never seen the series evolve quite like I have with Tekken 7. Launching early next year for PS4, Xbox One and PC, this latest installment in the storied fighting game franchise retains everything that makes Tekken great, while adding an immersive story mode and some neat Street Fighter-inspired touches.
Playing Tekken 7 for the first time felt like visiting an old friend that got way better-looking over the past few years. Everything felt smooth and responsive; I immediately flocked to my favorite character Jin, and I was pulling off his signature combos and moves from previous games in no time. However, there was an added twist this time around – thanks to the game’s new Rage Art system, I had the ability to launch a tide-turning super move whenever my health bar got particularly low.
I then switched to Akuma, a demonic, iconic Street Fighter character making his first guest appearance. I was immediately blown away by just how true he was original incarnations; I didn’t even have to think twice before launching fireballs, throwing uppercuts and even performing certain combos straight out of the Street Fighter games. While Namco’s long-discussed Tekken X Street Fighter crossover game never quite saw the light of day, it’s clear that the developer figured out how to smartly implement Street Fighter’s 2D fighting mechanics within Tekken’s 3D arenas.
Finally, I got a taste of the new cinematic story mode that debuted at Xbox’s E3 press conference. Just like in the video, the action transitioned seamlessly – one second, I was watching Heihachi and Akuma duke it out in a gorgeous cinematic cutscene; the next, I was controlling that fight myself. Gameplay seems to be tweaked for story mode, as certain special moves end with a dramatic slow-motion effect. You’re also given quicker access to your Rage Art, giving you plenty of chances to end the fight explosively.
I feel the need to reiterate that Tekken 7 is absolutely beautiful. Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 makes the new fighter truly feel like a new generation of Tekken, with colorful, interactive arenas and the most detailed character models I’ve seen in the series yet.
The Tekken series has always delivered in terms of great fighting mechanics and a healthy amount of fun offline content, and Tekken 7 looks like it will take both of those pillars to new heights. I’m excited to master some new characters and punch my way through the entirety of the game’s glossy story mode when it hits early next year. Oh, and if you're looking to brush up on your skills before the new game launches, you can currently get the Xbox 360 version of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 as a free download on Xbox One.
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