Thursday, June 8, 2017

Tekken 7 Review (PlayStation 4)

Written By: Bernard Julius Paje


Title: Tekken 7
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Fighting
Also Available On: XB1, Steam, Arcade



When I was still a student, I discovered a game that I had no idea would change the landscape of competitive player versus player games: Street Fighter 2. I was instantly addicted to this game when I got a copy of the console version some time later. I played this game a lot by myself and with friends (even though I did not become very good at it because I prefer playing platformers and role-playing games) and I knew that this game will be a genre-defining template for games of its kind in the future.

A few years later – after the huge leap in quality of 2D sprite-based games and during the infancy of 3D polygonal games – a pair of fighting games that took advantage of 3D technology got released: Virtua Fighter and Tekken. These games had people flocking in arcades back in their heyday. Of the two, Tekken resonated with me more because I found the gameplay and character designs better. I also played the console version of it when it was released and I enjoyed its mechanics even more. I then proceeded to beat Arcade Mode for each character to unlock their rendered ending movies as well as to unlock all the secret characters. Good times!




GRAPHICS

Fast forward to now: The latest numbered Tekken installment is finally released for consoles! It has been a while since I played a numbered Tekken release (which was the portable version of Tekken 6) so I once again got excited to get to play a canon entry of the series (last gen’s Tekken Tag Tournament 2 does not count). While the overall plot of the Tekken universe is fairly convoluted, I think the rendered cinematics for this series just keeps on getting better and better for each entry. It just goes to show how much technology has improved greatly since the original Tekken. And speaking of the original Tekken, all of its opening and ending movies are included in this game. In fact, ALL of Tekken’s rendered movies are here! Cinematics from Tekkens part 1 to 6, as well as from the two Tekken Tag Tournament games are all here. As you play Tekken 7, you can unlock literally all the arcade and story cinematics from all the Tekkens! There’s also unlockable concept art for each installment as well. Awesome stuff!

Beautiful cinematics aside, the actual in-game graphics are also a marvel to look at. Each of the characters is gorgeously animated and stands tall on-screen. A constant and smooth 60FPS is maintained for the majority of the game, with framerate stuttering apparent only during loading times before a match begins. The fighting areas are also nicely rendered, with vibrant backdrops that have detailed and sometimes interactive elements within it (like breakable floors and railings). Story mode incorporates various graphic styles, with chapter introductions mostly told through a static 2D scrolling artwork, as well as via cinematics that transition to the in-game graphics.

One minor graphical issue I experienced a lot is clipping, which is a common problem of 3D graphics where parts of an object can go through another. It is very noticeable during certain instances, particularly when you try to throw big characters like Kuma or Panda. As I mentioned, this is a very common issue for 3D graphics and has been present since the first Tekken, and it will not affect the fun you have with the game in any way.




MUSIC

Overall, the new music for Tekken 7 is great. The music used during menus is light and relaxing, while the ones used during battle are fast and upbeat. The sound effects for menus, punches and kicks will still sound the same to you if you have played any of the earlier Tekken games. And if you like the music of the previous games, then you’re in for a treat because this game also has ALL the music from the previous installments of Tekken. Very cool! Just like the cinematics, you can play any music track you want via the Jukebox mode. You can also customize the music that plays for each section of the game (via three playlists). There are also preset music configurations available, in case you do not want to create a custom playlist.

One minor gripe I have is with the way the game handles voiceovers. Like the diversity in languages of the previous games, characters always speak their lines in their native language: Nina speaks English, Heihachi speaks Japanese, Claudio speaks Italian, Kuma and Panda ROAR, etc. What is weird is they talk to each other using their language of choice yet they somehow understand each other. It is just so jarring to listen to at times and feels unnatural. But since this has been the Tekken norm for a few games now I guess we have to live with it. As they say, if it ain’t broke…

Oddly enough though, Josie Rizal does not speak Filipino. :D




GAMEPLAY

As always, the action is Tekken is fast and furious. Tekken 7, like any polished sequel, has several new features that add more diversity and unpredictability to a match. Tekken 6’s Rage System has been expanded to add Rage Arts (much like SF’s super moves) and Rage Drives (a powerful move that most of the time can be executed during a combo for extra damage). Another new feature is the Power Crush, which makes your character impervious to all attacks except throws and moves that hit low. While you are in this near-invulnerable state you can still attack and perform combos, making this a potential momentum changer if used against your opponent correctly. Also, there are times when actions like near misses, hit collisions and Great victories (when one player beats his or her opponent with very little health left) are accompanied by a ‘slow motion close up’ effect, which is very cool and adds tension to a match. Repeatedly triggering this effect is a potential crowd-pleaser at e-sports events and the like. Speaking of e-sports players though, some of them may find this a tad annoying because it could potentially mess up their timing (particularly during near misses) and I am not fully sure if it can be disabled at the time of writing (a patch to add an option to disable this is possible of course).

Tekken 7’s story mode – subtitled “The Mishima Saga” – has one brand new, kick-ass feature: The inclusion of Street Fighter legend Akuma into official Tekken lore! For someone like me who grew up playing both games this is just so freaking cool! I will not mention any spoilers, but the way Akuma has been retconned into the story is clever; it doesn’t feel forced and it works. Playing as Akuma is also going to be very familiar if you grew up using him (or to some extent Ryu or Ken) in any of the Street Fighter games where he is part of the roster. All his moves are here and almost all his combos work. If you had no prior Tekken experience but can dish out some punishment in Street Fighter then you can most likely stand a chance against an experienced Tekken player. This is also quite possibly the closest experience we will ever get to the (most likely) cancelled Tekken X Street Fighter (google it – Street Fighter X Tekken is a different game guys).

The story expands on various events set during previous Tekken games’ timelines, at times even using the actual cinematics from the previous games prior to handing you control of your character. That said, while the overall story is great, the gameplay in this mode is kind of meh. There are several instances where the game uses quick time events (QTE’s), which seem to be an oddity for a fighting game but still work nonetheless. Also, several chapters of the story have you battling a bunch of generic Tekken Force soldiers (or Jacks) in succession. I personally found these fights repetitive and boring, but thankfully they chain into the story set pieces nicely. Another main flaw of story mode is its length; you can beat it in one and a half to two hours. Other recently released fighting games have longer story modes (with multiple endings) and offer a better single player experience overall, so you may end up slightly disappointed in this regard.




VERDICT

Tekken 7 is a great game that can be enjoyed by both casual players (like me) and fighting game enthusiasts. If you are like me and grew up loving Tekken’s characters, storytelling and humor then this game is for you. And if you are a Tekken enthusiast then the new features and nuances will definitely appeal to you. Oh, and veteran shotokan warriors can easily join the fight as well, thanks to Akuma.



PROS

  • It’s good ol’ Tekken with a bunch of improvements.
  • It has almost every Tekken cinematic and music track in it.
  • AKUMA IS NOW A PART OF TEKKEN CANON! Like, really!


CONS

  • Story mode is kind of short and lacks diversity.
  • The way characters use different languages to speak with one another is so weird.
  • Some graphical clipping here and there.



RATING: 8.5/10