Tekken 7

EDGE - - GAMES -

PC, PS4

We’re not buy­ing the tagline. If “all fights are per­sonal”, Tekken 7, then shouldn’t they in­volve at least a lit­tle per­son­al­ity? This is the lat­est in­stal­ment in a se­ries fa­mous for its brand of bizarre charm, all in­ter­species pro­pos­als and health-re­gen­er­at­ing chick­ens. This time around, we catch our­selves crunch­ing through the game’s story, modes and op­po­nents, won­der­ing when the fun will start. It’s not that Tekken 7 is a sub-stan­dard fight­ing game – quite the op­po­site – but that the cold, com­pla­cent form in which it’s de­liv­ered makes it hard to root for.

Its core 3D brawl­ing sys­tem is as strong as ever, mind. Crisp taps of the four face but­tons turn into meaty on­screen blows. Whether an old hand or a novice, you nat­u­rally start to drum out a rhythm and test the sys­tem’s flex­i­ble op­tions – one-one-two, two left hooks and a right – then combo into an ex­per­i­men­tal launcher or low sweep. The or­ange fire­work of a con­firmed hit en­cour­ages, the white fiz­zle of a block de­nies. And Tekken 7 makes even ba­sic punch-trad­ing cin­e­matic. When two play­ers at low health throw blows si­mul­ta­ne­ously, a slo-mo zoom-in on hits (or, with de­li­cious ex­cru­ci­a­tion, on a miss) builds ten­sion and adds style with­out be­ing in­tru­sive.

Two other ad­di­tions, Rage Drive and Rage Art, yield even greater re­sults. A good scrap is dicey and dy­namic, build­ing to a KO crescendo, and th­ese new me­chan­ics give play­ers even greater con­trol over tempo. A health bar at 25 per cent or less pulses red to sig­nal your char­ac­ter’s Rage state. Ei­ther you spend the once-per-round buff on a Rage Drive – an EX-style move that gives you the ad­van­tage even if an op­po­nent blocks it and can lead into some tricky set-ups – or try to land

Tekken 7’ s su­per move, the Rage Art. The lat­ter’s more pun­ish­able than the for­mer, able to be blocked or sidestepped. But if it hits, the dam­age out­put is dev­as­tat­ing. Fast fights hur­tle to­wards that last quarter of life where mind games and Mex­i­can stand­offs come to the fore. With sim­ple in­puts, and no me­ter man­age­ment to fret over, even in­ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers are able to quickly start feel­ing out the fun­da­men­tal rhythms of a fight.

Bar­ring the not-ex­actly-orig­i­nal in­clu­sion of su­pers, how­ever, this will all be sound­ing fa­mil­iar to long-time fans. Tekken has re­peat­edly proved its mas­tery of the tac­tile, ver­sa­tile, vir­tual fist­fight. In truth, the changes from Tekken 6 to Tekken 7 are in­cre­men­tal, but the tweaks and flour­ishes shine none­the­less in their right­ful show­case: one-on-one fights. Lo­cal mul­ti­player is, as ever, the lag-free ideal – but the net­code is barely dis­tin­guish­able from it dur­ing our on­line tests, and a lobby sys­tem for up to eight play­ers makes get­ting a fight club to­gether easy. The al­tered rank­ing sys­tem works well, too; more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers are no longer seen as be­gin­ners ev­ery time they de­cide to try a new fighter, so match­mak­ing seems less frus­trat­ing and fights fairer. Un­less you’re not a to­tal new­comer, that is, be­cause if you are then you’re prob­a­bly get­ting smashed about to king­dom come. Ba­sic me­chan­i­cal ac­ces­si­bil­ity is just about all the help you can ex­pect from Tekken 7.

It’s ev­ery man, woman and panda for them­selves: it seems Bandai Namco could barely be less in­ter­ested in build­ing up and sup­port­ing play­ers, sim­ply pad­ding out the launch con­tent with un­der-baked modes rather than of­fer any real train­ing or guid­ance. Vague tips are meted out ran­domly at var­i­ous points in the story mode. One load­ing screen at­tempts to ex­plain what a Power Crush move is (think Tekken Revo­lu­tion’s in­vin­ci­ble spe­cials). A small, sheep­ish but­ton prompt might oc­ca­sion­ally sug­gest you per­form a Rage Art with­out giv­ing any in­di­ca­tion of what it is, or why you should.

The sin­gle­player main event, mean­while, is all over the place. Div­ing deeper into the Mishima clan’s bonkers his­tory is a tempt­ing prospect, though, and the open­ing and fi­nal half-hour are the clas­sic, campy Tekken we know and sort of love. But the ma­jor­ity is rou­tinely aw­ful. Too many fights are slogs through iden­tikit Tekken Force grunts, dropped out of the sky like fun-nukes. There is – hon­estly – a third­per­son shoot­ing sec­tion. On ev­ery dif­fi­culty, the AI’s grand plan is to spam the same strong move over and over. And while the Story As­sist fea­ture is an ad­mirable con­ces­sion for first-timers – hold­ing L1 turns the four face but­tons into short­cuts for spe­cial moves – the side-ef­fect is that it ef­fec­tively robs play­ers of the real joy of learn­ing how to play prop­erly.

In­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter chap­ters seem like an ideal op­por­tu­nity for some combo train­ing, but no. There’s some en­joy­ment to be had here, at least – J-pop-idol new­comer Lucky Chloe ag­gres­sively tu­tor­ing fel­low dancer Eddy Gordo is a high­light – but a few min­utes of rushed char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion leaves both lack­ing sub­stance.

Ar­cade mode is a measly six-stage run through the same woe­ful CPU foes and is only good for grind­ing the in-game cur­rency, Fight Money. It’s used to pur­chase cos­metic items (sur­real head­wear, for in­stance), or you can opt for the lucky dip of Trea­sure Bat­tle, an in­fi­nite se­ries of scraps where each win gifts you a piece of loot. It’s a nice idea, but so one-note and chal­lenge-free that you’re al­ways un­com­fort­ably aware of feed­ing hours of your ac­tual life to the void for a shot at a kooky hat.

Tekken 7 feels cyn­i­cally put to­gether, a solid but ul­ti­mately 20-year-old fight­ing sys­tem fresh­ened up with me­chan­i­cal twists and bulked out with gim­micks rather than gilded with the se­ries’ sig­na­ture per­son­al­ity. It’s not enough to be tech­ni­cally pro­fi­cient: you need a soul and a spark. Tekken used to have both in abun­dance; Tekken 7 has nei­ther, and it’s hard not to take this slow de­cline as a per­sonal af­front. Per­haps that tagline isn’t so wide of the mark af­ter all.

You’re al­ways un­com­fort­ably aware of feed­ing hours of your ac­tual life to the void for a shot at a kooky hat

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