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Great fighter, mediocre console port.

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    Tekken 7

    Rating: 3.5 – Good

    Great fighter, mediocre console port.

    After three long years, fans like myself have eagerly awaited the seventh mainline installment of the beloved Tekken series. The game was even delayed from its original release date of early winter of 2017. It seemed that Namco were taking their precious time to create the ultimate Tekken experience during its arduous development. Has The King of Iron Fist returned to reclaim its throne in the realm of 3D fighters, or would it be a dreck like Street Fighter V? It isn’t a tough feat, due to the lack of 3D fighters in the current gaming market. Tekken 7 is a solid return to form, but it hasn’t captured the magic it once had in the past.

    Since its teaser announcement, Namco boasted about the game running on the powerful Unreal Engine 4 instead of their in-house graphics engine. The results have lead to one of the sharpest looking fighters on the market. The character models brim with exquisite amount of detail on the pores on their skin, the thick tones of their muscles, and the reflective shading and strands of fabric of their clothing. Even the stages look excellent, with meticulous texture work and an attractive multi-layered color palette. The stages display a lot of personality that brings them to life. The jets flying by in Twilight Conflict, the volcanic eruptions in Devil’s Pit, and the mechanical arms of the Mishima Tower are just a few examples. The mo-capped animations are still of the prominent level of quality we come to expect from the series even for the newcomers of the roster. Minus the character stories endings, which I’ll get into later, both of the in-game cutscenes and CG cinematics, are lavishly produced. However, the real visual treat is the game’s new visuals effects from the character’s attacks, which are a dazzling display of eye-popping particle effects.

    The one of the few detracting factors to the visuals is the omission of motion blur from Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. They gave the fights a CG film-like flair and it’s underwhelming to see them missing in Tekken 7. While the game looks terrific on the PC and PS4 Pro, the game’s texture filtering looks compressed when played on the base PS4 and in the Xbox One version; not to mention that the loading screens are longer (albeit not quite as bad as they were in Tekken 6) and the menus frame’s dip in aforementioned versions of the game. Of course, none of this matters if the frame rate is at least smooth enough to sustain the core fighting. Tekken 7 maintains a stable sixty frames per second, without ever dipping during fights. The new costumes for most of the characters look attractive and mesh with the character’s style, but Jin’s and Hwoarang’s new costumes look gaudy and overwrought. The visuals aren’t necessarily quite on par with the graphical powerhouse that is Injustice 2, but it certainly looks miles ahead of Street Fighter V despite its use of the same engine.

    Tekken 7 is somewhat of a mixed bagged in the audio department. The sound effects haven’t changed from Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2, but their visceral roars get the job done. Almost every character speaks in their native language, and while it’s odd to see the characters understand each other, it’s a neat touch that adds to the authenticity of the character’s background. Tekken 7 boasts one of the better soundtracks in the series. The score can be soothingly atmospheric and riveting to match the intensity of the fights. Another nice touch is the fact that the music changes and ramps up after two matches, further intensifying the heat of the battle. Tracks such as Heat Haze Shadow, Highway 2nd, and Volcano 1st are bound to be fan favorites. Unfortunately, there are some ear-bleed inducing tracks, such as Forgotten Realms, Attack on Rhythm, and Distorter 2nd. The soundtrack isn’t as varied as prior games. As the genres mostly consist of techno, low-rent dubstep, rave, some orchestrated pieces, and that’s about it. There are more stand-out tracks than there were to be found in Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2, but it still doesn’t match the quality of the musical score of Tekken 2 and Tekken 4.

    The game’s story takes place after the events of Tekken 6, with Kazuya’s G-Corporation still at war with the Mishima Zaibatsu, which has been taken over by Heihachi now that Jin has gone missing. Story modes have often been regarded as inconsequential in fighting games, but NetherRealm have proved that you can create a compelling narrative in the genre. Namco pushed Tekken 7’s story mode as a major selling point of the game; it was heavily promoted in the game’s trailers, interviews, promotional art, cinematic intro (which is one of the weakest in the series), and even has a series of comics that tie into the plot. Surely, you’d think Namco would put forth a lot of effort to make the series’ ridiculous premise engaging. The narrative is unfortunately dreadful, even by fighting game standards. It can’t even be enjoyed as corny schlock, such as in the Guilty Gear Xrd series. Worst of all, it takes about two hours to complete and ends with the most infuriating final boss I’ve ever encountered in the genre.

    The transitions from cutscenes to gameplay are smooth and the final fight between Kazuya and Heihachi is a grandiose spectacle, but that’s where the positives come to a screeching halt. The characters receive little to no development, and reduced to just providing exposition to drive the convoluted narrative forward. Namco has stated that this would be the conclusion to the Mishima Saga and provide much needed answers to many questions, such as the origins of the devil gene. However, it doesn’t conclude the Mishima feud. It merely leads to death of one character and Jin (he does counts as a Mishima) is reduced to being in a coma for almost the duration of the campaign. Even the origins of the devil gene is never fully explained, it just states that Kazuya inherited it from his mother Kazumi and from her Hachijo bloodline. Akuma’s shoehorned role into the story reeks of bad fan fiction material. It also doesn’t help that he does little throughout the campaign and gives a head-scratching vague explanation to his connection to Kazumi.

    Kazumi was heavily hyped as having a major role in the story, but she only appears in one flashback and her motivations are dubious as well. Newcomer Claudio serves no purpose to the plot after he’s introduced, and Kazuya spends most of the time scowling at his desk. The way the game retconned Heihachi from a ruthless villain to a tragic anti-hero, comes off as a clumsy attempt to make you feel sympathy for him. What’s more egregious is that Heihachi and Kazuya aren’t even the main characters in the campaign, but rather a nameless and faceless narrator. Despite the narrator’s tragic backstory, he adds little to nothing to the story and it feels awkward to have everything explained by someone who’s irrelevant to the plot. What adds insult to injury is that his voice actor makes Harrison Ford’s narration in the theatrical version of Blade Runner exhibit Hitler levels of charisma in comparison. The story even had the gall to end with the tired, sequel-baiting after-credits cutscene. It even ends with a quote from (no joke) Oscar Wilde, which comes off as pretentious for the game’s already silly plot.

    Most of the characters who are absent in the Mishima Saga, are mitigated in the game’s Character Stories. These are worthless additions, as they’re all reduced to one battle and a block of text to add context to the fights. There’s not even artwork like in prior games. The cutscenes are poorly done as well; they either have characters walking away after the fight or contain unfunny comedy bits. There are some exceptions like Steve’s ending detailing his mysterious past, Miguel’s progresses his feud with Jin, King’s was relatively badass, and Lucky Chloe (of all people) had an amusing cutscene. Unfortunately, fan favorite Paul Phoenix remains a joke character, thus no trace of his valiant spirit prior to Tekken 5 remains. The campaign is a disaster from start to finish, and the rest of the offline offerings don’t fare any better.

    This is bafflingly one of the most bare bones package in the series and there are various series staples missing. Modes such as Survival, Time Attack, Ghost Battle, and the beloved Team Battle are nowhere to be found. Arcade Mode is a total joke, as there are only five stages and no individual character endings. Treasure Battle seems to be the replacement for Ghost Battle as you play through it to gain new customization options, but it’s a poor substitute for a multitude of reasons. Such as the pathetic A.I., you can’t choose your next opponent, you can’t change the difficulty settings, the occasional gameplay modifications don’t add much, and grinding for new items becomes a tedious chore. You can gain gold from Treasure Battle to unlock artwork and old FMVs from past Tekken games, but so much more could have been done with it. Such as using gold to unlock new stages, characters, avatars, themes, intro animations, victory animations, arcade version of past Tekken games, arcade version of past Namco games, more game modes, etc. One of the nice additional content is the inclusion of Tekken Jukebox, which allows you to listen to the soundtracks of older prior Tekken games within Tekken 7.

    Tekken 7 also lacks novelty modes like Tekken Ball and Tekken force, but Tekken Bowl returns in the form of paid DLC. Not only is the a slap in the face for fans, it goes against series project director Katsuhiro Harada claims of opposing paid DLC for content that should’ve been in the game. Some might excuse the absence of a tutorial mode and frame data, as a way to encourage newcomers to try harder to gain experience. But Virtua Fighter 5 included an in-depth tutorial mode and frame-data, which is a fighter that outclasses any Tekken in terms of depth and complexity. While the amount of customization is still impressive, there’s less than the prior two Tekken games and doesn’t have decals from Tekken Tag Tournament 2. The lack of substantial content isn’t quite as bad as Street Fighter V’s launch, but it still doesn’t justify such minimal offline offerings for a sixty dollar game. Even series staple characters such as Lei-Wulong, Anna Williams, Julia Chang, and Armor King are oddly absent from the roster as well. Katsuhiro Harada claimed that legacy characters will return as free updates, but Tekken Revolution’s (which now defunct) Eliza returning as paid on-disc DLC doesn’t bring hopes up.

    Tekken 7’s online play doesn’t hold up on its own either. The netcode has improved with recent patches, but it’s still wildly inconsistent. Some matches will take too long to get going, matches will occasionally lag, you frequently lose connection before a match begins, and there’s a noticeable frame input delay. The Online Tournament Mode allows you to play matches in brackets, much like in an actual fighting game tournament, but this mode suffers the most when it comes to the faults netcode. I only played the game online on the PS4, but I hear that the PC version apparently has superior performance and plays smoothly. But PS4 owners shouldn’t be subjected netcode this poor, considering that the majority of Tekken’s fanbase originated from the Sony PlayStation consoles. It’s made even worse when you remember how rock solid the netcode performance was in Tekken Tag Tournament 2, whereas Tekken 7 is a big step backwards in comparison.

    Despite my various criticisms towards Tekken 7 for all of its faults, Tekken 7 excels where it matters the most: the core fighting. Tekken 7 refines its limb based combat system, as well as its fundamental juggle combos. It doesn’t sacrifice fluidity or breakneck speed to sustain its complex and technical fighting engine. The roster is very well-balanced and thankfully the pre-existing characters maintain their move list, so you don’t have to worry about your main being altered like in SoulCalibur V and Street Fighter V. Throw cancels are intuitive to pull off this time around, but side stepping and whiffs are unfortunately less effective now due to a more generous hitbox. Bound is removed and replaced with the far better Screw Attack, which allows for new opportunity for new strings without leading to overbearing okis. The new Power Crushes are moves with armor abilities and can only be countered with low attacks; these are especially helpful against players who spam pokes. The option to allow the player to choose to play from the Right or Left side is a helpful addition. Sadly replays are gone, but in their place are slowmos that occur when two players are simultaneously landing the final blow, and they’re an awesome sight to behold whenever they appear.

    The Rage system of Tekken 6 has been significantly altered for Tekken 7, they now come in the form of Rage Arts and Rage Drives. The two works as the game’s new comeback mechanics, with Rage Arts being supers that are prominent to 2D fighters. Rage Drive is a welcome addition, as it allows for 50/50 mixups and punishers that lead into new combos. Rage Arts on the other hand, feel out of place in Tekken and ruin the flow of fights. Not only do they deal an obscene amount of damage, they have armor properties that can even absorb low attacks. They neutralize offensive rushdowns, and cause matches to be an overstretched exercise in turtling. Rage Arts don’t even look visually appealing and are lazily animated, because most (with a few exceptions) are basically strings of pre-existing moves. They don’t necessarily break the game, as most of them can be punished and be only used once. But it still rewards the player for performing poorly, which detracts from a competitive fighter like the Tekken series.

    The newcomers to the roster include Kazumi Mishima, Claudio Serafino, Josie Rizal, Katarina Alves, Gigas, Master Raven, Lucky Chloe, and Shaheen. Claudio’s and Lucky Chloe’s anime influenced character designs might be divisive for fans, but they will certainly have their own appeal. Gigas is Marduk’s replacement and he’s by far the worst addition to the roster, due to his uninspired character design and move sets. Josie is Bruce’s cute replacement and she has some of the best punishers, but her cry-baby personality quickly becomes grating. Katarina isn’t the most unique newcomer, but her heavy mix-ups suit her well as a beginner friendly character. Kazumi and Shaheen are the biggest standouts in the roster, thanks to their elegant character designs and sleek looking moves. Master Raven is basically a gender swapped version of Raven, not much can be said about her. Akuma has been considerably nerfed from his introduction in Tekken 7: Fated Retribution at the arcades, he’s now a well-implemented guest character.

    Even with the unwelcoming introduction of supers in the series, Tekken 7 is still an excellent fighter at its core. Its gameplay improvements over Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 will surely make it a favorite among tournament players, even if it hasn’t quite matched the brilliance of Tekken 5 and its expansion Dark Resurrection. However, none of this makes up for the rather disappointing console release. It’s certainly a lackluster package when stacked up to gargantuan offerings Tekken Tag Tournament 2 delivered, and that’s not including Tekken Tag Tournament 2’s giant roster. While Tekken hasn’t jumped the shark like Street Fighter and SoulCalibur have, it’s still bewildering the game was delayed when you factor the bland content and poor netcode. Tekken 7 certainly preserved its iron first, but the franchise is no longer the king of the competition as it used to be.

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