Tekken 7 is easing its way onto consoles early next year after having enjoyed an extended spell in Japanese arcades. Recently we had the chance to get hands on with the game on PlayStation 4 (using a DualShock 4 controller) and this is what we discovered.
Let's start off with story mode. There was only one part of this mode available to try and that was the fight between Heihachi and Street Fighter's Akuma that we saw at E3. When this part of Tekken 7 was shown off in June and it looked very impressive, and being right in front of screen and playing it impressed us even more.
Before the fight kicks off there is a cutscene where Heihachi and Akuma talk and they actually start exchanging blows, then up comes a screen prompt to move to the right to dodge Akuma's projectile attack. Dodging Akuma's move will result in you having more health than if you didn't step out of the way. The most impressive thing, though, is the seamless transition from cutscene to fighting. There's no loading screen or fade to black which is amazing considering the graphical fidelity. You can play from Akuma's perspective as well. There isn't much difference and the end result is the same, whether this will be changed or fleshed out in final build remains to be seen.
From this small segment of the story mode that we played, it is clear that it won't be anything like the one in Tekken 6 (of which many criticised the so-called scenario campaign). Tekken 7's story mode is trying new things and from what we've seen, they're working pretty well. It seems Bandai Namco have listened to the complaints regarding the mode in the last game and took them to heart, as they have gone for a new style that looks to be fun, engaging and impactful.
We also played arcade mode which consisted of three battles against the AI with the last one being against Akuma. Arcade will more than likely be fleshed out and will probably consist of eight or ten rounds. We played through arcade mode multiple times with many characters.
We also played some versus battles against other people at the show, managing to stay undefeated throughout.
We played as a few of the series regulars; Kazuya, Steve, King and Hwoarang. Even though they are returning characters, they feel fresh and are a joy to play. We also played as a number of the new characters such as; Akuma, Claudio, Gigas, Katarina, Kazumi, Lucky Chloe and Shaheen. All the new characters felt different to each other and that's great considering how many new characters there are. We didn't play all of the new characters as we did not play as Josie and Master Raven who was recently announced, wasn't in the build that we played.
Our favourite characters from the new additions are Claudio, Shaheen and Kazumi. Claudio has a rather cool design and is mysterious, there's more to him than meets the eye we think. Shaheen again has a great design and is a pleasure to play, he could become a fan favourite. Kazumi is a powerful character and for those who don't know, she is the wife of Heihachi and mother of Kazuya.
Also to put some minds at ease, Akuma doesn't feel overpowered to go against or play as. So for those worrying if the transition from Street Fighter to Tekken made him overpowered, your fears have been quashed.
There are new mechanics in Tekken 7 called 'Rage Art' and 'Rage Drive', however don't get them confused with the 'Rage' mechanic which has been in the series since Tekken 6. The Rage mechanic itself has had a bit of a rework, it doesn't add as much damage as it did in Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2, instead its main purpose now is to allow players to use their Rage Art.
The Rage Art mechanic can be activated when in Rage and the amount of damage it does depends on the amount of health the player has. It's a cool new feature that allows people who are struggling in a match to turn it around in an instant. The Rage Art is powerful, but they can be blocked or sidestepped which makes people decide on when to activate it as once it's used, successful or not, it's gone.
The Rage Drive can be activated by sacrificing the Rage Mode. It empowers a single attack or a series of attacks by increasing the damage and highlights the character in a blue aura. Like the Rage Arts, each character has a Rage Drive and some are harder to perform than others. The Rage Drive allows for some powerful and stylish combos that can get the player back in the match.
The game in general feels smooth, there was no noticeable frame-rate drop, which is essential in a fighting game. It's smoother than Tekken 6 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 which is to be expected. The character animations are fluid and the character models look beautifully detailed. Sadly we couldn't customise any of the characters in this demo, so we can't compare that feature to previous instalments. The only downside in our hands-on session was the loading times in the arcade and versus modes. The load times varied from about 10 to about 30 seconds, which does take away from the experience a bit, but it should be noted that this the demo is likely not optimised to the same degree as the final build will be come release.
Overall we've come away from Tekken 7 with a big smile and very impressed. The graphics are very nice and the gameplay is very smooth. The new characters have great designs with each one playing differently and story mode in Tekken 7 looks like it will shape up to be something special. It's a good time to be a fan of the long-running fighting series because this feels like it could potentially be the best Tekken yet.