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TEKKEN 7 REVIEW: “A POWERFUL, GRATIFYING, DEEPLY CINEMATIC FIGHTING GAME”

Good news! Tekken is still Tekken. Kicking people still feels great, the Mishimas are still throwing each other off cliffs, all is right with the world. But I need to be honest with you. The game’s enduring Tekken-ness is enough for me, a man of modest needs, who’s happy to play 100 fights in a row with the same two boring characters. But you might rightly expect more from a modern fighting game, and that’s where Tekken 7 trips over its own espadrilles. 

Let’s talk about the story mode first. If you’ve played Injustice 2 you’ll be freshly aware that fighting games can tell tales while seamlessly weaving in combat into the story. (Somewhere at NetherRealm, there is a whiteboard listing every conceivable reason for characters to beat each other senseless.) Tekken 7’s story mode, by comparison, is terrible. The Mishima Saga begins like a history lesson, throwing back to the feted day when Heihachi tossed his son Kazuya off a cliff for his own good. Because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, except being thrown down an effing mountain. It’s the perfect place to begin for anyone who loves Tekken, but it never delivers on that promise. Learning exactly how the Mishima family fell apart is a tantalising prospect, but it’s so badly implemented you come away feeling starved. It’s full of narrative dead ends and unnecessary characters, and the big reveals lack any emotional wallop. And I say this, in case you hadn’t guessed, as person with an unhealthy investment in the series. I get shivers seeing Heihachi crawl up the bare rock at the start of Tekken 2; I tell strangers at checkouts about the complex relationship between King and Armor King. I’m exactly the sort of person this mode should entertain, but instead I finished feeling annoyed and unfulfilled. But sadly, there’s a bigger problem.

The fighting part of the story is abysmal.  Many battles take place against the same character multiple times, and if you lose once you start that section again. The game attempts to ease you through by adding a modifier that lets you spam special moves, but it’s like adding stabilisers to a speedboat. Instead of understanding how Tekken works, you cheese your way through fights using specials you never properly learn. It’s a terrible introduction to the series and the system, and it’s only worth completing to grab yourself the amazingly easy Achievements / Trophies that come with it. On top of this, the Mishima Saga is a strange fit for a sequel. The new characters barely feature, squandering a cool opportunity to embed them in the Tekken mythology. Instead, you unlock additional, single-shot character stories you can play separately. These side missions are simplistic and daft – they make the character motivations in Injustice 2 look like Raging Bull – but  they’re exactly what’s missing from the main story. Tekken is a cheerful, self-deprecating series, and this stuff could have added some much-needed levity to the Mishima Saga. I’m not suggesting  we ditch all the patricide and frowning – just that adding the occasional angry panda could add soul to an otherwise drab tale.