The Iron First tournament is coming to PS5. To prepare my mind, body, and soul for the occasion, I spent a few hours training with the latest build of Tekken 8. After trading blows with some of the world’s best across a variety of new modes, I can’t wait to earn my spot among the elite when the game launches on January 26.
And if you can’t wait either, then I have good news. A demo will be coming to PS5 on December 14.
Hands-on with Arcade Quest
I was excited to see what the new mode Arcade Quest had to offer, which plays like a fully realized campaign rather than a simple bonus mode. The premise is simple enough – create a fun version of yourself and play through digital arcades to become the world’s top player.
The new mode places your self-made digital avatar in a crew that you hang with, practice, and compete against. They will cheer you on during matches when you pull off impressive feats and give you genuine advice to make you better as a player. This takes the mode from a fun story mode diversion to a journey of self-improvement. Putting rising to the top with friends, both digital and real, at its core. It was surreal to have a digital homie give me pointers on how to improve based on the match he was watching.
Matches play differently depending on who you challenge. During my time with the game, one crew member was only interested in hanging out with friends, and they barely put up a fight, which let me score two perfect victories. Some characters have nefarious reasons for challenging you, like only agreeing to matches they think they can win.
“Originally, this kind of genre was born in the arcades. And they’ve kind of all but disappeared in the West, and even in Japan more recently,” said Game Director Kohei Ikeda, “But the great part about it was that you would just show up at the arcade, and your friends would be there, or you’d make new friends, and you all share this passion for the game, you were able to learn new things while you were there. It was a great experience. So people who experienced that culture before could be like, Oh, wow, I remember that. It was awesome. Or younger players who maybe had heard of it could get some kind of taste of that online.”
As you become a known contender in your local arcade, you eventually move on to new cities and take on their local players to grow your crew’s notoriety and personal reputation. This addition feels meaningful in-game, even without the fate of the world on the line.
PlayStation x Tekken
Going into my play session, I knew Tekken was a visually stylish game, but seeing and feeling it in motion shows how Bandai Namco is upping its game. On top of Tekken 8’s sharp visual fidelity, there’s an impressive attention to detail. The way the stage crumbles has always been immersive, but seeing the characters’ hair and clothing blow in the wind, get wet in the rain, and even reflect light deepens the fighting experience.
“We really wanted to achieve a high level of graphic quality for the game,” said Ikeda. “The responsiveness is really important. And the very short load times you have now for the PS5 generation of hardware really lends itself well to the game and makes it an even better experience.”
The haptics of the DualSense wireless controller also shined as it responded to the blows that landed on my character. I could now physically feel when my opponent knocked me for a loop to put in kindly. When I got hit with a Heat Smash, a new super-style attack in the game, the bone-crushing attack was punctuated with a trembling sensation in my hands, making me think I was defeated. Even outside of combat, the haptics responded to the action in a cutscene, meaning there would rarely be a moment where I’d want to set the controller down.
“When you’re feeling the destruction of the environment, the power of the attacks of the characters, that really sensitive kind of fine-tuned vibration of the controller really lends itself well to the player experience,” said Ikeda.
The haptics even enhance the new Heat System, a mechanic that puts the fighter in an aggressive state, making you feel like an unstoppable force in-game. The mechanic caused the DualSense controller to respond with intense vibrations from simple attacks. As I rushed my opponent, I gained a sense that only a miracle could stand in the way of the vicious blows being delivered. I’ve never been one to pull off flashy combos on my opponents, but with the new Heat System, I almost feel like the game is daring me to defeat my opponent and put on a show while doing it.
“I would say for Tekken, but also for fighting games in general, I’ve noticed [for] a lot of people it’s really divided on whether you want to use an arcade stick or a controller,” said Murray. “But it seems like a lot of people really prefer the PS5 controller. It seems like it’s a very comfortable fit.”
Tekken Ball til’ you fall
Tekken 8 also looks to its past to enhance the franchise’s future. Tekken Ball returns after a decade, where you defeat players with a multitude of round objects, delivering damage when they fail to block the incoming sphere.
The enhanced in-depth character customization options in Tekken 8 made for a goofy time, allowing me to create the wackiest version of my favorite fighters before hitting the beach. I was able to turn the hot-tempered Hwoarang into an eccentric tooth fairy.
Another improvement on a past feature is Super Ghost Battles, where AI learns your fight patterns in real time and begins to play more like you. During one never-ending mirror match my AI doppelganger pummeled me with my go-to combos, forcing me to learn how to better block and escape an aggressive beatdown. The more I spammed my standard special move, the more my ghost pressed me with the same special.
I wish I had more time with the title to see what other unexpected things I could have happened upon, but the time refining my fist was well spent.
Tekken 8 will be released worldwide January 26 on PS5, with a demo releasing December 14.
This story originally appeared on Playstation