‘Aggression’ would be the game’s name if it wasn’t already called Tekken 8. In a new 36-minute video, Tekken’s Executive Director Katsuhiro Harada and Game Director Kohei Ikeda introduced the new gameplay mechanics of Tekken 8, and I have some concerns.
Harada and Ikeda introduce four new or upgraded features: Rage System, Heat System, Recoverable Gauge, and Controller Style.
Behind each change lies one unifying vision: a ferocious gameplay environment where aggressive players thrive and defensive players drown. Their concept is introduced as a desire to make Tekken an exhilarating experience for both players and spectators, but the more they speak, the clearer it becomes that they want to achieve this by making you throw more punches. These intentions are especially vivid when looking at the brand-new mechanics: Heat System and Recoverable Gauge.
This was the video’s biggest attraction. Fans wanted details on the Heat System, and those details are finally here. ‘Heat’ is a powerful state explicitly designed to buff your offense. In Heat, attacks still do recoverable damage even while the opponent is guarding. Heat’s standard duration is 10 seconds, but the only way to extend the duration of Heat is to literally punch more!
Better not run away. The Heat System is an essential buff for your character that is only strengthened through an aggressive approach, and the benefits don’t end at recoverable damage.
In Heat, you’ll have access to ‘Heat Smash’ and ‘Heat Dash.’ Heat Smash is a single but incredibly powerful attack, while Heat Dash is a dash cancel option you can use to gain frame advantage or extend combos. These techniques are incredibly powerful, but they do have limited usage. If you squint, the Heat Gauge has two infinity-looking icons beside it that limit the use of these powerful techniques.
In many fighting games, players will still receive damage when guarding in the form of ‘chip damage.’ This often differs from regular damage because it can naturally regenerate as time passes. Tekken is adopting this same kind of damage but with a twist. Instead of white health regenerating over time, it regenerates by attacking your opponent. Ikeda described this as “like adrenaline being released from the body.”
Once again, there is a strong emphasis on staying aggressive. Traditional recoverable health styles benefit the defensive player who avoids confrontation while their health regenerates, but Tekken 8 wants to flip this script. Playing defensively is a disadvantage to your health gauge as the only way to restore recoverable gauge is to, yet again, throw more punches!
These new mechanics aren’t unusual for your typical fighting game, but Tekken is very different to the other fighting games out there. Introducing these kinds of mechanics will always feel strange. Strange doesn’t necessarily mean bad. However, my concern lies in their continued emphasis on being “aggressive.”
Diversity of playstyle is one of the appeals of fighting games, but not all playstyles make for a great spectator experience. Defensive playstyles, in particular, don’t sit well with many audiences who are there to see fists thrown instead of several back dashes. Their vision to create an “exhilarating experience” for the audience and player could be coming at a cost to diverse playstyles.
Tekken 7’s Rage mechanic has returned, and it’s not what it once was. Rage still activates automatically when your character is low on health, but you can no longer use Rage Drive. Rage Drive was a single but incredibly powerful attack that was great for turning the tables in a match. However, this Tekken 8 demonstration already has a ‘single but incredibly powerful attack’ – Heat Smash. Ikeda clarifies that Rage Drive was removed because “adding more and more elements would have made (Tekken) too complicated,” but Heat Smash is functionally a replacement for Rage Drive anyway.
Rage Arts have returned, and of course, they did! You can’t just remove your fighting game supers. Rage Art was given a subtle but gratifying change: the inputs are now universalised.
While there is a dedicated Rage Art button like in Tekken 7, the common input for Rage Art is now down + forward + both punch buttons. It’s easy to view this change as redundant when we already had a dedicated button for Rage Arts, but the purpose of this change is easy to notice when you learn a character and realise there aren’t even enough buttons on your controller to execute all of their commands comfortably.
While I was learning Hwoarang, a Rubix cube of a character, I had no room for a dedicated Rage Art button when all of my shoulder buttons became necessary shortcuts for different button combinations. It’s nice to have Left Punch + Right Punch functionally be a universal shortcut for Rage Arts while still being there to help me access other moves.
The final mechanic discussed in the video is Controller Style. Players can now play in ‘Arcade Style’ or ‘Special Style.’
Controller Style as a mechanic is new, but technically, it’s just a much better implementation of the “Easy Combo” and “Assist” mechanics from Tekken 7. This feature is here for accessibility, and thank God that it is, because Tekken is a challenging game! It has a unique set of fundamentals, and every character has extensive, intimidating move lists. Even experienced fighting game players can have trouble with it. I would know because that was me!
Tekken 7’s Easy Combo and Assist features didn’t flow very well on their own. I hope their fusion in Tekken 8 will work out as a better mechanic for beginners this time, and from the demonstration, it looks promising. There’s a dedicated low move to break guards, decent auto combos performed by repeatedly hitting a single button, and players can freely toggle between Arcade Style and Special Style in the middle of a match.
The Rage System and Controller Style are doing a lot to reduce Tekken’s entry barrier. Harada and Ikeda want us to get to the enjoyable part of Tekken much faster than before, and I’m grateful for that. I particularly love the decision to make Rage Arts a universal input – it shows that they were paying attention to every frustration players had with Tekken 7. Except for any frustrations players have had with the aggression in the game.
Tekken 8 seems to be ramping up the action to ruthless degrees. I’m sure many fans welcome that, but there are also a number of fans that are concerned. They want some defense. I want some defense. I play one of the most aggressive characters in Tekken in Hwoarang, but I appreciate and want to see diverse playstyles.
Despite it all, we’re in the early days. We don’t even have a release date yet. I believe there is a reason for concern over how the gameplay will flow, but Tekken 8 is still just a wait-and-see project.
The Tekken 8 release date is unknown, and likely the game won’t be released until 2024 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.