Tekken 8 Preview – Bringing the Heat

Published: August 2, 2023 10:05 AM /


Leroy Smith taunts his opponent during his intro scene in Tekken 8.

When I got access to the Tekken 8 preview period via the closed network beta, the code came with some character guides to help me prepare for “a weekend of good a** Tekken.” It felt like a direct quote from series producer Katsuhiro Harada (who is pretty active on Twitter), and it put me in the perfect frame of mind. 

I’ve played Tekken very casually since Tekken 4. While I would never call myself good or “just OK I guess,” I’ve always loved the way the series looks and feels. It revels in the drama between knuckles and jawbones, and as a kid raised on Dragon Ball Z, I try to check out every mainline entry. 

Bryan defeats Hwoarang in a match of Tekken 8.
This happened to me. A lot.

It’s only recently I’ve tried to get more into fighting games, particularly with Guilty Gear Strive and Street Fighter 6. So I had to know: Will I see Tekken in a new light, thanks to my newfound appreciation for the genre? Tekken 8 was the perfect opportunity to find out. 

I played about three hours of the Tekken 8 closed network beta, primarily with Hwoarang. While I didn’t walk away with a lot of wins, I did walk away with eager excitement, and I’ve never been more ready for the next battle. 

Leroy and Anna face off against each other on the character selection screen in Tekekn 8.

Tekken 8 Closed Network Beta Preview 

The closed network beta for Tekken 8 featured 16 characters, which is already a respectable roster (for context, Strive launched with 15). Veterans will recognize series staples like Jin Kazama, King, and Kazuya Mishima on the starting lineup. And Yoshimitsu surely will show up... probably. Right? 

In broad strokes, lots of the returning characters move and act similarly to how they do in previous games. However, I’ve also noticed some new tricks, abilities, and particle effects that keep things fresh. 

For example, Jin feels snappier and more limber. Some of his moves come with a devil-fueled red aura that looks fantastic (and hits hard). He even has one move where he punches and dashes through you as a counter-crossup, giving him more mobility. 

Kazuya unleashes his devil form and lands a kick on Hwoarang in Tekken 8.
Kazuya transforms into his devil form when he activates his Heat mode.

It’s not just move lists and visual effects that got an update here. Tekken 8 comes with the brand-new Heat System. With the press of a button, you get a new aura that gives all your attacks chip damage. Additionally, every character gets new or augmented abilities while the aura is active. 

In some cases, you can immediately follow-up after certain attacks during Heat mode, similar to Street Fighter 6’s Drive Rush. Some attacks can be canceled into others, too. And every character gets a big Heat Smash that consumes the rest of the gauge but does a nice bit of damage. 

It makes you hold your breath, transforming a 12-frame animation into 12 minutes of tension. And when it releases? It’s a pretty great hit of dopamine. 

The system feels robust, giving you a whole other dimension to understand your character. Plus, when you combine it with the Rage system that’s been in the series since Tekken 6, there are a lot of potent options to make your next comeback even more exciting. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, the Rage system amps up your damage when you’re at critical health. It also lets you unleash a powerful Rage art, which costs your Rage aura and plays a cool animation if it connects. Oh, and it does huge damage that feels great. 

Hwoarang does an Akira slide on his motorcycle at the start of a battle in Tekken 8.
Name that reference.

A Flair for Theatrics 

If you’re like me and love Tekken for the theatrics, I’m happy to report that Tekken 8’s closed network beta delivers on it in spades. It’s only made me more excited to see the full game. Every character is portrayed to be almost extreme caricatures of themselves, and I mean that as a compliment. 

Paul punches through a brick wall and cheers to some higher power at the start of the round. For this iteration of Law, they took the Bruce Lee knob and cranked it up to 11. Hwoarang, the arrogant taekwondo master from Korea, does an Akira slide on a bike and says, “I will crush you.” 

Like previous entries, each character has multiple introductions, but the special dialog with specific characters adds a touch of emotionally charged melodrama. Jin will taunt his longtime rival Hwoarang, and when “Round 1” appears on screen, they’ll clash in the middle just before the fight. 

Hwoarang and Jin clash in the center before the start of round 1 in a match of Tekken 8.
Like this.

You’ll see interactions like this between Asuka and Lili, Paul and Law, and of course Kazuya and Jin. Some don’t start with a clash in the center, but it’s always a nice detail to see characters acknowledge each other specifically instead of a canned way of saying “I will defeat you.” 

This attention to detail carries through to the victory screen, and I’ve even noticed it affects the dialog during a Rage art. Normally, when Hwoarang uses his Rage art, his usual bored, arrogant demeanor comes through in full force. He calls the whole thing a hassle and says the opponent is just getting on his nerves. 

If that opponent is Jin, though? Hwoarang is all fired up. He starts up by saying, “Let’s finish this.” And if it connects, the final hit of his animation comes with a triumphant, “This is my victory!”

Hwoarang lands the final hit of his Rage Art on Jin in during a battle in Tekken 8.
"This is... my victory!" 

It’s the little details like that that ultimately don’t matter but also go a long way to giving Tekken its identity. It's a difficult fighting game to wrap your head around, but it pays off with these cool moments that feel straight out of a cheesy, exciting action movie. 

Tekken 8 lives for the thrill of the hype. There were moments I couldn’t help but cheer, especially during those slow-motion close-ups of near-hit moments. It makes you hold your breath, transforming a 12-frame animation into 12 minutes of tension. And when it releases? It’s a pretty great hit of dopamine. 

Hwoarang and Jin exchange blows during a match in Tekken 8.

If the Tekken 8 closed network beta is anything to go by, the final product is shaping up to be another exciting, adrenaline-fueled entry in the series. I can’t wait to see where the next battle will take us, because I'll be there day one with my bad-boy thirst trap from Korea.

Tekken 8 was previewed on a PC via Steam during the closed network beta with access provided by the developer. These impressions are from 3 hours of gameplay, and all screenshots were captured during gameplay. 

Previews you can trust: To ensure you're getting a fair, accurate, and informed review, our experienced team spends a significant amount of time on everything we preview. Read more about how we review games and products.


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