To most people, Tekken is all about matching your skills with a human opponent. It's what fighting games have focused on ever since the beginning. But some of them have also put plenty of focus on the characters and their storylines, and while that may seem a waste to some players, it's what pulls others in. The Tekken series takes the narrative element to new heights with its story mode and we spent an hour or so playing through the first eight chapters of the story that's said to conclude the Mishima clan saga.
We've already written about how the dynamics of the fights have been spiced up with the introduction of Rage Arts, which offer a more decisive (and perhaps desperate) attempt to turn a fight around as you enter Rage mode. We've written about some of the new characters, like Claudio Serafino, Lucky Chloe, Shaheen, and Street Fighter's Akuma, but at this final preview session, we got to dive into the story mode.
The first chapter sees Heihachi beat up a young Kazuya, and the eighth chapter introduces Akuma (you may have seen this during the E3 reveal), and explains how he promised Kazumi that he'd kill both Heihachi and Kazuya, before she herself was killed by Heihachi. The Street Fighter character is a surprisingly good fit with the storyline as it plays into the demon blood that curses the family.
The start of the game sees the Mishima Zaibatsu struggle as Jin has gone missing. Heihachi seizes this opportunity to make his return and assume the leadership of the corporation. Exactly what Jin has been up to is not revealed during these first eight chapters, but he does feature, as Lars steps in to scoop him up in the Middle East. Kazuya seems content to mainly mutter things behind his desk at G Corp, other than his brief appearance as a child in the very first chapter.
When story mode was first introduced we got to see some quick time-esque sequences, but there wasn't much of that seen during our time with the game. Some encounters start off with the AI launching into a combination, but for the most part, the scenes play out as you expect a Tekken battle to play out.
A tremendous amount of effort has been put into the story, and you'll spend at least two-thirds of the time with it looking at cutscenes and cinematics that set up specific battles, that either sees you face a familiar face, like Nina or Alisa, or sees you fighting off a series of Jack bots or Tekken Force grunts. The scene with Alisa was rather interesting as it sees Lee putting her back together, but as she can't remember things, she sees him as a threat and therefore he needs to beat her up a bit to jog her memory. It's all part of the Tekken logic, and the cheese is plentiful. The same can be said of the scene where Heihachi challenges Claudio and the Sirius Marksmen in an effort to have him join the Mishima Zaibatsu efforts.
The story mode narrative is neatly tied together by the somber voice of a journalist who, driven by personal a vendetta, investigates the origins of the conflict and the Mishimas. It's an interesting approach, but we're not sure about well it meshes with the over-the-top nature of the rest of the narrative. Tekken has always been known for the quality of its cutscenes, and this game is no exception, even if some scenes make use of weird filters that obscure this to some degree.
It's a fine line that Tekken 7 is walking here. Clearly, the story mode is aimed for those who invest time and effort in learning all the intricate relationships and storyline, but it is also cheesy enough that someone who is not as invested will chuckle at least once or twice each chapter. As you encounter a character in story mode you also unlock a character-specific chapter. So there's plenty of story to be had here.
The Mishima family feud is about to come to an end. And to be perfectly honest we don't see them holding hands, singing Kumbaya at the end of Tekken 7. If nothing else, Akuma seems keen to prevent that from happening as he's more than happy to live up to his promise to Kazumi.
Apart from a lengthy look at the first eight chapters of story mode, we also navigated the menus of this near-final build of Tekken 7 on PS4. It must be said that the customisation options are insane. You'll be able to save up to ten versions of each character and dress them up in all manners of weird costumes. We gave Alisa some sort of frog hat, yellow leggings, and sunglasses taken straight from The Matrix. Obviously, you'll need to earn coins to buy the various costumes, and for players looking to spend some serious time with Tekken 7, this will no doubt be a major focus. The fact that you earn currency and buy items will no doubt appeal to some players, but you still need to unlock items so they're available for purchase.
While all the customisation options for your characters are great at differentiating players online, you also have lots of options to customise the look of your interface online so you're recognisable regardless of whether you're playing with your main or just playing for fun with Kuma or Panda (bears just wanna have fun).
Another interesting menu option is the jukebox that lets you replace the soundtrack of Tekken 7 with another of the preceding soundtracks. So if you've got an affinity for the tunes of Tekken 3, you're in luck. It's a nice piece of fan service that's sure to please longtime fans.
Tekken 7 is just a few weeks away from its console launch, and it's clear that Bandai Namco has taken the time since its arcade premiere two years ago to make sure the console game features a ton of content, regardless of whether you'll spend your time combating rage quitters online or diving deep into the rather complicated family feud of the Mishimas.