Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC (Steam)
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Price: $59.99 on console, $49.99 on PC / ~£44 in the UK
Links: Official Website
I’m old enough to remember PC gamers’ first taste of half-decent fighting games. Those of us who had a Gravis Gamepad and a dream had only a few options in the early ’90s: slapdash Street Fighter II ports and “PC-exclusive” fare like One Must Fall 2097. It was a dark, robotic time.
In fact, the fighting game ecosystem has felt that way on PC for far too long, with major tentpole series landing almost entirely on consoles since the ’90s genre explosion. Only in the past three or so years has this genre benefited from the increasingly blurry line between consoles and computers, with series like Killer Instinct, Street Fighter, and Guilty Gear landing pretty well on Windows PCs.
None of those have landed as tremendously as this week’s Tekken 7, which blows other PC fighting games away in terms of scalability. If you want to play some solid rounds of time-tested 3D fighting, you can now do so on pretty much any modern computer with even the slightest bit of gaming hardware—or you can just as easily crank it up on a mid-high machine and a 4K screen.
Did you say Surface Pro 4?
How scalable is Tekken 7, exactly?
PC code didn’t land in Ars’ hands until late Thursday night, but I immediately installed it on the worst “gaming” computer I own: a Surface Pro 4. Its 8GB of RAM, i5 processor, and Intel HD Graphics 520 card can run classic and 2D games just fine, but a competent 3D-gaming machine this ain’t.
And yet with “low” settings applied to a piddly 1280×800 resolution, I can play Tekken 7 at a pretty much locked 60 frames-per-second refresh. Mind you, this looks only slightly better than the series’ PlayStation 1 entries, with muddy Quake II-era textures and a severe resolution-scaling, but if I’m away from home and want to pound out a few quick battles, Tekken 7 won’t judge my choice of laptop. Even when it looks blurry, it feels like Tekken—and in this entry’s case, that means classic series combat with a serious spit-shine of balancing.
This is why people love PC gaming: they can choose how pretty or ugly their games run. Tekken 7, more than any PC fighting game in memory, lets you deliberately hamstring its visuals, to a severe degree, to get its engine humming at a consistent frame rate.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a sexier Tekken 7 experience, you can expect to rock a consistent 60fps with all visual settings maxed out on a wide variety of PCs. Our lowest-specced tester, Ars’ Aurich Lawson, has tested Tekken 7 on an i5 3.5GHz machine, equipped with 8GB of RAM and a GTX 970 running at stock speeds. He reports a locked 60fps refresh with the game running at full 1080p resolution. We’re not sure how much overhead his system has, but based on my Surface Pro 4 test, I reckon that anybody with a 120Hz or 144Hz monitor can play with settings and squeeze quite a few frames. The best feature in this regard is the game’s “rendering scale” option, which drops the game’s rendered pixel count and lets the visual engine fill in the blanks. Use this, along with the PC version’s “dynamic adjustment” option, to trade detail for frames and consistency.
I don’t have a 120Hz monitor handy to test, but I did get the game running at a locked 60fps in 4K resolution, and all settings maxed, with my rig (1080 Ti, 16GB of RAM, i7 processor overclocked to 4.2 GHz). However, I did initially run into an issue: the game’s menus reported “3840×2160” resolution, but the actual gameplay had obvious pixel stair-stepping that appeared to be somewhere between 1080p and 1440p resolution.
A quick perusal of the game’s Steam forums brought up a fan-made hack to solve this issue. Bandai Namco has opted to turn on a blurry chromatic aberration effect by default, and players can only disable it by digging into system folders and playing with an .ini file. You’ll want to do this as soon as possible, especially if you’re playing on higher-res screens. Bandai Namco did not respond to questions about the game’s chromatic aberration issues in time for this review.
Physically based shaders, ahoy
Whether you’re playing on PC or console, you can look forward to one of the better Unreal Engine 4 implementations in recent memory. In addition to ridiculously scalable performance, the game also finds a pretty incredible balance between diametrically opposed rendering priorities: making your fighters easily visible, and making them look gorgeously lit.
Tekken, like other fighting series, flattens and emphasizes its front-and-center fighters in terms of colors and shading. That way, you never lose sight of the high-speed action thanks to distracting background elements. But Tekken 7 does this while simultaneously employing some great physically based shading and lighting effects. The impact is most evident when putting the game’s silly, furry fighters, Kuma and Panda, into dynamically and dramatically lit battle stages. The characters’ outlines may be dramatically emphasized, but their fur radiates with nearby color sources, whether shining from above or bouncing off of walls and wildly lit floors below. (Individual fur strands also cast their own shadows, which looks nice.)
The same can be said for how other characters look in wildly lit scenarios. It’s a really neat way for the game to offer increased visual pizazz while streamlining other game elements, particularly character geometry, for the sake of maximum frame rate. Some visual aspects, including faces, are trumped by other modern fighters (particularly Injustice 2), but Tekken 7’s characters and battlegrounds are lively and lovely on whatever platform you fight them on.
I emphasize these visual and technical aspects because those are easier to pin down at this stage of my testing. Tekken 7 has already been battle-tested for over a year in Japanese and Korean arcades, and my five days of testing the PlayStation 4 version didn’t reveal any major balance issues or gaping holes in the game’s systems or logic. I’ll do my best to describe what the game has to offer, but if you’re looking for an analysis of whether King is OP, you’re outta luck.
Bandai Namco has a long history of supporting its arcade ports with home-specific perks and bonuses, and Tekken 7 barely follows suit. A “Mishima saga” story mode has players take control of roughly seven characters in a plot pitting series vanguards Heihachi and Kazuya against each other. This mode isn’t incredibly long and is padded with a few obnoxious “fight five weak grunts in a row” bouts, but the Tekken team went absolutely ape building a Hollywood-caliber martial-arts movie of pre-rendered cinema scenes between fights. Much of it is corny and stupid, but maybe five or six of these three-minute clips are jaw-droppingly intense, and the plot chains together what little “lore” the Tekken series has in a compelling enough way.
The only other home-specific mode (aside from online play) is a “treasure mode,” which lets players battle a seemingly endless wave of AI foes. Each one drops some kind of loot, which players can use to dress their favorite characters in whatever goofy ways they please. Unlike the recent Injustice 2, these pieces of flair don’t affect gameplay at all, and Tekken 7 doesn’t accept your real money to accelerate this process. Thank you, Bandai Namco. I have real issues with how Injustice 2’s loot system discourages focused play on particular fighters, and I much prefer how this mode lets players earn some trinkets while essentially training up for online play.
Online modes include ranked and unranked matchmaking, along with a “tournament” mode that lets players create and join 8-person tourneys with either single- or double-elimination rules. The tournament option is a nice touch, but Tekken 7 doesn’t let people record, save, or browse replays, and it lacks other group- or clan-sorting options that would make it easier for groups of friends to organize sessions.
That’s it for modes. There’s no tutorial or training mode beyond practice against a motionless dummy. Any unfamiliar players who jump on thanks to the stellar PC port will have to settle on fan-made guides, like this one, to come to grips with the series’ basics and the new “rage” feature. Rage, by the way, now kicks in when players have dropped to 25 percent health or less. Players then have a single rage point to spend, either on a powered-up version of an existing special attack or a “rage art” special attack. It’s as close as Tekken has ever gotten to other series’ “special” meters, and it’s a light, nimble way to add some last-gasp tactics to fights without making the game too complicated. Players must now dance around how exactly they finish their opponents off, lest they walk into their own doom by beating a foe down to a dangerous rage state.
Tekken 7 ships with 36 fighters, including a whopping 10 brand-new combatants. (A 37th character is already available as DLC.) The most notable of these is Akuma, the longtime Street Fighter character who first appeared as a hidden, unlockable boss in SSF2 Turbo. His control scheme is uniquely Street Fighter-like, and only he can pull off that series’ “quarter-circle” special moves. Some people consider him a good option for novice players, but his speed and combo-chaining prowess leave me wanting. Tekken 7 also includes a $25 “season pass” option, but this will only unlock two additional, unannounced characters and a “new single-player mode.” Meh.
The series’ last entry, Tag Tournament 2, nearly doubled that roster, but I appreciate the character variety on offer here, including a few tasteful fireball-wielding fighters, a delightfully monstrous robot in the form of Gigas, and the warp-and-sneak awesomeness of Master Raven.
I’m no Tekken pro, but this iteration has a nice spread and variety of fighters, along with focused one-on-one battling that has been polished to a sheen. Other than the rage bar, and a dramatic time-slow tweak that happens when combatants come close to simultaneously striking each other, this is pretty much the same game mechanically—with new Tekken-related possibilities opened by new characters, at any rate. Still, if you despise the series’ predilection for seemingly endless combos, complete with fighters being juggled helplessly in mid-air for making one false move, Tekken 7 isn’t going to win you over.
And if you’re a new fan excited by a great PC port, Bandai Namco has nothing to ease you into a game whose best players have been battling with this mechanical system in place for well over a decade. The campaign mode blows an opportunity to teach possible new series converts who are captivated by the story’s most bombastic scenes and confrontations.
Just keep those caveats in mind as you dive into a damned good, but hardly revolutionary, blast of finely honed 3D fighting.
- We say “hell yes” to a PC fighting port that emphasizes performance and player preferences
- Whether you play on PC or console, you’re in for a sexy, smooth fighter
- New characters add so much spice that you may not miss the much larger roster of Tag Tournament 2
- Online mode, in early testing, has been a beast in terms of netcode performance
- Console-exclusive content is quite thin compared to other Namco arcade conversions
- At its worst, Tekken 7 is “just more Tekken,” so haters won’t change their minds
- Neither campaign nor training modes do anything to truly teach new players what’s going on
Verdict: Does super-smooth Tekken on PC sound good to you? If so, buy. If not, try.
This article has been updated to clarify details about the character Akuma.
More Info: arstechnica.com