It’s been since March this year when some of the first behind-closed-doors previews of Tekken 8 happened that I played the game, so I was excited to see how things have been coming along in the October Closed Beta Test (CBT). It was my first time getting to play as Azucena and Raven, as well as the first time anyone got to see the new Player Lobbies. It all looked very good. There was just one thing making a lot of players nervous over the weekend: The netcode for Tekken 8 still needs some work.
Coffee queen & UN ninja
One of the main things I had on my bucket list for the October Tekken 8 CBT was playing Azucena and Raven. Azucena has a really eclectic and fun style punctuated by jazzy dance moves and stances. She can get up in your face quick, overwhelm with kicks, slaps, and elbows, and then rock your socks quickly with some very hard-hitting and sudden moves. Some of her power comes from her stances. Once she enters a stance she has access to some fast counterplays. She can also start weaving around opponents’ attacks and playing keep-away with them before going in for a big string if they whiff their strikes.
Raven returns with his trademark cybernetically-enhanced ninjitsu and shadow clone techniques. He has a lot of strikes that lead into light rekka options, such as hitting an overhead elbow and then going for a sliding kick at the opponent’s feet or going for a big summersault uppercut if you think they’ll try to counter low. He also utilizes his shadow clones in cool and stylish ways in many of his attacks, such as trading places with the clone when struck and going in for a counter as opponents recover from attacking the clone. Heck, his Heat Drive is an overwhelming team attack in which his clones attack an enemy from various angles before he and another clone blast the opponent with a palm thrust for huge damage and stage break opportunities.
Both Raven and Azucena were feeling fresh and fun throughout the weekend, bringing two more awesome and exciting fighting styles to an already thick-looking roster.
Amusement park lobbies for everyone
I have to admit, I love what Tekken 8 is doing with its player lobbies. When I first saw it, I thought it looked a bit too much like a combination between a metaverse project and Street Fighter 6’s lobby system. However, the October CBT actually got me wanting to see what these lobbies will be like when they’re fully ready to roll.
One of the things that appeal to me is that the lobby reminds me of Fremont Street in Las Vegas, what with the long strip, LED screen overhead, and neon and glamour in every direction. Inside, you have your usual arcade setups where you can log in for Free or Ranked Match play. There’s also a shop where you can buy clothes and customize your avatar, a Dojo Area where we’ll get to train solo (and eventually with other players online), and even a Beach Area where we’ll get to queue up for Tekken Ball.
Obviously, there was a lot of the Player Lobby system that was unavailable for this CBT period. That said, the promise of what it will offer, alongside the sheer vibrant and flashy aesthetic it has going on, make Player Lobbies in Tekken 8 look like they’re going to be a fun place to unwind and chat between matches.
Crack the code
One thing I have to address, and I hope to see improved, is the Tekken 8 netcode. Something about it wasn’t wholly reliable this weekend. I run on a wired connection with good downloads and uploads, but I had quite a bit of spotty online experiences throughout the weekend. When my opponents had good connections, our matches went buttery smooth, but if there was any hitch in their side, it could turn the match into a lag fest where the action shuddered and was choppy throughout the fight.
Strangely, I also had a lot of opponents that wouldn’t even match with me. Sometimes it was their own choice, but other times, the online system matched us only to frequently say match conditions didn’t meet one or both players’ preferences and restrictions. Why were we matched in the first place then?
I wasn’t alone in my judgement of the netcode either. Players throughout Twitter reported having laggy matches and wi-fi warning issues, and some claimed the netcode was actually worse than previous tests. I know we have plenty of time until January, but I hope it’s enough for Bandai Namco to seal this issue up tight. Netcode issues are the last thing any player wants to worry about when Tekken 8 arrives.
Still feeling the Heat
I maintain since my original preview that the Heat system is making Tekken 8 really aggressively offensive and fun, and the simple Special Style controls feel very usable considering you can toggle them on and off mid-match. Seeing what Azucena and Raven could do with the Heat system was a delight, and I’m really excited to experience the Player Lobby system when it’s fully available. I also really hope Bandai Namco can nip the netcode in the bud and put the polish it needs in there to match everything else going on in this game so far. If netcode rises to meet the rest of the expanding Tekken 8 package, we’re in for another feast of fighting game riches when Tekken 8 arrives in January 2024.
This preview is based on a PlayStation 5 beta version of the game supplied by the publisher. Tekken 8 comes out on January 26, 2024 on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.