As someone who grew up with the first three Tekken games on PS1, I didn’t enjoy Tekken 7 much at launch on PS4. It was quite a disappointment in many ways despite having competent gameplay, but I was hopeful for Tekken 8 when it was announced. I won’t lie, I was skeptical about it, but the demo got me excited enough to want to cover the full game. With Tekken 8, the team has delivered an excellent and gorgeous fighting game. I need a bit more time to test it online in a more open environment, and try out more of the characters for a scored review, but I will be covering what I like about Tekken 8, and how it feels on Steam Deck right now both online and offline. I love the game so far.
If you haven’t played Tekken in a while, Tekken 8 feels like a proper generational leap in its production and in the quality of the modes offered in the launch package. I’ll cover the visuals in a bit, but Tekken 8 has a lovely main story mode titled The Dark Awakenings, character-specific episodes that play out separately from the main story over five battles, a new Arcade Quest mode that serves as a fun single player mode and also an interactive tutorial in many ways, a normal arcade mode, versus mode, practice mode, and Tekken Ball (I was glad to see this return) when it comes to the offline modes included. This is a lot more than I expected, though I hope we see more added in updates and seasons.
Without getting into spoilers for the story mode, I liked almost all of it through the cut-scenes and battles. I was surprised at how varied some of the situations were in the story as well, but mostly impressed by how good it looked throughout. While playing this main story mode, you can quit and resume from any chapter as well. It does a good job of making you play as quite a few characters from the roster, but does focus on Jin and Kazuya as expected. As for the end of the story, I like that it managed to surprise me despite where I thought things were going. There is also great voice acting for the cast of main characters and NPCs all accompanied by great voice acting.
I didn’t get enough time to try out all the individual character episodes, but liked the ones I did play, especially Azucena. If you do finish the story, make sure to check the character episode menu for something later. It definitely feels like the team put a lot of work into the offline and story modes here. I also like how the story battles aren’t just all 1v1 with some interesting changes and additions of cinematic QTEs in specific story moments.
Out of the offline modes, I spent a lot of time in the practice mode which I found quite good. It includes various display options like damage info, startup frames, status, frame advantage, and more. You can also do combo challenges, view sample combos, punishment training (which was very good), and adjust the usual settings. One thing you will notice from the start in Tekken 8 is the ability to enable Special Style by pressing L1 or LB. This is the game’s equivalent of Street Fighter 6’s Modern controls which is a more accessible control option for newer players. It makes things quite a bit easier, but I need to spend more time with it compared to the regular controls to see how I feel about it with new characters. You can disable this as well if you don’t want to use it.
I haven’t played Tekken 4, 5, and 6 yet, so I can’t comment on how things have changed compared to those games, but I can say that Tekken 8 feels fresh yet familiar with its gameplay. I never found myself annoyed with how the game felt or any technical aspects like I was in Tekken 7. I can see myself playing Tekken 8 quite a bit over the coming months, and I’m glad I waited to do a new feature covering the best fighting games on Steam Deck to see how Tekken 8 and Under Night 2 play.
Over the 30 or so hours I’ve spent with Tekken 8 on Steam Deck (handheld and docked) on the default Proton option, I spent the most time playing against the CPU in arcade mode, trying different graphics options, playing the entire story mode, multiple character episodes, and a few hours of online play that I managed during the review period. The only part of the game that doesn’t function correctly on Steam Deck is the keyboard input for character names. You need to manually invoke the keyboard. Barring that, it even supports 16:10 aspect ratio during gameplay with black bars for cut-scenes but fullscreen support most other places.
Tekken 8’s online modes work on Steam Deck, but I didn’t have enough time to properly test them across different environments with pre-release matchmaking. I played docked on the Steam Deck Docking Station with ethernet and also over Wi-Fi to test. I had a few disconnects in both modes, but I can’t tell if it was because of network issues, pre-release servers, or Steam Deck issues right now. Once I’ve tested the online against friends and randoms when more people have the game and servers are up, I’ll be updating this part of the review so stay tuned. I will say that the battles I managed to complete played very well.
Before the PC demo, I expected poor results from Tekken 8 on Steam Deck given it is an Unreal Engine 5 fighting game and we’ve had some games using the engine not perform well on Steam Deck. As a fighting game, Tekken 8 requires 60fps, and thankfully it is achievable quite easily on Steam Deck. The default preset when you play on Steam Deck is a bit too conservative with how it sets everything to low. The PC port of Tekken 8 lets you adjust screen mode (borderless, windowed, full screen), resolution (1152×720 being the lower bounds), toggle v-sync, toggle variable rate shading, adjust rendering quality preset, adjust render scale (I left this on 75), upscaling method (XeSS, NIS, FSR 1.0, FSR 2, Catmull-Rom Bicubic, TSR, TAUU), adjust anti-aliasing quality, shadow quality (I set this to low), texture quality, effect quality, post-processing quality, background quality, display the frame rate, and restore default settings.
Tekken 8’s visuals and performance on Steam Deck can vary. I focused on getting it to run at 60fps during actual gameplay with as good visuals as I could manage, but it wasn’t enough for a few story mode battles where things drop to the low 50s sometimes. With a mix of medium and low, you can get a great 60fps experience in the actual fights. The character select and some story fights can drop frames or run at around 40 to 50fps though, especially when loading in new locations. The story mode in particular uses a mix of pre-rendered cut-scenes, in-engine scenes, and transitions to actual battles. Some of these transitions don’t run at a smooth 60fps so keep that in mind. I was ok with a few drops in story mode to have everything else look as good as it could be on the handheld screen.
In terms of other features I value on Steam Deck, Tekken 8 supports 16:10 resolutions and has Steam Cloud support. The 16:10 support or 800p needs to be manually selected if you play docked at another resolution and then play handheld at 800p. If you just play handheld, there isn’t an issue here, and it does 16:10 support well through gameplay and menus. Some cut-scenes are 16:9 though like the opening video (which plays perfectly with audio). I also tested playing with a bluetooth controller for the story mode and my Razer Kitsune wired at the same time to swap between them sometimes. The game detects all inputs correctly.
I also installed Tekken 8 on my Steam Deck SD card rather than internal since it is a massive install of nearly 87GB. Some transitions that I expected to be seamless in story mode have a bit of loading, but it isn’t remotely as terrible as things were in Tekken 7 on PS4 back in the day.
If you play docked, it obviously is nowhere near as nice as the game is on console. I’ll be also adding details of how the game feels on current consoles once I get access to them. If you are curious how the game runs on your own console or PC, a free demo is available. It doesn’t have online and isn’t up to date for the PC build, but is worth trying to see how it can run on your platform of choice.
During the review period, I didn’t get as much time as I had hoped to play with other players online. I’m not going to put a score on this review until I’m confident I’ve tested the online modes enough against others reliably. In the matches I did get pre-release, I had some play wonderfully, while I had a few disconnects in others on Steam Deck. This is exclusively wired. For the full scored review later this week, I will also test over wi-fi. The online modes let you choose connectivity options, view your opponent’s connection type, disconnection ratio, and more when you find an opponent, and you can also adjust connection quality and toggle cross platform restrictions when you get into matchmaking. The connection information also displays different levels of wired and wi-fi quality, delay frames, rollback frames, and also processing load for PC resources being used to know whether there’s slowdown because of your PC or your opponent’s PC.
Tekken 8’s soundtrack is superb. That will not be surprising to most given the series’ history, but I am glad to have enjoyed almost every theme I heard in-game with Twilight Party Cruise being my favorite song so far. There are other great tracks like Volcanic Bomb, Hangar Rules, and The Decisive Blow as well. One more notable thing is how the Jukebox feature is not restricted to just one platform in Tekken 8. Tekken 7 had it only on PS4 but Tekken 8 has it on Steam as well as Xbox. You can use this to make custom playlists or replace songs from the series’ libary.
I hope the team adds a larger font size option for the menus in a patch soon. While it isn’t too bad when I play on my monitor on the desk, playing on TV or on the Steam Deck’s screen is painful with the tiny font size. Barring that, I hope the keyboard input on Steam Deck can be sorted because this feels like a fantastic modern fighter on the platform, and it doesn’t struggle like Mortal Kombat 1 did on Steam Deck at launch.
One more oddity is the fact that the game mentions support for DualSense controllers in one of the menus, but only seems to display Xbox button prompts regardless of how I connected the DualSense controller with and without Steam Input enabled. I’d love to have this added because the PS5 demo had good haptic feedback.
While I need a bit more time to test out Tekken 8 online against more people to see how the online netcode holds up, the game itself is excellent, and a huge step above Tekken 7 in just about every way. I’ve loved the time I’ve put into it so far, and can’t wait to play more through this week to test it online more, and also through the year seeing how it evolves. It feels good to not only enjoy playing a new Tekken game, but also have it actually push visuals once again. Tekken 8 has great gameplay, awesome music, superb visuals, and is actually content packed from the start. It also happens to shockingly run well on Steam Deck almost all the way.
Tekken 8 Steam Deck Review Score: TBA
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