A still from the video game Tekken 7.

Game review: Tekken 7 cranks up the silliness and fast, fluid fight scenes to the max, but there are gaps in single-player offering

One of the best game releases of the past 12 months, the latest in Tekken series is everything you’d expect - fast, fun, and with a full mix of characters

Tekken 7

Bandai Namco

3.5 stars

It has been a banner 12 months for fighting game enthusiasts. Just this year alone, pretend pugilists have had several high-profile, well-crafted fighters to take to the lab. The recently released Injustice 2, the mobile version of Skullgirls and the final form of Street Fighter II are all currently vying for fighting fans’ attentions.

That’s not even looking at new releases such as Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite or Nintendo’s Arms. So where does Bandai Namco’s Tekken 7 sit among this pile of fighters?

Right near the very top.

For the uninitiated, this isn’t actually the seventh game in the Tekken series. The first, which wowed by being one of the first non-terrible 3D fighters on the market, hit arcades in 1994. It broke through on the original PlayStation a year later.

There have since been seven-and-a-half follow ups - with Dark Resurrection and two Tekken Tag Tournaments filling the gaps between the numbered releases.

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In addition to the wow factor of existing in the third dimension, Tekken grew a following due to its irreverent setting and characters and its fast, fluid fisticuffs. Tekken 7 (for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One) leans into both of these strengths to the nth degree, cranking up the silliness and combo-riffic gameplay to the max.

The cast of characters in Tekken 7 sits at 37, with a couple of variations of a few fighters to pad out the roster even further. There are traditional fighters, like the Bruce Lee-esque Marshall Law and British boxer Steve Fox, as well as an assortment of zany characters that include a fighting panda bear and a katana-wielding space alien.

A serious game, this is not.

The characters in Tekken 7 range from traditional to zany.

The fighting itself is another story. For all the quirkiness of Tekken 7’s cast, when it comes to the meat and potatoes of fighting, the game remains one of the best in the business.

Whether you prefer rush-down offences, poking defensive play or combo strings, there are several characters to match your preference. Some characters, like the guest-starring Akuma, even play around with introducing proper zoning. Each is easy to pick up, but will take hours of practice to perfect.

No matter whom you choose, the fights are going to be short, brutal affairs. Rounds between experienced players in Tekken 7 take mere seconds to finish, with the person who dropped fewer combos usually taking home the gold.

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Among newer players, the player who figures out how to properly sidestep and counter throws is going to have a leg up on the button mashers of the world. Even among newbies, rounds are over quickly. Tekken is the ultimate in fast-paced fighters, and this most recent iteration continues that tradition.

It’s a good thing, then, that the technical aspects of the game are so solid. With rounds being over so quickly, long load times or difficulty finding games would absolutely kill this title. That’s not the case, as offline, load times were quick enough to barely register and online matches were bountiful.

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Online is where the real competition lives, of course, so the abundant matches available are a definite plus. The offline modes are interesting, but there are some noticeable gaps in the single-player offerings.

Gone is the fan-favourite survival mode, as is the traditional ladder mode with character-specific storylines. The remaining arcade mode is a shortened affair that pits you against just a handful of enemies before ending ingloriously.

To compensate, Namco had introduced a story mode that takes you through the familial drama of the Mishima clan, chock full of well-produced cut scenes and interludes.

The fights themselves are not very engaging, however, as many of them force you to wade through a series of generic enemies over and over again. The time between fights also gets out of hand. At one point there are five separate cut scenes that play between bouts. To those not invested in the lore of Tekken, story mode is going to annoy, more than entertain.

But overall, Tekken 7 is more of what fans have come to expect from the series. If you’re a fan of Namco’s premiere brawler, this is only good news.

Plus, you can dress up as Inspector Gadget and beat the hell out of a grizzly bear. What’s not to love there?

Still, if you’ve never cared for “Tekken”, this entry won’t change your opinion of the series.