I ended Tekken 8’s Closed Beta Test with a long series of Group Match sets against a friend in Germany. He was playing Law; I was playing Azucena. I don’t think I lost any of the sets, but what was more impressive to me is that we were able to run these games smoothly. I live in New York. We were separated by an ocean, and aside from a few stutters, Tekken 8 ran fine. I was playing on a wired connection, but he was on wi-fi. And it worked. It just worked. I wanted to play more after our sets were over. But I also realized I probably wasn’t going to get a more satisfying ending than that – my buddy started the day beating me pretty badly – and at some point, I did have to sit down and write this piece. But now that I am, and the Tekken 8 Closed Beta Test is over, I wish I’d played it a little more. You know… just a couple more games, to tide me over. I probably won’t get to play Tekken 8 again until it releases on January 26, and I already miss it.
I’ve written extensively about my last, offline play session with Tekken 8, so I won’t rehash what I said there. The online Closed Beta Test was just as good. It looks amazing, plays fantastically, and has that “just one more match” feeling that keeps you playing the best fighting games long after you should have been a responsible adult and gone to bed. Here, I’ll talk about some of the stuff we hadn’t previously seen: avatar customization, the improved online experience in the CBT, Fight Lounge, Group Matches, and Super Ghost Battle.
I’ll start with avatar customization, because, well… that’s where you start. Obviously, the options in the CBT were limited, but I had a lot of fun playing around with my avatar, and seeing what other people had done with theirs. I especially like the little touches, like how you can equip your character with accessories such as a fight stick or sunglasses that look an awful lot like Katsuhiro Harada’s favorite pair. There’s also a bunch of cool, Tekken-themed apparel. And you can have multiple avatar setups saved, so you can switch when the mood strikes you. It’s a good system that encourages you to keep coming back to build an avatar for every occasion.
Then there’s the online experience itself. I spent most of my time with the CBT trying out the Group Match feature with friends, because I’d spent a lot of the CNT playing Ranked Matches. I’m happy to say that Tekken 8’s online play feels just as good as ever. I did encounter some problems — there was some stuttering in a few of my games, and once, one of the people I was playing against disconnected — but I’m more inclined to chalk that up to the beta’s performance on PC, which wasn’t as smooth as it was on consoles, than any issues with the online play itself. Even then, once I’d played a couple matches or gotten through the pre-match intros, things were largely quite smooth, even when there was a literal ocean between me and my opponent, and one of us was on wi-fi.
As for the Fight Lounge, it was hard to get a feel for everything it will eventually be — there was no Tekken Ball in the CBT, and the lobbies were much less full than I imagine they will be once Tekken 8 releases — but there’s a lot to like here. I love that you can queue for both Ranked and Quick Match and continue to walk around the floor with other players, and I saw a lot of people chatting between sets. The only downside was, at least in the CBT, there was no way to match with players directly just by talking to them, at least that I could find. I couldn’t walk up to my friend, for instance, and just match with them directly. We had to go to the Group Match area, find a pair of open cabinets (which meant popping around different FIght Lounges in different regions until we got lucky), and then match together. Once we did, it worked near-flawlessly, but Tekken 8 might benefit from more Group Match stations in the final game.
One thing you can do no matter where you run into someone is match with their Ghost in Super Ghost Battle. The Closed Beta Test was the first time I’ve gotten to go hands on with this feature, and it’s very convincing. Super Ghost Battle’s Ghosts feel like real players. They default to the same roundstart options real players might crutch on, run the same oki options after knockdowns, and use (and drop) the same combos. After spending a while fighting the same Ghosts, I could predict what they were going to do, and react accordingly… at least until they changed things up, just like a real player would. It’s an incredibly impressive feature, and I know I’ll be spending a lot of time using it to train against friends and rivals.
Tekken 8’s CBT, like the CNT before it, was something I couldn’t get enough of. Sure, there were some technical issues on PC, but it was easy to find and play matches, the Fight Lounge is a fun place to hang out with friends, customizing your avatars is a lot of fun, and Super Ghost Battle is something I’ve been waiting for as long as I’ve been playing fighting games. Every time I play Tekken 8, I come away more impressed by it.
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Author: Ryan McCaffrey