Tekken 7 launched yesterday, though it's worth stressing its original debut was in 2015, on Namco's PC-based System ES3 arcade board in Japan. It demonstrated very quickly the successes of moving away from the Tekken series' proprietary engine, this time daring to make the shift to the increasingly popular Unreal Engine 4. In the years between, tweaks to visuals and gameplay have stacked up, and what we have now with the PS4, PC and Xbox One is the most up-to-date iteration of the game yet - albeit with sizeable graphical differences between them.
Namco's move to Unreal Engine is hardly unprecedented. In this generation, it's seen a huge rise in interest from Japanese developers, particularly in fighting games. Tekken 7 joins the likes of Street Fighter 5, another title that uses its advanced shader toolset, post-effects pipeline, and physics on character hair and clothes. Impressively, even recent Unreal Engine 3 fighters turn in entirely different results using related technology - from the cel-shaded style of Guilty Gear Xrd, to Injustice 2 with its push for realistic facial animations. But whether it's Unreal Engine 3 or 4, clearly that flexibility attracts attention from developers. Just as crucially though, all four fighters have one major thing in common: a successful lock at 60 frames per second.
Article Continues Below
The move to UE4 opens the door to cutting edge visuals in Tekken 7, and the very latest physically-based rendering techniques. Series staples like Kazuya and Heihachi get a clear mark-up in shader complexity for skin and clothes. Intro sequences and the new Rage Art moves also use Unreal 4's bokeh depth of field and bloom - adding spectacle to cutscenes, though dialled back for gameplay. Most obviously though, hit impacts between characters now produce an excess of effects we just didn't have before. We've come a long way from the low resolution alpha - small puffs of fire - used in Tekken Tag 2 or Tekken 6. Now a hit produces an maelstrom of different effects - particles, shaders and flat textures. And simply put, a lot more of them.
Which brings us back to the big question; which version of Tekken 7 looks best? Well, the main dividing point is resolution, where further pixel counts have confirmed a 1536x864 - lower than the 900p we initially reported. Now for context, 864p is only really a four per cent drop on each axis from 900p, so it's not a huge downgrade from that standard. Even so the end result is still scaled, producing a blurrier image than say, Street Fighter 5's full 1080p on the same hardware. It's at least aided by anti-aliasing, equivalent to the high preset used on PC, to leave a usually clean image - but it's fair to say treatment isn't consistent, with some edges still showing stair-step artefacts. Thankfully, this dip in resolution does at least provide that all-important 60fps lock for Sony's base hardware.
For those looking for a true full HD release, PS4 Pro delivers the goods, handing in 1080p plus improved effects work from the range of presets otherwise only available to PC owners. Texture filtering is upgraded across the board, but it also appears that Tekken 7 can adjust the quality of its post-process pipeline dynamically in order to keep its 60fps lock. We noticed improved lighting in like-for-like scenarios captured on base and then Pro, for example. But curiously, when we switch to an online match, capturing both PS4 and Pro in the same game, the enhancements disappear - you get exactly the same presentation.
Article Continues Below
Having a dynamic setup in place makes any firm comparison between versions tricky. But one thing is certain: on the console front, PS4 Pro taps into higher quality texture filtering and post-effects where and when it can, while PS4 is otherwise identical to it in most other respects - though running at 864p. In motion, it's only really the resolution differential that sticks out, but evidently, PS4 Pro is pushing better effects whenever it can afford it. And what's more, once again you still get a solid 60fps line all the way through battle.
Xbox One proves to be the most fascinating version of all. It's at the back of the pack in terms of resolution, operating at just 1280x720. It's a clear cut-back from the PS4, though at least with the same anti-aliasing method. Now we've seen 720p games on the machine before, but it's not too often we also see a reduction in effects as well. Compared to a regular PS4, Xbox One pares back texture filtering quite visibly, though again it's worth stressing the textures are present on Xbox One if you move closer to the area in question.
But a more major cutback is in post-effects. While shadow quality and most other settings are identical to PS4 and Pro, the fact is that ambient occlusion is radically stripped back on Xbox One - almost to invisibility in some cases. This goes for both cutscenes and gameplay, leaving Xbox One missing a key visual feature present on all other platforms. Microsoft's machine also completely drops bokeh depth of field. Now, unlike ambient occlusion, this post effect is only used during cutscenes before a match, and during Rage Arts. Fortunately, this doesn't affect gameplay, and clearly all these decisions are made to keep Xbox One tightly locked at 60fps. But on top of the 720p presentation it's a harsh turnout for this version. There are also small compromises in cutscenes and Rage Arts sequences, where Namco adjusts to an adaptive v-sync, with visible screen-tearing as a result - though gameplay is locked.