It could have been a contender
Tue, 28 June 2005
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I heard some horror stories about this one. I was told things that lead me to believe it was one of the worst games, wrestling or otherwise, to be released in years. Well, now that Iâ€™ve played it for myself, I can say that I believe some people just like to be dramatic.
I have even seen this described as the worst wrestling game ever made! I donâ€™t know if maybe some people got an unfinished version or what (I have heard there was an earlier version released which had even worse problems, so for once us getting a game a little later than the yanks might have worked in our favour), but if they are talking about the same version of the Wrestlemania 21 game that I played, well that is just drastically overstating things.
Sure, Wrestlemania 21 has its share of problems, but it isnâ€™t that bad! Iâ€™d actually say that it is reasonably good, especially if youâ€™re a big wrestling fan like me.
The saddest thing about it though, is that if theyâ€™d just taken more time and really tightened up the engine and gotten everything running well, Wrestlemania 21 could have been awesome. As it is, it is merely okay. That is a huge shame, because the potential is obviously there. Things just donâ€™t come together anywhere as well as they should, so in the end it is another tragic case of 'so near and yet so far'. Such is life.
The main single player attraction is the story mode. You have to create a character of your own to participate here and thatâ€™s ok, but the create-a-wrestler mode is not particular extensive or well implemented. It does the job, but it has already been done so much better in other wrestling games that it feels quite underwhelming by comparison. Still, I made a cheesy masked muscle-man, called him Buttonhole and took him to the top.
The actual scripted events are all reasonably effective and amusing, though you are never given any chance to change what happens and are stuck on the 'chosen path' from start to finish. The other problem is that while your character has a voice provided for him, heâ€™s really a bit of a dick. No matter what you make him look like, he talks and acts like a doofus, so you never feel all that connected with him (unless you are, in fact, a doofus yourself I suppose).
Multi-player modes are all accounted for. I never tried any of them out myself, so I canâ€™t really say how well that works. Apparently the first version of the game in the states didnâ€™t work well at all over Xbox Live and had many players quite pissed off. But Iâ€™ve been informed by a pretty reliable source that these issues have been addressed somewhat since then and it now works fairly well online. Iâ€™ll just have to take their word for that.
You can have all the different kinds of matches you care to think of, so that adds some variety to it. The Hell in a Cell is my favourite of them all, grating dudeâ€™s faces on the cage and busting their heads open, then climbing up to the top of the cage and throwing your opponent off is always good for a laugh.
The graphics are the definitely the best aspect of Wrestlemania 21. The characters look and move pretty darn well and up close they resemble the real wrestlers remarkably accurately. The intros in particular look much like they do on the actual TV shows, with each little individual nuance the wrestlers use on their way to the ring. All the grapplers are really well rendered and animated, with some excellent little details, like the veins popping out, to add to the realism. As with every other wrestling game around though, the long hair still looks pretty crappy. But, when everything else is so smooth and impressive, that is quite easy to overlook.
|The Undertaker: air guitar champion 3 years running. |
The crowds look pretty cool too, all 3D so there are no "Flat Stanleys". As long as youâ€™re concentrating on the in ring action, you will rarely notice that there are quite a few sets of twins and triplets in the audience on any given night.
In most respects Wrestlemania 21 is visually excellent and has taken over as the best looking wrestling game so far.
If you have ears you can use them to hear things, which is good fun and I recommend it. One of the things you can hear with your ears is the sounds in a videogame and Wrestlemania 21 is no exception.
THQ, can you do me a favour and stop using the same songs in all these wrestling games please? Youâ€™ve gotten your moneyâ€™s worth now, give â€˜em a rest. Pass that on for me Bubba.
Anyway, the majority of the wrestlerâ€™s entrance themes are in there and all the moves and stuff sound suitable and full of meaty chunks. Then there are the voices. Not the ones in my head, the ones in the story mode. All of the wrestlers who appear in the story mode have recorded their own voice work, which is pretty cool. Some of the "acting" still leaves much to be desired, but it is slightly better than the laughable delivery in Smackdown vs. Raw on PS2. It is pretty sweet hearing the wrestlers doing their own talking, so I wonâ€™t complain too much about that.
The commentary is from both Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, or Michael Cole and Tazz, depending on which brand youâ€™re wrestling on. Give it about twenty minutes and youâ€™ll be over that, after hearing every phrase they have to say at least twice.
Now it is time to talk about the control and hereâ€™s where the game really starts to slip. Tap A for light grapples, hold it for strong grapples, tap B for light strikes and holdâ€¦oh, you get the idea. Then you have the triggers to reverse either strikes or grapples. The set-up is good and much like one of my favourite games, No Mercy on N64. Studio Gigante, who developed this game for THQ, even said that No Mercy was a big influence.
Only problem is, unlike in No Mercy, the controls in Wrestlemania 21 donâ€™t respond very well at all. If you set the difficulty on anything but the amateur level, which is just too easy to be any fun, then the reversals hardly ever seem to actually work and the only real way to assure a victory is to just hit first. Once you get your opponent down it is pretty easy to keep them that way. Hit first, stay on the attack and donâ€™t worry about which moves you use, as long as you donâ€™t let the dude recover. In No Mercy you know exactly which moves will work best and thereâ€™s always a chance for either guy to make a comeback if you time your counters properly, but thatâ€™s not the case here. So, in the end, it really plays nowhere near as well as No Mercy and that "inspiration" just doesnâ€™t come through as strongly as it should. You had the right idea with this control scheme and gameplay style Studio Gigante; it is just a pity the execution is lacking.
There are more problems with the gameplay too. The AI is erratic, with the computer behaving like the 'cerebral assassin' one minute and Eugene the next. Ladder matches show this most noticeably, if you set the ladder up and grab the belt, the computer opponent will just spaz out and youâ€™ll be able to win right away if you time it right. There are numerous other instances (it would take me all day to go into them all) where this kind of thing happens and it does take away from the realism and enjoyment of the game.
|Ric Flair shows Rey Mysterio the Electric Boogaloo |
The collision detection is equally spotty, with various times when your wrestler hits the wrong move, or fails to connect, simply because the engine is slightly busted. All of this leads me to believe that Wrestlemania 21 was rushed out and not given enough play testing and time in development. It really is a bummer, because if this stuff had been ironed out properly the game could have rocked.
So, all these complaints might make you think I didnâ€™t have any fun with the game. But that isnâ€™t true, because I still played it quite a lot and I did have a pretty good time for the most part. It is still wrestling after all and I will play pretty much any wrestling game you throw at me. The awesome graphics really helped things for me, because the action looks quite close to the "real" sport. The legends you can unlock, such as Bret Hart and Andre the Giant, are always welcome too.
"Worst wrestling game ever" this is not. Iâ€™ve played dozens of wrestling games over the years and I can assure you that plenty of them have been far worse than this one.
Wrestlemania 21 is a decent game. This is one to just kick back with and not think too much about. Unfortunately, mainly due to all those problems I mentioned, the novelty does wear off before very long. So, for most Iâ€™d say this one is best as a rental. But for the hardcore wrestling fanatics, I reckon you could squeeze enough time out of it to make it worth buying.
Iâ€™ll let â€˜em off the hook just this once, because Iâ€™m a sucker for a pretty face. But next time, Studio Gigante, you ought to make sure the thing is fully cooked before you take it out of the oven. Maybe name the next one "Wrestlemania No Number", so that you can take as long as you need to get it all together.
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More articles by Hillelman
It has the looks, but it doesn't have the heart. If it wasn't so rushed it might have been a title holder. Still, for the mad keen fans, it is well worth a look.