Iím pretty disillusioned with the current state of wrestling games. I realise that there are several factors which canít be helped which have contributed to the fact that there arenít many groundbreaking games out there, such as the lack of well known promotions needed to release games, and the fact that wrestling isnít quite as mainstream as it was six or seven years ago meaning that developers are less likely to take a risk and create a wrestling game. However, a lot of the blame does need to go to the developers. It seems to be that every game is nothing more than a rehash of a previous yearís effort, with a new cosmetic feature and a slightly updated roster. Itís not a great time to be a wrestling fan, as some systems barely have a handful of wrestling titles available.
They do say that every cloud has a silver lining, one of my personal favourite clichťs I was taught at Internet Writer School, and in the wrestling game industry itís not silver. Itís Grey. Grey Dog Software has been putting their much larger, more powerful rivals to shame during their relatively short time in operation. It seems that the majority of innovation in the market is coming almost exclusively from these guys. Wrestling Spirit was a tremendously enjoyable game that kept me interested for a long time, and it still doesnít really have any major rivals for the specific style of gameplay it focuses towards. It doesnít seem to be a one hit wonder though, as now weíre looking at the latest TEW game being released.
Iím certain that everyone with an Internet connection and an interest in wrestling has played Extreme Warfare Revenge by now. If youíve been hiding under a virtual rock (perhaps in a cybercave), EWR is a simulator which allows the user to run a wrestling promotion in full. From signing talent, to booking the matches and handling the finances, you do it all. EWR might not have been the first game of this nature on the market, but itís easily the best known, and arguably still the best.
Last year, its creator Adam Ryland, then of 400 Software Studios, released the follow up to EWR, which was known as Total Extreme Wrestling. While the game was a lot more polished and had much more depth than EWR, TEW didnít take off quite the same, with some people saying it was perhaps too detailed.
In any event, Total Extreme Wrestling 2005 will be available for purchase soon, so Iím going to take a look at what gamers all over the world will be eager to get their hands on.
The days of EWRís two tone interface are over, my friends. Big money has been spent on making the game as aesthetically pleasing as possible. OK, we know weíre not going to get jaw dropping visuals from a mostly text based simulator, but TEW is as pretty a game as youíre going to get in this market. Good news for WreSpi fans, and those who wanted a less complicated layout to the game is that the general design is set up almost identically to Wrestling Spirit. It may have just been a case of shifting a few boxes to the top of your screen, but it definitely makes the whole process a lot easier when youíre aware of where everything is. You can get through decisions at a faster rate, and everything is a lot less complicated due to a more orderly line up of menus. Once again, Iíll say that weíre not going to have our socks blown off by the looks of the game, but if youíre looking for a user friendly layout, youíre in luck.
Away from basics of the gameís format, weíre still treated to brilliantly designed 3D pictures of each wrestler, and thereís enough colour to make every screen pleasing to the eye. A few years ago people used to complain that playing a simulator was too similar to using a glorified spreadsheet. If you still think that after playing TEW, Iíd love to know what pimped out version of Excel youíre using.
Everyone knows itís a promotion simulator. But if you thought that TEW 2004 had pushed the boat out on the gameplay front, youíre wrong.
Adam Ryland is looking for the best elements of his previous titles to be brought together in TEW 2005 to make his crowning achievement. The goal was the depth of TEW 2004, the fun of EWR and the playability of WreSpi. Apologies for the JR-esq food reference, but if he could get all of these ingredients together, weíd be looking at one tasty dish.
Has he achieved it? Itíll be interesting to see how the devoted online community reacts to the game, and then weíll be able to tell if the mission was accomplished. One thing is for sure though, and that is the game is certainly looking to be an improvement on its predecessor. Many people complained about the slow load times that held TEW 2004 from meeting its full potential, but there wonít be any time-consuming waits this time around. The game genuinely zips from day to day with only a few brief seconds needed for processing even the most strenuous activities. Perhaps one of the reasons for EWRís long lasting popularity is the frantic pace that the game can be played at. If this is the case, there will be a lot of support for TEW 2005ís loading times.
As for the detail of TEW 2004? Itís hard to compare due to the fact that the new title has opted for a more user friendly way of displaying statistics. A familiar grading system by letters is used in most cases to convey data. To be honest, itís a lot more realistic approach. In TEW 2004, you were given stats like a wrestler had a 82.9% rating for charisma. Can you really narrow down a real wrestlerís charisma to such a small bracket? Itís unlikely, unless you had a lot of time on your hands and a somewhat disturbing fetish for wrestling promos. But could you say that a wrestler is a B+ for their skill on the microphone? Yes, quite easily. Somewhat veering back towards looking at the graphics here, the letters are also colour coded which makes things very helpful indeed. The letter F is in bright red, while the A is shown on screen as a blue. What does this mean? No longer do you need to sit and compare someoneís graphs to make sure they have at least 64.7% for technical wrestling ability. You open up a profile, and you look at the colours of the grades. See a lot of blue? The worker will have a lot of A grades and will be worth hiring. See a lot of reds? He sucks. I donít need to explain in detail how this works, you get the idea, but itís the little things like that which make all the difference.
To be honest, underneath the newer graphics and tidier layout, the game plays similar to how it used to. It is fun to play, and when you put on an awesome show that your fan base really appreciates; it does make it all seem worthwhile. A lot of classic games make the user feel satisfied that theyíve really earned anything they have achieved, and if the internet community gets behind TEW 2005, it could very well be regarded as one of the best efforts the genre has ever seen. The good news is that it seems Adam Ryland and Grey Dog Software have made a title that does seem very easy to give your backing to.
I think a lot of people will also be impressed by a lot of the new features included to help the booking of your shows run smoothly. Youíve now got in game angle and storyline editors which allows you to book a feud to your heartís content. The user is given every conceivable basic outline for a storyline to play around with. You create the script, you choose how it plays out and complete control over the wrestlers and the angles is given over to you.
That feature ties in nicely with the new Advance Booking feature. Youíll be able to book towards an objective, with each feud being unique. What does it mean for the player? Give your audience a match youíve been building towards for some time, and theyíll love it, boosting the overall quality of your card. Forgetting to book it (or deliberately leaving it out) will mean that the crowds wonít be too happy that they never got to see the match which you advertised and plugged till the cows come home.
Away from the booking side of things, many people will be happy to know that you can start the game unemployed. There looks to be an incredibly advanced computer AI in relation to how other promotions conduct themselves. For fans of career games, youíll be able to start without a job on the lowest rung of the wrestling industry (slightly below being the guy who deals with Bob Hollyís rental cars) and work your way to the top. Will this help give TEW 2005 that extra kick of replayability which is always useful? Only time will tell.
Players will now have the option of being able to see their roster (and lots more data besides that) in either a Bookerís View or Statisticianís View. The former is the classic EWR/TEW 2004 style line up of a list of names on your left, with a brief profile on the right hand side of the screen. But opening up your roster in the Statisticianís View allows you to view your workers spreadsheet style, letting you sort by numerous different factors. Want to list everyone on your roster by their technical wrestling skills? A button click does that in half a second, compared to the time that used to be spent messing around with filters. Youíll be able to line up the screen exactly as you see fit, making this another valuable asset added to the game.
On the match option front, weíre faced with a similarly amount of gimmicks to choose from. It does appear though that this time around, things are a lot more structured, making it less time consuming and confusing to pick the match stipulations. Once again itís just a minor touch that makes things a whole lot easier, and could end up making all the difference.
There are so many small new features that have been included in TEW 2005, from giving road agents notes on how the match should be booked, to hearing on a radio show that a pair of wrestlers are currently dating (hopefully a male and female couple, for the sake of Brock Lesnarís sanity). Thereís a whole lot of ground to cover when looking at the new features added to TEW 2005, including a few nice surprises that youíll need to stumble upon yourself.
On top of the usual Main game editor which can be used to customise your data as you see fit, we now have the option of using the aforementioned Create An Angle and Create A Storyline editors. The main editor is simple enough and easy to use, and will allow full customisation of the game as usual. Create match types, edit workersí details, thereís even scope to develop your very own game world. This time around, multiple database will be supported without the need to overwrite files, making it even easier to start up a new fan created scenario, many of which will be available for download almost immediately after release.
The other two new editors have been covered somewhat earlier in this preview, but it wonít hurt to bring them up again. It literally does seem to be when it comes to what angles and storylines you can create; the only limitation is your imagination. With hundreds of basics to start off with, and the user completely in control of how the storyline plays out, it looks like this could be one of the key selling points of TEW 2005.
Adam Rylandís promoter sims are notorious for being fiendishly addictive. There are huge online communities out there still updating and customising his previous titles, and Iíd be very surprised if TEW 2005 was the exception to the rule. This may be the one area of the game that lies outside of Grey Dog Softwareís hands. If the fans really get behind Total Extreme Wrestling as they have done with older promotion sims, there could be an unlimited lifespan as long as fan created scenarios and updates become available.
As for whatís included in the game itself, there still looks to be a lot to keep you occupied. The game is now played in two modes, either Free Style or Straight Edge. TEW 2004 played in a similar way to Free Style, where the player was not set goals or targets. The player is also able to apply for jobs as the owner of other promotions, or can start the game as a promotionís owner. The new mode, however, you cannot start as an owner, and you need to work your way to the top, meeting management goals and building up your reputation, which is essential should the player wish to move upstairs and become a promotion owner further down the line.
But at the end of the day, all the fancy game modes and customisable elements wonít be enough to keep you entertained for a long time if the gameplay stinks. But I think we might just be safe on that front, with more effort than ever before being put in to make sure that itís fun to play, and loading times kept to a minimum.
Big things have been promised for TEW 2005. In an interview I conducted with Adam Ryland before Christmas, he said that he had a rough idea in his mind how to go around making TEW 2005, and that the results could end up being ďspectacularĒ. I havenít seen anything that would contradict that initial claim in the build up to the release of Total Extreme Wrestling 2005. The franchise is looking better than ever, with a lot of effort put in to make the game a success.
Will the new version be greeted with a better reception than its predecessor? Iíd certainly assume that to be the case. But will it be able to win over the loyal EWR supporting contingent? It would certainly take something special to do so. But donít be surprised if TEW 2005 manages to win over a lot of people. Itís looking to be an expertly crafted game with a lot of depth, but offers the speed and entertainment of better known software titles.
TEW 2005 should be available in early October. For more information on the Total Extreme Wrestling series and more, check out http://www.greydogsoftware.com.