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Top Ten Favourite Wrestling Videogames - Part One

26 April 2007

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My Choices: 10 - 6

We have been graced with videogames now for what seems like an eternity, and graced in this meantime with a vast amount of wrestling titles. Some good; some not so good and then there is the downright awful. There have been cash in franchises, like the ill fated Simpson’s Wrestling title, and there are also been those that reached their demise before their release such as AKI’s planned WCW title on the N64. With all these titles available though, which is the top dog? Which is the title to be reckoned with, and the title that will have the longest shelf life beyond what happens in the real life-wrestling world?

Well, while there is no definitive answer, the best way to handle this poser is to take two approaches; the first to establish what I felt was my own favourite title, and the second was to establish this sections readers own choice and opinion. So here we have the results, and while my choices can be taken with a pinch of salt, when gathering both this list, and the compiled readers choices, there will be more than enough adequate wrestling game action to keep even the most hardcore gamer pleased. But before we go ahead with the list, I am always open to your own views and opinions, so feel free to pop me an email to either dismiss this list or even dismiss the list voted for by the readers, your opinion counts after all. So without further ado, the list from 10 to 6:

10. WCW/NWO Revenge (N64)

WCW/nWo screen imageThe follow up to WCW/NWO: World Tour, THQ and Asmik’s second WCW outing on the N64 is still a title that I hold close to heart. The trademark grappling system was retained from World Tour, and with this made the game maintain a quicker pace then it’s rival of the time, Acclaim’s Warzone. This is the main thing to take into account with Revenge, in comparison to Warzone it was more fluid, with the gameplay flowing more easily with moves more easily accessible. As enjoyable as Warzone was at the time, the multiple button taps to achieve moves was infuriating when compared to the relative ease of Asmik’s title.

The key nuance here is the four way multiplayer, which still holds it’s own today if one is prepared to accept it’s aged and dated graphics, which beyond the impressive animations was looking dated at it’s time of release because of the upgrade of the World Tour engine, over a whole new affair. A bigger roster, more secrets to discover, more arenas…basically more, more and more when compared to World Tour, Revenge makes it’s way into the list because of taking the original good work and pushing it to create a definitive WCW experience on the N64. While it wasn’t the AKI WCW title that was cancelled, it went along way to help to shield it’s regrettable absence from our gaming lives.

Yes, sound is pretty woeful with no actual entrance themes, and the game hasn’t aged greatly as afore mentioned, these are just little nuances that are brushed aside with the success of multiplayer and helps it to prop up at the very tail end of this countdown. Although it has to be duly noted that simply tapping the analogue stick allows for quick break ups of pin falls, extending multiplayer bouts at least, so be prepared for long battles.

9. Wrestling Spirit (PC)

Adam Ryland’s venture outside of the comfort zone of Extreme Wrestling Revolution, and Total Extreme Wrestling, can only be deemed a great success. Arguably it is bettered in most cases by the sequel released last year, I still hold the original closer to heart as it was the ground base and marked Grey Dog’s risk in changing the formula.

wrestling spirit screen imageThe concept of WreSpi was to move from the role of booking wrestling shows as a promoter in Grey Dog’s former aforementioned series, to instead place the gamer in the role of an actual wrestler. Life on the road, relationships with roster members plus more importantly the intuitive in match engine allowing players to dictate how their bouts play out, all couple to make WreSpi an immersive and more importantly a unique title. The combination of role-play with simulation was a risky but in the end a rewarding move. The challenge of handling your wrestlers career out of the ring is equal to, if not more important to success then the actual in ring bouts. Out of ring exploits actively effect how the player is able to handle their in ring activities, whether that be through their choice of training method, or social activities to their relationships with roster members.

The option of taking an already created roster member in Superstar mode, or taking the harder route of rookie to legend where by you play with a self created wrestler. Like EWR this offers a wealth of different ways in which the title can be tackled, and the depth of wrestlers within the databases fictional world allows for either option to be more than viable. But it is the Rookie To Legend mode that will let the player see and get the most out of the title, offering much more a challenge but equally more rewarding play. The decisions in ring of losing intentionally to impress the crowd, or changing your style to suit your employers and fan bases taste, all add more strategic elements to an already deep and fulfilling title.

8. Day of Reckoning (GC)

day of reckoning imageThe last Gamecube wrestling title was one that stood above the more recent Smackdown incarnations, and while not challenging the mantle of No Mercy as the definitive WWE wrestling title, it did set its benchmark in the videogame world. The most intriguing thing about Day of Reckoning 2 and its predecessor, was the way in which one main storyline was offered for the season mode that linked everything together in a huddle, giving purpose for the progression through bouts and feuds. The mixmatch of branching storylines in other wrestling titles did not offer this sense of stability. It focuses on your created wrestler's rise within the ranks of the WWE, starting as a newcomer working the development circuit, to his rise to television, pay-per-view, and champion status. It feels like a development upon the original Playstation Smackdown title, and adds a purpose to playing with the CAW’s in Season Mode. It mixes interesting story angles along with challenges that must be met during matches, such as not using finishers, or countering a certain number of moves in a similar ilk to No Mercy. You cannot play as a regular roster member in the season mode for this reason, which can be a little gutting but offers a unique take when compared to other titles. The only problem with this mode is its linearity, with players having to repeat challenges if they fail rather than the game taking into account losses and progressing on.

While the roster is not as vast as its counterparts, there has been more focus on honing what is here and the addition of more legends both through unlockables and the likes of Roddy Piper available at the start covers for any quibbles against its size. The grappling and countering systems while not quite hitting the benchmark, is a notch above most other titles and the pacing of the game allows for the deliberate style of play rather than a fast paced arcade style. It also has an adequate weighting system, which allows for Heavyweight’s to be notably more difficult to face than their Cruiserweight counterparts. The Create a Wrestler mode is deep because of it being a main focus of the title, and it has many unlockables to be sought with cash earned through the season mode. While the title is not the best available, it offers a great package to achieve both non-wrestling fans and please those eager thoroughbreds. It makes the list on account of the title trying something new with the Season mode, while still maintaining a good ground base built from monitoring the successes of other titles.

7. Smackdown 2: Know Your Role

It has taken two places to pass, but the Smackdown series’ first showing on this list marks number eight, and on the basis of how successful the franchise has been to date it is hardly surprising to see one of it’s titles present. Why the original Playstation sequel, I hear you ask? The prime reason is the Multiplayer Season Mode, which still has not been bettered in the series and arguably not been bettered by any other wrestling title to have graced the console world. Titles such as Raw 2 on the Xbox have tried to replicate the mode, but have missed the important aspects that made it so successful. Players being able to jump in and out, with up to four being able to participate with a multi-tap and actively see their work earn their spots on the card, and title chances as they progress up the in-game ranking system. The mode was ever continuing, and allowed roster participants to be chosen and the player able to change their chosen grappler upon their whim.

smackdown 2 know your role screen imageOne of the few quibbles with this was that with the vast number of guys on your chosen Season Mode Roster, there are too many to keep in the mix, so it leaves you waiting to get booked on the card, having to skip through AI matches until your chance arrives. Another quibble was that there was no option to skip matches; instead the player has to wait for battling bars to decrease dictating the winner. Also the Pre-season mode was removed from this sequel, a mode that was established for CAW’s to progress through before entering the main season mode. The Create mode was a vast improvement on its predecessor, and the extended options for facial detail and attire arguably still hasn’t been bettered, with following sequels lessening the freedom offered here.

Another aspect maintained from its predecessor that may be a little tough to stomach is the way in which the wrestlers enter the ring, something that is now a feature held dear to wrestling titles and can make or break a fans adoration. Just a gander at IGN’s build up for any new SD series title, with a collection of entrance video’s further adds to this view. The wrestlers enter in front of their own Titantron video, rather than walking down the entrance ramp. Seeing the wrestler’s climbing an invisible turnbuckle is a strange sight to say the least. If you can tolerate the loading times, the title has more than held it’s age; even despite how grating the loading screens can be when loading up a brief cut scene that wasn’t all that necessary. Taking the nuances with a pinch of salt, taking into account it’s age, SD2 on the PS1 is arguably the definitive Smackdown title under Yukes.

6. Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain (PS2)

After just making the bold claim that the sequel to the PSOne original in the series was probably the definitive title in the series, another SD title appears and higher in the reckoning. Hypocritical one will inevitably raise, but the word ‘arguably’ reared its head and that is because this is the title that for me is battling with Know Your Role for the best in Yuke’s series. Maintaining the series long established fast gameplay, ‘Here Comes The Pain’ looked to establish some more traditional nuances into the mixing pot. Statistic’s showed their face for the first time, and helped to dispel many a grievance in the previous titles of unrealistic bouts with heavyweights being able to be slammed with content by the cruiserweight roster. It made not only for more realistic affairs, but more fulfilling bouts with a real sense of achievement being felt with every victory, not felt with the relative ease of victories in the titles predecessors. Damage indicators also added a sense of strategy to this incarnation, and while it did not completely change the fast and fluid aspects of predecessors, the new grappling system rejuvenated how the player interacted with the game. It is still accessible as ever, with moves still being assigned to each face button and finishers within easy grasp, and this adds to the title as it maintains the right mix between simulation and the accessibility of an arcade affair.

smackdown here comes the pain screen imageThe title did not feature any audio, either in the form of commentary nor in the season mode and for me it puts it that peak higher, as it helps the title stand the test of time. Of course as has been seen in the latest SDvsRaw title, voiceovers can be used to great effect in the storylines themselves but the repeated commentary lines in both of the SDvsRaw sequels and continual mishaps in commentary, it just makes it an unneeded and redundant tacked on feature. Also with the limitation that not every superstar on the roster gets a recording session, so those without a voiceover get rejected from the season mode, meant that the following titles did not offer the vast depth that ‘Here Comes The Pain’ offered in this mode. This is before the mention of the new significant addition in this title, the legends roster. Obviously inspired by Acclaim’s Legends of Wrestling titles, the addition of the likes of Jimmy Snuka, The Iron Sheik and Ted Dibiase added a new level of depth that has remained a staple of the series ever since.

Storylines within the Season mode set a ground base that hasn’t been bettered in the Smackdown series, and I would wager that only Day of Reckoning has bettered overall in the WWE wrestling games world. While the title does not offered the ever continuing season’s of the first two SD titles, it does offer a some branching affairs and options for the player such as a stable storyline that is quite prominent. The ability to play with the vast roster within this mode, covers any inadequacies with it only being a year long, and it’s something Yukes would do well to return to in future titles.

> Part two



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