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If you finally want a good wrestling game for this generation of consoles, give me a hell yeah!
Wait, what? You’re not a wrestling fan? I’m sorry. I apologize. But hang on. Maybe there is a small audience here on Bitmob/GamesBeat for Vince McMahon’s bizarre “wrasslin’” sport.
If not, leave the ring and head for the showers.
I'll admit it. I’ve been a wrestling fan since, well, the Hulk Hogan days (in his prime, mind you). It has changed drastically since then. Perhaps presently it’s relatively similar to what it was 25 years ago. World Wrestling Entertainment is now known as “family friendly,” and if any of you follow the wrestling business, you can thank John Cena and his way of capturing children for its core audience. Kids love him, just like they loved the Hulkster back in the ‘90s.
Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard not to admit that the WWE has such potential to adapt itself into a fun video game.
Take a step back to the Nintendo 64 days. All the superb fighting games were THQ’s wrestling titles with developer Asmik Ace Entertainment (AKI). It was pure enjoyment because four players could pick over 60 wrestlers and duke it out in a squared circle. Any wild move you can think of (from a suplex, a body slam, an elbow drop from the top rope) graced an in-depth move list that was easily executed. You didn’t need a story or an ending; the gameplay and multiplayer is all you cared about.
It was around the same time this new “Smackdown!” brand debuted on the PlayStation. With the multiplayer adapter, you were capable of wrestling up to 8 players (double the fun). But it just didn’t handle as well as AKI’s titles. It was far more concerned with impressing its audience graphically than capturing the “real-life” feel of the wrestling sport. WWF No Mercy’s grappling system was far more accurate. Your stamina drained as you got your butt handed to you, and it didn’t change. At least your injured body remained the same (and it took you a while to get back up from a beating).
It wasn’t too long before AKI hit the roads, and THQ and Yuke's seen a money maker: They bought exclusive rights to WWE games (much like Electronic Arts did with Madden) and released a new Smackdown game annually. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Little changes were made. New moves, a couple new features here and there, and tweaks for the Create-a-Wrestler Mode were added with each installment. Then, they shifted the controls to further complicate their already-confusion grappling scheme. It was too cartoonish for me – grapplers moved too fast and the hit detection bugs remained in every title since then (while new technical hazards spawned). Why complicate the player and make it harder to perform moves?
The wrestling community misses the old days, both in the games and the TV show itself. The Attitude Era was hot and drew viewers in. It was controversial, uncanny, and unorthodox. Mae Young (in her late 70s) gave birth to a human hand, the Undertaker was performing sacrifices to his victims through an evil spirit cult (think Blair Witch Project), and The Kat (a WWF/E Diva) was flashing her knockers to drooling men in the seats.
But it seemed there were so many memorable characters that made themselves interesting. Stone Cold Steve Austin chugged beer after every match he won, The Rock kicked his ex-girlfriend to the curb (because she refused to give him her warm apple pie), and Chris Jericho made fun of Stephanie McMahon’s boob job every week. It was hard not to watch, because for some strange reason, I wanted to tune in next week on WWE’s weekly Monday Night Raw. There were so many personalities that had that connection with the audience that you wanted to see what they could deliver each time.
The issue I have with the upcoming WWE '13 is this whole “Relive the Attitude Era” they are claiming to bring back.
It’s not possible.
First, as stated before, WWE’s target audience is a large percentage of kids now. They’re going to buy the game. They won’t “get it” unless they watch chronicles of the WWE circuit that cover the past 15 years of the company. Many characters aren’t around anymore, and some have evolved into different personas.
The Attitude Era is well past its time as well. It will be impossible to recapture the feel of the now-then sketchy soap opera just by adding classic features and reproducing the roster. A game following a sport (or sports entertainment, rather) needs to be up-to-date and leveled with what’s going on in the business today. It matches its product with the game and develops that equal atmosphere that you experience.
Additionally, the dialogue, storylines, and matches aren’t suited for youth. In the Attitude days, the men swore and talked about their schlongs. The women competed in Bra and Pantie matches because late teens and young adults wanted to see their clothes ripped off. And heck, there were First Blood matches. They're not going to include that. Raw was war, and it certainly wasn’t “PG” as it is shaped up to be currently.
I’m not sure. Maybe wrestling games were meant to be presented in a more general fashion (with the likes of the titles for the Nintendo 64). Simplicity was fun and everything was easy to perform. You didn’t need voice overs, amazing visuals, or even online play. It was the local multiplayer that kept you inside the ring for such a long time and let you brainstorm your own characters with friends. It was about fighting your way to the top – any violent means necessary – and not so much as how you were “over” with the kids. It was barbaric compared to today.
If THQ pulls it off, kudos to them. But ever since Mike Tyson was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame, I snickered when he was announced as a playable character in WWE '13. That wasn’t attitude, it was lame. What in the blue hell has he done for the wrestling business?
Trust me, if you break out your Nintendo 64 and insert WWF No Mercy (or any AKI titles), you’ll see the difference. They’re not the prettiest thing outside, but deep in they are phenomenal and recognizable wrestling simulators.
It’s wrestling. It’s entertainment. And it use to have attitude written all over it.