Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's All About The Game! (And How You Play It) Part 2

Video Games: The Sort of History of Wrestling Video Games...Part 2

So here we are onto the second part of my rundown of wrestling game memories, after ending the last section with the Nintendo 64's 'No Mercy' reigning as my favorite. Can it go on to the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be as far as wrestling video games go??? 
First up as its next challenger is the Playstation 2's first WWF game, and the third Smackdown game in the series, 'Smackdown!: Just Bring It'...

'Just Bring It' took the classic mechanics of the first Smackdown games and added the improved graphics and presentation that you'd expect with the step up in hardware.
it might not look like it now but these were some electrifying graphics back in the day.

The PS2 game also added complete entrances, commentary by Michael Cole & Tazz (before one was the ultimate bad guy & even though the other was also a playable character), 2 finishing moves per wrestler (Stone Cold just had 2 different animations on of the Stunner! Stunner! Stunner!) a referee and the ability to fight in the crowd. 
Firstly, the ref was a great touch. Senior referee Earl Hebner (before he began running his own merchandising store out the back of his truck) was present on screen throughout the matches. Now this wasn't just a nice little graphical touch, oh no, Earl was fully interactive and you could attack and bully him all you wanted, be careful though Earl could play favorites and would sometimes even strike back.
The addition of fighting in the crowd, although a great idea, ended up not working out so well. The 2d sprites that made up the crowd really let down this feature, still it was a nice try and the future games would improve on it. 
'Just Bring It' was a decent debut for WWF on the PS2 but you couldn't help but feel a little disappointed with it. As much fun as it was I still much prefered the classic 'No Mercy'.
Oh, one other thing about 'Just Bring It' is that you could also be one of the few people to ever to visit the WWF restaurant 'The World'. It was included as a stage for hardcore matches. Any time you fought in there it was probably the busiest it would ever be.

About the same as the Smackdown series came out, a number of other wrestling games appeared. 
Nintendo's hand held systems Game Boy Color & Game Boy Advance had a few wrestling games of their own released. 
Going back to the bad old days, all of the WWF games that came out sucked. Some weren't even wrestling games, i'm looking at you 'WWF Betrayal'. 
Stephanie McMahon took the role of Princess in the WWF Betrayal game. As a sort of Wrestler Super Mario, you could play as either Triple H, The Rock, Stone Cold or the Undertaker (even though it was 'Taker who kidnapped her in the real storyline "Where to Stephanie???") and fight in a sort of Double Dragon game set backstage at WWF events. Great, it wasn't.

There was one handheld saving grace though, a little game called 'Fire Pro Wrestling' (and its sequel). A fun game with a ridiculous amount of moves and creative options, i mainly loved this cause i could make a very decent little Chris Jericho compete with lionsault and cocky pin! Hey!

(i hear the Playstation 2 version of Fire Pro Wrestling, 

'Fire Pro Wrestling Returns' is great, especially the creation options, i need to track that down)

Even the original Playstation got itself another grappler...
'Simpson Wrestling' though was completely awful. Bit of a shame cause i had good memories of an earlier Simpson's sports games in my Game Boy.
(Bart vs. The Jugganauts was a lot of fun, Simpsons Wrestling was not)

Before the PS2 got its next installment of the Smackdown series, now called, WWE Smackdown (since a panda laid the Smackdown on Vince), the other consoles of the time were also getting their first taste of some WWE action.
The X-Box was first to get a new game, and that was 'WWE Raw'. An already much delayed title that was supposed to launch with the system got held up even more after the WWE had to change it's name and "get the F out!". 
Sadly the wait wasn't worth it. Similar to how the Dreamcast's game was a big disappointment so too was the XBox's. Even after all the delays in production the game still seemed unfinished. 
THQ probably hoped the Raw series of games could go on to compete with the Smackdown series over which games were best. They were mistaken though cause Raw sucked.

Also in 2002 the Nintendo GameCube, which let's be honest, was already a bit of a letdown, got in on the wrestling action.
'WrestleMania X8' was the new Nintendo exclusive game and I was super stoked about it. 
Expecting THQ to be bringing out a follow up to their superb Nintendo 64 wrestlers,i was anticipating a sequel to 'No Mercy' with improved graphics and an updated, irristable line up of WWE AND former ECW & WCW stars, including the return of Hulk Hogan to WWE video games. Oh my i was excited...
Unfortunately the game was one big old let down. THQ had decided against using 'No Mercy's programmers started the game from the ground up. 
This may have been the biggest disappointment of any wrestling game ever. I was expecting so much and even the cover had me psyched to fight with some of the biggest superstars of all time, however, the game just didn't work well, the career mode sucked, the controls were lousy and the speed was off. 
I might cry just thinking about it.

Yet another series of games was also tryna get a share of the wrestling market back then. I remember hearing about the first game of this series and really looking forward to the game...i should have known better.
The 'Legends of Wrestling' game boasted an awesome roster of characters. It was the first game to include Bret Hart in years. Also playable were 'Superfly' Jimmy Snuka, Rob Van Dam, Sabu, the Road Warriors, Ricky Steamboat, Terry Funk, Million Dollar Man, Texas Tornado, 'Flyin' Brian Pillman, the Iron Sheik & WWE Hall of Famer Koko B.Ware. 
So many dream matches could be set up but it was more of a nightmare. Oh how horrible that game actually was. It played terribly. I returned the game less than a week after i bought it.
The game had a couple of sequels, both with great line ups of characters, but i couldn't be tricked into buying the dogmess again. 
Even when they added the Ultimate Warrior, Sting, Rick Rude & Macho Man in the third game of the series i refused to play it.
amazing rosters aside, the Legends of Wrestling games sucked. Really bad.

So even with its new challengers the Smackdown series still looked to be head and shoulders above its opponents as the best of the bunch when it came to wrestling games.
The latest version of the Playstation 2 game, 'WWE Smackdown!: Shut Your Mouth!' (Geez, the Rock's catchphrases sure did work out great for titles of stuff...) proved that point even more by improving on the already great gameplay of previous installments.
lets face it the US cover of 'Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth' sucks compared to the PAL version. How can you not have the Rock on the front of a game he pretty much named???
 One of my favorite additions to 'Shut Your Mouth' was the fact that you could have Hulk Hogan wrestle in his black and white 'Hollwood' Hogan attire or the famous Hulkamania red and yellow he had returned to wearing.
and tons of interaction with weapons and scenery in the different match types and arenas. Such as you could ride the 'American Bad Ass' Undertaker's bike around & finally, you could rub your opponents faces against the side of the Hell in a Cell. Gruesome violence, eh, its all good fun!

The next year the poor Gamecube got itself another WWE game, which was even worse than its first. 'WWE Crush Hour' was a driving/destruction derby game with wrestler themed cars. As good as it sounds...wait who thinks it sounds good?!!!
The Gamecube did get a standard wrestling game as well, a sequel to the oh so disappointing 'WM X8', the creatively titled 'WrestleMania XIX' was released. was still no good. All i wanted was a new 'No Mercy', was that too much too ask?! Instead 'XIX' featured a 'Revenge' storyline where instead of wrestling matches you had to fight construction workers and security guards in random areas on the way to trying to ruin wrestlemania! :/
Plus the Rock had switched his look up with his new big arm tat. Things just weren't the same.
i miss the big sideburns.

The X-Box also got another WWE game, 'Raw 2'. I didn't even bother to play it but heard it wasn't very good. I wasn't even a fan of the cover which made it look like a WCW game...

A new kid on the block entered the fight. EA Sports got back into the wrestling game business, but without an offical wrestling promotion license to base their characters they signed up Hip Hop artists to replace them. 
'Def Jam Vendetta' was actually a very enjoyable game. 'EA Sports Big' who also made the great snowboarding games, 'SSX Tricky', was smart to lose the developers of the previous EA WCW games and use Aki, the makers of the brilliant N64 games. With 

'No Mercy's

 gameplay and more polished graphics and speed, 'Vendetta' was great fun. It obviously lacked any real wrestlers or even a create-a-wrestler mode which let it down though and also didn't feature any Jay-Z. Nor did it have the built in multiplayer capabilities that were always the N64's strong suit.

The Smackdown series was going strong, with its newest game possibly being its best ever. The latest version 'Here Comes The Pain' came out and was pretty much brilliant. 
Much more than a yearly roster update. Nearly everything about the game felt better.
the WWE had it's next big thing, and the Smackdown series took full advantage of it featuring Brock Lesnar as cover star and using his catchphrase as the title. I guess they had run out of Rock subtitles though...Smackdown! It Doesn't Matter. probably wouldn't have sold that well.
In 'Here Comes The Pain' you could injure opponents individual body parts, the story line of the game was insanely cool and the create a wrestler mode seemed to include any wrestlers movesets and mannerisms that weren't already part of the games roster. This was good times. Plus it bought in First Blood matches and the Elimination Chamber. It was the first Smackdown game that came close to overtaking 'No Mercy' as my favorite wrestling game. 
Funnily enough although it seemed like this was the start of the Next big thing era, 'Here Comes The Pain' the first game Brock was cover star of was also the last Smackdown game he was included in. From now on, you'd have to create the F-5 machine to dominate everybody if you wanted to play as him. :(

With all the options and fight variations you could choose on the Smackdown series it seemd like this could be the absolute total package for a wrestling game, maybe it was time to move on from the old N64 days and just embrace the Smackdown games as the best...but then 'WWE Day Of Reckoning' was released on the Nintendo Game Cube which turned out to be a nice little surprise.
While no where near as indepth and varied as the Smackdown games. 'Day of Reckoning' bought with it the closest gameplay yet to the classic 'No Mercy' for a new WWE game. It also had a great career mode built only around your created superstars rise to the top, (which i liked cause i was all about some creating wrestlers). I was a happy chappy. Also making a to WWE games was return was the 'Hitman' Bret Hart. Woot woot. 
After the atrocities that were 'Legends Of Wrestling' finally you could play as Bret Hart in his real home...

After the departure of Brock Lesnar and the lack of any new Rock catchphrases to name their new game after, WWE & THQ decided on a name change for their next Playstation 2 wrestler. Now titled 'Smackdown vs. Raw', it was the first time Vinnie Mac got chance to be the cover star.
a non wrestler on the cover, no chance in hell right? Wrong! The chairman himself with his funny colored eyes is front and center for first of the newly retitled Smackdown vs. Raw series.

After the greatness that was 'Here Comes The Pain' 'SvR' was a bit of a letdown. Some cool additions it did bring along with the new name were Mini game type things at the start of matches like staredown, test of strengths or shoving contests, a create a belt option which hadn't been seen since the N64 games, the return of the create a ppv option, loads of voiceovers for the career mode (although some wrestlers shouldn't have bothered they sounded horrible). and the return to Playstation for the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be (besides Santino Marella) Bret 'The Hitman' Hart.
It was also the first wrestling game to have the option of playing online, this was an awesome idea but didn't work out so great at first. You only had really limited mode options and there was all kinds of lag and slowdown. One downside all the new additions might have had with the game was that the roster seemed pretty small.

The next year all 3 systems got their game updates. I ignored the XBox game 'WrestleMania 21' even though it was a completely new game engine from the earlier Raw messes.
i didn't wanna risk playing yet another lame WWE game on the Microsoft system and stuck to playing the Halo games & Project Gotham Racing instead.

The Gamecube got a sequel to 'Day of Reckoning', titled, believe it or not, 'Day of Reckoning 2'.
it was good, just like the first 'DoR' was, and it had Stacy Kiebler on the cover so that can't be bad. (with Stacy & Trish as cover stars i dunno how the Day Of Reckoning games were so underrated!)
Good stuff 'Day of Reckoning' had was Last Man Standing matches and fully 3d crowds, they were some ugly crowds though.
Much like the first game in the series, 'DoR2' career mode was based around your created charater. But instead of your rise to fame, this time it was you trying to regain the world title. Both 'Day of Reckoning' games are great titles and its a shame they aren't more well known.

The PS2 got its next installment of the Smackdown vs. Raw series 'Smackdown vs. Raw 2006'. Just adding the year to the title was worrying to me, sure its an easy way to sort them but it makes me think that all the game may have is an updated roster and not much else going for it. 
I needn't have worried though, 06 was awesome. It had superb graphics much imporved sounds and voice overs, General Manager mode where you make the matches and book the shows and sell how the fans react, a ton of arenas to play in, including the world's largest toga party, WrestleMania IX and a create an entrance mode, with pyrotechnics and everything! You could also, finally, challenge for and defend championship titles in the exhibition mode, so every time you played could be a title match. A Buried Alive match type was also added but that seemed alot like the casket matches. 
As the last of the Playstation 2 exclusive WWE games this was a nice way to finish. Quality stuff.
06 was also available for the Playstation Portable and even though it had some problems with loading times and being jerky it was still good stuff. It even had its own special content including some awesome game show type trivia and mini games with Eugene! 

It was definitely an improvement over the other WWE handheld games of the time 'Survivor Series' on the Game Boy Advance (people still played those???) and 'WWE Aftershock' on the Nokia N-Gage (people actually owned those???)

With the GameCube done (it was always a lame fish really, i can't believe i actually bought 2 of the damn consoles, one when it came out and another "exclusive" color when the Zelda game came out, #wasteofmoney) and THQ not bothering to make any seperate wrestling games for the XBox systems, Smackdown was crowned king of the video game ring.

'Smackdown vs. Raw 2007' was released on the PS2, XBox360 and PSP and, as it has no other wrestling games challenging it, was the undisputed champ.
Added to the game for '07' were Money In The Bank ladder matches, crowd chants, the ability to use weapons from the crowd, and if you were lucky enough to have the 360 version they also added sweat!
Yup the wrestlers now sweat. The game did look amazing and played as well as ever.
The create a belt mode was still around but this year you could also create spinner belts, unfortunately.

next up was 'Smackdown vs. Raw 08 (Featuring ECW)'

The series made its debut on 3 new systems the Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii & Nintendo DS, while still being available for PS2, XBox360 & PSP. (n

icely on the PSP version you could unlock the late, great, Latino Heeeeeat, Eddie Guerrero as a bonus character.)
 I was excited about this game because of it having the ECW invasion in it. 

I shouldn't have got my hopes up because just like the WWE ressurection of ECW, it was a big disappointment. A bunch of the new ECW wrestlers were added including CM Punk which was cool but the ECW Legends roster only had Sabu, Terry Funk & Tommy Dreamer. Yup 3 wrestlers in the entire roster. The game added a new system called 'Fighting Style' which should have been a nice touch for example if the wrestler had a hardcore style it would allow him to do more moves with weapons, but it didn't really work out so great and the styles actually restricted the type of moves certain wrestlers could do and the overall gameplay was pretty much unchanged from older versions.
The Wii verison was even worse with less game modes and worse graphics. The only people who should really wanna own 'Smackdown vs. Raw (featuring ECW) 2008' are Kenny Dykstra fans, so that'll be about, ummm, maybe 1 of you.

One of the reasons i didn't really enjoy this edition of the game so much may have been the fact that most of my time was being spent playing Rock Band.
i love me some Rock Band, maybe even more than i loves wrestling games!

The next version of Smackdown vs. Raw, '2009', came out but i actually didn't bother to buy it.

Not only was Rock Band 2 out at the same time but i also had Mario Kart Wii to play. Talk about good times!

The new SvR game did bring about some cool new features. Better online play was added as was downloadable content so you could add more wrestlers, awesomely including Vader and the equally fearsome Bushwhackers (and a Christmas themed outfit for Kelly Kelly!) to the game.
A create a finisher mode was bought in, a Highlight Reel option that recorded the best moments of your match and Inferno matches were available. (geez there are a ton of fans who want to recreate crappy Undertaker matches in their video games)

Apparently the Wii version had a nice addition of being able to jump your opponent during their entrance or after their match by swinging your Wii remote around wildly.
Tag teams matches were also improved in the game, you could do alot more double teaming and just plain, outright cheat when playing as a tag team which is always fun and you could play a 2 player career mode, although one of you would have to control Dave Batista. :( 

Best of all, an awesome storyline mode called 'Road To WrestleMania', tailored around a hand full of characters, was added. 

The following year another company tried to make some competition for WWE's video game dominance, when TNA Wrestling made their debut in the world of video games with 'TNA Impact!'. But just like their tv's show couldn;t compete with WWE's for rating, the game followed suit. Sadly for as good as the game looked, the gameplay sucked...

2009 was a busy year for wrestling games. That same year a WWE licenced Legends game also came out. 'Legends Of WrestleMania'. Much like the older Acclaim made 'Legends' games, this one had an incredible roster and promised to let you relive and replay classic matches of years gone by. 
It was a big ol' letdown though. With simplistic gameplay and a lack of depth ruining what could have been an amazing game full of great memories. Sadness.

Later in the year since a proper sequel to Rock Band hadn't been released i got back into the Smackdown series.

'Smackdown vs. Raw 2010' was a good time to come back, the game was pretty awesome. Maybe not quite as much fun in single exhibition fights as the  'UFC Unleashed' game, but the level of depth of options and career modes in Smackdown gave it much more replay value.
i actually own 2 copies of UFC Undisputed, one for the 360 and one for the PS3 but i don't have GSP on either cover. Grrrrrr.

The Create modes in 'SvR2010' were intense. You could design pretty much anything, entrances, moves, pyros, outfits, even the tattoos. I was a big fan, especially because i could recreate a pretty awesome looking 'Birds Of War' team inspired by the 'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia' tv show.
The Playstation3 could finally use songs from its hard-drive for entrance themes too so that was nice.
Also back was the brilliant 'Road To WrestleMania' mode and the co-operative career mode, i only wished you could play as a tag team online but unfortunately not, so my friends and i would have to all get together at one house when we wanted the 'Birds of War' to go on the attack!

Other touches i liked from this game were the ability to download other peoples created wrestlers, although you couldn't edit them at all once you got them, a bit of a letdown but you could also still download official content such as Stone Cold Steve Austin.

 There was also a new mode added called 'Story Creator', where, yes you guessed it, you could create stories. You had control over how the storylines went and even what was said, its a nice feature and hopfully will only get better and better in the newer games.

Some time earlier this year i did notice commercials for a new TNA handheld game. 
'TNA Impact: Cross The Line' was a update of their original game with newly signed wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan added. As far as the updates went, wrestlers yes, rest not so much. Even though Hogan was added they kept the 6 sided ring which he got rid of in real life. I gave the game a miss, number one cause i thought it'd suck and number two cause i couldn't believe the amount of moves they had put in the Hulster's moveset, including a dropkick! So unrealistic!

A running dropkick?!! By Hogan??!! Come on!

Of course a new Smackdown vs. Raw game is going to be released soon but thats not the only new WWE game that'll be available.
THQ has also been working on 'WWE All Stars'. A more arcade based fighting game where combos and some crazy looking moves will be incorporated. Realism is not what they are going for with this one. All the characters look like they have definitely been on the 80's wrestler diet (of steroids) as well. While it may turn out to be a fun game, other WWE spin offs have never worked out very well so i'm not holding my breath.

'Smackdown vs. Raw 2011' though I am very much looking forward to it.
(SvR11 and its multiple covers, glad the USA has The Miz featured though because he is awesome)

With new features like flexing muscles graphical touches and tables that break depending on how wrestlers fall onto them (like just one leg may break off), and more importantly for the gameplay. A 'Massive Match Creator' mode which lets you add any and all stipulations to a match (if they have 'On A Pole' matches you can guess which game Vince Russo will want for Christmas!), a storyline quest to end to end the Undertaker's Wrestlemania streak and 'WWE Universe' mode, which has replaced the career mode and will keep track of everything you do in the game including exhibition matches and tailor the games storylines around the way you play.

 The only problem i see for 'SvR 11' is Rock Band 3 is also coming out soon and that has keyboards...
there just aren't enough hours in the day...

Oh and just the other day i was walking around Best Buy when i noticed yet another wrestling game had been released: Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring.
i took a quick look at the game, and while the graphics look fine and dandy, i couldn't justify paying full price for it with the new SvR & Rock Band so close to coming out. If you have played it, get in on the comments down below to have your say.

So to finish i'll list my top 5 wrestling games ever...

5) Tecmo World Wrestling for the Nintendo Entertainment System
great graphics, lots of moves and funny commentary. Best wrestling game by far when i was a kid.
(though, while writing this blog i found out about another NES game called 'Pro Wrestling' which i think i need to try...)
i'm also kinda sad i missed out on playing M.U.S.C.L.E. on the NES. 

One of the worst games ever apparently.

4) WWF War Zone on Nintendo 64 & Playstation

The first game to show that a WWF game could actually be good!

3) Fire Pro Wrestling 2 on the Nintendo Game Boy Advance

okay it doesn't have real wrestlers but its gameplay, graphics, and creation options more than make up for that. Plus you get all that on a handheld system!

2) Smackdown!: Here Comes The Pain on Playstation 2
I had a tough time choosing between 'HCTP' or Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 as the best game of the series...but i'm a huge Brock Lesnar fan so there you go. You couldn't go wrong with either. Great gameplay, great graphics, great moves. Umm, great stuff!

and Number favorite wrestling game of all the times...

1) WWF No Mercy on Nintendo 64

a true classic. Not only my favorite wrestling games but also one of my favorites sports games ever. So much fun to play and one of the greatest multiplayer games you could ever find. I loved this game.

1 comment:

  1. Love it!!! Didnt even remember there being so many games!