Wrestlemania XIX Review (NGC)
In the past 12 months, it’s safe to say that the WWE has taken a few dropkicks to the head. While diehard fans will argue that the product is even better, the ratings are down and poor Vince McMahon even fell off Forbes’ List of Richest Americans. However, before you send soup, Vince should manage to make ends meet.
Like the real WWE, virtual WWE has definitely had its ups and downs as well. Last year’s offering for the GameCube, Wrestlemania X8, was, to put it gently, not good. Not good at all. However, trusting in Yuke’s pedigree for developing quality wrestling titles, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and took this year’s version, Wrestlemania XIX, for a spin. I’m not sure if I smell what “The Rock” is cooking…but I definitely smell something!
In wrestling terms, the visuals in “Wrestlemania XIX” are like the old mid-80’s WWF television programs. You remember the days where the biggest stars in the business like “Macho Man” Randy Savage or Tito Santana would come to the ring and wrestle guys who I would compare to my Junior High Science Teacher. “Jobbers”, as they are known, were paid to lose and lose badly. The superstars got to come out and show their best moves. The scrubs got to get beat unceremoniously.
In “Wrestlemania XIX”, the superstars are the character models and the entrances. The wrestlers themselves are nicely rendered. The textures look great, and it is very clear which WWE star that you are looking at. The lighting, for the most part, looks very nice particularly during the entrances. The Yuke’s team did a great job capturing every essence of the wrestler’s entrances. You really get a nice feeling of watching a WWE broadcast. This part is well done - a DDT on the concrete.
All in all, the visuals in “Wrestlemania XIX” are sub-par. I expected a lot more and was sorely disappointed.
There are essentially three parts to the sounds of any wrestling game. You have your entrance music, in-ring sounds, and crowd noise. “Wrestlemania XIX” does two of these very well and the third as well as anyone has.
I guess we will start with the “so-so” - the crowd noise. “Wrestlemania XIX” does it as well as almost everyone else. Has any wrestling title really done this to its full potential? A WWE crowd really has control over the programming. True story: when Kurt Angle had his first WWE match at “Survivor Series” in Detroit, it wasn’t yet decided that Angle would be a “heel” (bad guy). Kurt’s first match was, to put it kindly, as boring as watching paint dry. The Joe Louis Arena crowd started chanting “Let’s Go Red Wings”, “Boooooring”, and various other chants. At that point, Vince McMahon radioed the referee through his earpiece and told him to tell Kurt to get on the microphone and “do something”. He did, and started, arguably, one of the great “heel-runs” in WWE history. That’s the kind of personality the crowd has. It’s like another character. I’d like to see developers use it better in the future. The audio highlights in “Wrestlemania XIX” lie in the entrance music and in-ring sounds. With a few notable exceptions, all the great entrance themes that give the WWE its flair are there and sound great. The pyrotechnics boom on your way to the ring. You really get the same feel that you do at a live WWE event. Once in the ring, the in-ring sounds are a nice blend of grunts and groans that fill in the background quite nicely.
Overall, I count the sounds of the game as a nice component, perhaps the strongest, in “Wrestlemania XIX”.
Yuke’s does good wrestling. That’s what I continued to convince myself of while trying to shake off the memories of last year’s title. That version was a hodge-podge of the classic Yuke’s grappler with a pseudo-“Smackdown” feel. It tried to take everything that Yuke’s does right and speed it up. Again…not good. So this year, what was the answer?
Well, the first thing they did was break out the old strong-and-weak grapple system. Press the A button and perform a weak grapple; press and hold A for a strong grapple. Post-grapple, simply press A for weak and A or B for strong - plus a direction to perform the move of your choice. The L and R buttons were brought in for counter moves, and you will find them used far too easily and too often. You can counter a lot of moves, but, unfortunately, the AI will counter even more. It’s frustrating, unrealistic, and a pain.
Gameplay modes are standard. You have your Exhibition match (choosing from various types), “King of the Ring” tournaments, and the always-hectic “Royal Rumble”. You will also find a very deep “Create-A-Wrestler”, which has become an automatic in all wrestling titles, and, the new standard, the “WWE ShopZone” for unlockables. At this point - this is your standard plate of WWE fare. So what would be the wildcard mode - the defining mode that sets this title apart? Career? Multi-player season mode? Owner’s mode? No not this title. Instead “Wrestlemania XIX” debuts the new “Revenge” mode. What is the “Revenge” mode you ask? Apparently when the developers were sitting around the table, instead of having a conversation about how the fans love the games that provide a deep, quality “season” mode that mimics real–life programming, instead of remembering the WWE’s forays into non-wrestling arenas like “Crush Hour” (shudder), the men and women around the table decided that “Wrestlemania XIX” needed to be an action game.
Here’s the story. Vince McMahon has dropped the pink slip on you. His daughter, Stephanie, offers you a proposition for revenge. With her help, you will ruin “WrestleMania XIX”. Through 30 missions, you bash, bang, and destroy construction workers, security guards, and fellow WWE superstars in dull, poorly-thought out scenarios. You bash in vehicles with cars, and traverse construction sites among various other areas. While it sounds decent in theory, this mode is awful. If it were an action game alone, “Wrestlemania XIX” would already be on the $19.99 shelf. “Revenge” mode, if THQ and Yuke’s are smart, is making its first and last appearance in a WWE title. If you don’t have to spend much time in this mode (say to write a review, for example), you won’t.
“Wrestlemania X8” was bad. But, the THQ/Yuke’s marriage keeps gamers optimistic that the right WWE title could be right around the corner. “Wrestlemania XIX” is better, if for no other reason but the improved game mechanics. If they had made those improvements alone and left out the “Revenge” mode, I probably would score the game higher. However, the fact that they invested time, effort, and money into this mode forces me to push their score down. Multi-player gamers will get more out of this title then singles. In fact, I’d be remiss if I didn’t answer the “$64,000 Question”, yes, blood is in there. So, the multi-players will at least be able to beat each other into a bloody pulp. This game is not good. But, perhaps most pathetically, I’m sure I’ll try again next year.