Monday, 17 May 2010

Rob's Top 5 Wrestling Games Of All Time

If you're like me, then two things were a big part of your childhood. As many of our loyal readers will know, not only am I quite the video game fan, with a hefty collection of games on many different systems over the course of my life, I've also had an on-again off-again relationship with wrestling. My experience of wrestling goes from 1993-1996, 1998-2001, and then 2003-2007, with the legendary days of going round to my friend Manny's for a chill-out in the evening followed by an overnight Pay-Per-View viewing. As a result, in my life I've played a fair few wrestling video games. This week, E14 sees the list of the Top 5 wrestling games I ever played.

WWF Smackdown

Released in 2000 for the original Sony Playstation, WWF Smackdown changed the format from the previous Acclaim series of games. Previously, games had been all about pressing button combinations together in the vein of games like Mortal Kombat, with finishers usually being a combination of at least three directional pad presses followed by a mashing together of two or more buttons. The focus on Smackdown was a more arcade-style gameplay, with no moves being as difficult to perform as some of the finishers in previous games.

The game also boasted a create-a-wrestler mode (although its features weren't as detailed as some of the games that followed, understandably), and a Season Mode which allowed you to compete in matches on WWE programming such as Smackdown and the Pay-Per-Views. Incidentally, one thing this game has that the subsequent games lack? A multiplayer mode in Season Mode. That's right, you could actually go through the Season with four players.

In addition, the game added backstage areas in order to take the Hardcore matches further than merely the ring area, as previous games only allowed you access to the immediate area surrounding the ring. It wasn't the first to add a backstage area, granted, as WCW Mayhem was the first game to set up and allow for backstage brawls. The reason this game is on the list and Mayhem isn't is very simply that this game is good. Having said that, my only experience with WCW Mayhem was against a friend who challenged me knowing that I'd never played it, and I kicked his arse. Sort of like that time Brad challenged me to a game of NHL on the Playstation 2, and I made him cry. Alright, I didn't make him cry, per se, but I won.

WWF Raw

A Super Nintendo game that came out towards the end of the console's life cycle, WWF Raw was the sequel to WWF Royal Rumble released in 1993. The game boasted up to 13 characters, and half a dozen primary match types, with more detailed rules available for each match type. Some of the main changes from the previous edition (apart from some of the match types) were a wider array of available weapons with which to twat your opponent in the head, as well as some new "mega-moves" included in some of the characters' movesets.

Some of the reasons for including this one as opposed to its predeccesor are simple, despite the fact that I played a ton more of the previous game. In this particular game, the number of matches available felt like an absolute ton, even if releases since then have made this list look particularly sparse. The characters in this game were a bit more varied than the previous game's as well, with differing statistics in speed and strength. Nowadays that may seem a little obvious, but back in those days it wasn't necessarily something that you had in those games as a matter of course.

The Squared Circle

Released in 2008, and authored by super-nice guy Eric Moreau, The Squared Circle is a role-playing game set in the Wrestleverse, where a new company named New Era Wrestling is the big thing in town, and players compete to make their way up the ladder to superstardom. You can even make your own federation, and make it as big as possible or compete against your friends.

Now, pen and paper wrestling games may not sound like too much fun, and may be sneered upon by the more hardcore D&D/Call of Cthulhu players who are used to a bit more of an action-based scenario at times, followed by a lot of walkin' like the Tolkien, but I can assure you that The Squared Circle is totally fun to play, and the experience is something that has to be fully experienced in order to appreciate the fun involved.

I'll give you an example: myself, Brad and Blake Harmer played one game of The Squared Circle where Brad acted as the DM (not a Dickass DM, just a regular one) and Blake and I competed in matches as our custom-created characters. My first match was as my own custom character, who I've created in every Smackdown game I've ever owned, versus a pre-generated character controlled by Blake. The fight lasted two minutes (game time, not real time) before my created character, who I had lovingly created over a period of a few hours, tapped out to a simple headlock of some sort. Not the most auspicious of starts, though we did come up with a foam hand design for him which read "This side down" on the palm.

Blake's character, then, took on a pre-generated character that I controlled. Cue eighteen minutes (game time again, in reality it probably took about an hour) of what can only be described as "RestHoldMania", with both characters tiring out so fast that the only solution was frequent and numerous rest holds. I'll be honest and say that I've laughed harder few times in my life.

WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain

Smackdown: HCTP will probably look like a weird choice to many. Understandable, really, being as I've mentioned a Smackdown game earlier on in this article. However, this game was a source of innovation in many ways, some of which I will list here. Firstly, the game was the first to include the Elimination Chamber match, in which six combatants duke it out in a large chained cell, and the Bra & Panties match, in which pre-pubescent boys masturbate themselves into an early grave to pixellated versions of real women. Not exactly a new phenomenon in gaming, bearing in mind how long Tomb Raider had been out at the time of release, but still...

The game was also the first to see an animated selection screen, with wrestlers posing for a pre-rendered motion, usually demonstrating their character gimmick or a sign of their strength. While it probably doesn't sound like a big deal, the games have always been about the entertainment element of Professional Wrestling and this game made bold strides into making this television-style presentation a priority.

Most of all though, the game had the ability to extend the fights even further than in previous games. Around the time of the game's release, some of the most noteworthy moments at Pay-Per-Views had involved Shane McMahon, the son of the company's chairman Vince, jumping from various sets and doing all manner of moves from elbow drops to "falling". As a result, the developers allowed combatants to climb certain sets within the game, and fight atop them. Now, Brock Lesnar's F5 looked devastating enough from his shoulders to the canvas. Imagine, then, if you will, that perfect moment where I managed to lift the wrestler off the shoulders, but have him fall pixel-perfect off the Smackdown fist instead of landing on it. Beautiful.


WWF No Mercy

In terms of a complete wrestling experience, they didn't get much better than WWF No Mercy on Nintendo 64. Released around the time that the Smackdown series was gaining popularity and momentum on Playstation, No Mercy introduced a concept unfamiliar in previous WWF games on Nintendo 64. Fans had been privy to hardcore action in the previous game, Wrestlemania 2000, but this game introduced backstage areas including a pool table that could be broken with a sufficiently powerful move. The improved roster over developer THQ's previous WCW games was also definitely welcomed by fans.

The story mode was vastly improved in this game, and in fact to complete the game to 100% on the story mode, players actually had to go through the story multiple times and deliberately lose on one of the playthroughs in order to unlock different pathways in the game. The game also introduced a Special Referee mode, something that had already been introduced into the Smackdown series to great amusement, because there's nothing like playing as the referee to fuck with your friend's day.

The main draw of this game to me, though, was the ladder match that was introduced. Whereas in WWF Smackdown 2, the ladder match was introduced, but could be won in a few minutes, the ladder match in WWF No Mercy could be contested over a massive amount of time. I had, at one point, a 38 minute ladder match in this game. It wasn't even between two particularly good characters; it was Jeff Hardy vs. Viscera, and it was amazing. It had all the hallmarks of a great ladder match in real life: the false finishes, the tension when one wrestler is out cold and the other one gets up slowly, chairs flying all over the place. What a game.

That's my list, hopefully you enjoyed reading it, and better still, maybe you played some of these games. Agree? Disagree? Tell us in the comments section, E14 loves to hear from our fantastic readers!

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