Sunday April 24, 2005 3:05 pm
WrestleMania 21 Initial Impressions
So we got our hands on a copy of WrestleMania 21 for the Xbox yesterday. I must say, Studio Gigante did seem to get most of the major things right, but they skimped out on a lot of the minor details that make a great wrestling game. I have a few pros and cons on WrestleMania 21 after the jump.
Okay, first the good. WrestleMania is a great looking wrestling game. You can tell that the character models had a lot of time put into them, especially the faces. The music is spot on, and the crowd is made up of 3D character models. What really makes a wrestling game, though, is the control scheme. I am happy to report that this game is the closest thing to the AKI control scheme since No Mercy. It isn’t as fluid is AKI’s, but it just feels right. Strong grapples have a different feel to them than weak ones do, for example. One very nice addition to WWE games is that the wrestlers who are part of the story mode actually did voice acting. This is a very welcome alternative to the text based story modes that we find in other games. The arenas are beautiful, and you are free to roam up to the stage to continue your battle.
WrestleMania does have its bad side as well. One thing I would have liked to see is a bit more attention paid to the wrestlers as individuals. For example, I have never seen Mick Foley/Mankind do a dropkick off of the top rope. I have never seen Shawn Michaels do a standing shooting star press either. The nice thing about games like No Mercy was how each wrestler felt almost exactly like their real life counterpart. My other major gripe is that there wasn’t enough thought put into what happens when a wrestler is knocked down. For example, I was knocked down once and put into a submission hold. I escaped the hold within a few seconds, but remained on the ground. Once again, I as put into a submission hold. I escaped, and was put into another. In total, this exchange happened six times. I had lost almost my entire energy meter in the first 90 seconds of the match. Collision detection seem to be a bit off, as a few punches and kicks can put you down without ever connecting. There is also some sort of sound glitch whenever a match is won, as the announcers continue to talk but it cuts in and out. I have heard reports of this from others as well. You would think these would be things that would be caught in beta. One big complaint I have is in the execution of finishing moves. You need to press A and B at the same time to perform them. If your wrestlers finisher is a grapple move, then there isn’t an issue. However, if it is a top rope move, running move, or other type of awkwardly positioned offense (Sweet Chin Music or the 619), it can be a true frustration to pull it off. Rob Van Dam’s 5 Star Frog Splash isn’t something you can just go to the top rope and press A+B to pull off. Instead, you have to position your opponent in the exact position for the move, and then walk toward the correct turnbuckle and press A+B. Press it too late, and you will pull off a split-legged moonsault instead.
There are other minor details I would have liked to have seen, such as wrestlers actually tapping out when the game says they do, commentary that wasn’t so vague and repetitive, and moves that look a bit more crisp and painful. It almost looks like the wrestlers, crowd, and announcers don’t care when moves are being delivered. The Create A Wrestler feature is not as expansive of some of the other WWE games, but you will have to go through it at least once if you want to play the games story mode. Like Day of Reckoning, you cannot go through the games main mode of play with any of your favorite WWE superstars. Instead of giving the gamer a choice, they take it away. It was a bad move in Day of Reckoning, and it is a bad move in WrestleMania 21.
Overall, if you are looking for a wrestling game on the Xbox, this one is it. Despite its glaring omissions, it is a great multiplayer game. With a few friends, you will be able to laugh off and overlook the games shortcomings. Playing through it yourself is where it can get frustrating. Xbox Live features were not tested. I would definitely say you should give this one a rent before you buy, unless you are one that needs to have the best wrestling game on the Xbox.
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