To start off, I want to make a quick plug for Pro Wrestling X, a video game that’s been in development for over ten years, whose developers are doing a Kickstarter fundraiser to for the money needed to complete the project. I don’t know if they’re gonna get up to 75 grand by next week, but I believe in what they’re trying to do, and I hope they someday address some of the issues I’m about to list.
Anyway, like many wrestling fans I’ve spent the past month playing WWE ’13, and it’s been a lot of fun. Still, I can’t help but notice that my “wish list” for features in the next game is virtually unchanged from last year, and the dozen or so years before that. The progress from Wrestlemania Challenge to War Zone to No Mercy has stagnated, and fans are left to basically buy the same game every year with a new roster. I could probably be okay with that, if not for the following thirteen sticking points:
13) I need new foreign objects, and a cup of soda isn’t good enough. Steel chairs, kendo sticks, and sledgehammers are fine, but it seems like we could add in some new stuff one of these days. It’s been years since I’ve been able to waffle a guy with a fire extinguisher, let alone spray it all over him. Other weapons that would be awesome: chains, baseball bats, thumbtacks, and Mad Dog Vachon’s artificial leg.
12) Apparently midgets and giant fat guys are too unrealistic for pro wrestling. I haven’t yet tried to make Giant Haystacks, but past experience suggests I won’t be able to get him any bigger than Husky Harris. The minimum height for a create-a-wrestler is around 5’2″, which is a bit silly since the game is based on a property that heavily features a little person playing an insane leprechaun. I realize allowing extreme sizes plays hob with the grappling animations, but since those haven’t changed much in 15 years you’d think the developers could experiment a little.
11) I guess nobody at THQ has ever seen facial hair. There are dozens of bears, mustaches, and sideburns available in the game, and most of them look like your wrestler’s face was dusted for fingerprints. If you’re trying to make “The Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant he’s gonna end up looking more like one of the Fabulous Ones.
10) Why can’t I walk to the ring with my title belt hanging out of my pants like a penis? Credit where credit’s due, WWE ’13 has a very nice interface for creating your entrance in exacting detail. You can customize the lighting, the music, the pyro…but if you’ve won a championship, you can’t see any of that stuff. Instead you walk out with one of a dozen fairly bland entrances that allow a belt to be rendered on your waist. Actually, the belts float in the air in a circle five inches wider than your waist. Yeah.
9) Minigames. I hate these. If you want to kick out of a pin, refuse to say “I quit,” or answer a ten-count, you have to get your timing just perfect and press the X button at the right time. Either I can always get the timing right (meaning I could survive being hit by a car) or I never can (meaning I could get beaten with one armdrag). It’s stupid because the experience in no way simulates the feeling of overcoming adversity to keep fighting. On the other hand, the submission hold minigame–which as near as I can tell involves frantically mashing buttons–feels very much like I am struggling to survive, and I’m a big fan of that.
8) There are more championships than wrestlers. THQ is very fan-friendly when it comes to providing alternatives to the current championship belts in WWE. If you don’t like the WWE title with the spinning logo, you can use Steve Austin’s custom belt, or the old school ’80s version–or you can make your own belt with a lavender strap like the Ultimate Warrior did. The only problem is that now you’ve got fifteen world champions. What they should have done is set it up where there’s exactly one WWE championship, but the champion can wear one of fifteen belts. They actually did it that way a few years ago, so I have no idea why they screwed it up this time.
7) Demolition isn’t in every game, but Jack Swagger is. This is more a beef with the sorry state of wrestling than with wrestling video games. Every new game has the current roster in it, and that used to be a selling point because the latest roster tended to be the best roster. Nowadays, though, WWE ’13′s biggest selling point is that half the roster is made up of legends from 1998. Which is great, except that it makes you wonder why the other half of the roster can’t be all-stars too. Who the hell is buying these games to play as David Otunga, or John Laurinaitis, or Santino Marella?
6) The commentary sucks and you can’t turn it off. There are sound options in the game, and I immediately turned “voice volume” down to 0. Doesn’t help. You still hear the same robotic lines that Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler have been reciting for years.
5) “AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, HE IS BROKEN IN–and he’s back up!” Nobody stays down. Ever. You can be wrestling frigging Hunico, hit him with your finisher, throw him off the top of Hell in a Cell, and do a Superfly splash onto him from 20 feet in the air…and he will still be back on his feet within thirty seconds. There’s no room to breathe in these matches–you have to stay on the offensive constantly to stay alive–and that makes it overly difficult to do any really fun spots. I’ve always wanted to beat down my opponent, throw him onto the announce desk, and then do a crazy dive on him from a ladder set up in the ring. But I’ve never been able to do that because as soon as I set up the ladder he’s knocking it down, and as soon as I get him on the desk he’s coming around to jump back off.
4) They still can’t do group entrances right! You can set up Road Dogg and Billy Gunn as a team in the New Age Outlaws, but you can’t set up the New Age Outlaws as a part of D-Generation X. Of course, if you could do that, Road Dogg and Billy would do their team entrance acting like Triple H and Shawn Michaels, because DX can only do one team entrance regardless of which two guys are entering. The game has a few custom entrances designed for a male tag team and their female valet, but those only work if they’re all wrestling. This is kind of a nitpicky thing, but it baffles me that after all these years and all these souped-up consoles, they still couldn’t do Randy Savage and Elizabeth’s entrance right if they tried.
3) It is entirely too hard to write “DUSTY SUCKS EGGS” on a T-shirt. All right, so my brother broke his leg last month, and I came down for Thanksgiving to play WWE ’13 with him. So being the loving sibling that I am, I wanted to make my create-a-wrestler a shirt that says “I BROKE BUTTDAWG’S LEG,” in the tradition of Greg Valentine’s feud with Wahoo McDaniel. So I go in to edit the shirt, and I add lettering. “I…” nuts, I can’t make a space, I have to stop and make the next word a separate layer. “B-R-O-K-E…” this is so tedious. “B-U-T-T-D-A-W-G-,-S…” Wait, I can’t even make a damn apostrophe? I’m not even getting into the hassle of resizing the text to fit in the shirt. Suffice to say it would almost be easier to go to the mall in the ’80s and make an actual tacky custom shirt.
2) At no point do I feel like I am in a real fake wrestling match. WWE ’13 has some real improvements in chain wrestling and reversing holds, but it still feels nothing like wrestling a match, in the fake world of WWE. My finishing move never finishes the match. Big dramatic high spots are exactly as effective as doing a simple suplex. Nobody taps out to the anklelock–you have to do it nine times before the other guy even starts to sell his leg. Ladder matches never see crazy stacked-up-ladder spots, because the ladders always get knocked down before that can happen. If I hit a guy with a steel chair, he always gets right back up, and the ref always sees it. I read the game has a special referee mode, and if you’re the referee and you don’t follow the rules, you’re ejected from the match, which has happened approximately zero times in the history of special referee matches. In many ways THQ’s wrestling games have done a fair job simulating a real combat sport, but since this is pro wrestling, that kind of misses the point.
1) It’s two-thousand twelve and I can’t get seven people on the screen at the same time. I don’t mean to be unfair–I realize that there are technical limitations that cause the program to slow down when too many guys are moving around in the ring. Thing is, I realized that in 2001, when it was a technical limitation on the Playstation Two. You’d think at some point somebody would invent some awesome graphics chip that would let you do a ten-man Survivor Series match, or at least do a six-man with an actual referee in the ring. I’m pretty sure other sports games would not be content to settle–I don’t hear about Madden NFL featuring only two offensive linemen because it’d be too difficult to render all eleven players in a team. And yet THQ seriously wants me to believe I can get by with just Three Horsemen.