WWE WrestleMania 21

by THQ (for Xbox)

Description: With a new developer in tow, THQ has presented to us with the latest grappling game for the Microsoft Xbox. Studio Gigante has taken the helm and promised us a game far superior to the very under whelming Raw series. Citing No Mercy (on the N64 console) has their biggest influence, a whole new grappling system was introduced along with new wrestler models and new voiceovers. Has a good Xbox grappler finally become a reality? Read on, and hopefully I'll help you decide.

Graphics: The first thing one notices immediately is the incredibly beautiful player models. Upon my first playing of the game, my girlfriend wandered in and asked why I was watching Raw on a Saturday afternoon. From the veins in Triple H's calf muscles to the tattoos on the Undertaker, everything is done with great attention to detail. 10/10
Sound: At times, some sound effects do indeed seem out of place and we are left with the same old soundtrack from DOR and SD! Vs Raw. However, Xbox players are treated to a couple new licensed songs. Of course, like Raw 2, Xbox players are also given the ability to play custom music for CAW entrances. The biggest addition, by far, was the voiceovers done by wrestlers in the Career mode. Unlike the latest Smackdown game, wrestlers sound like whatever environment, be it the ring or backstage, that they are actually in. The inflection of each voice fits perfectly with the story and the "bathroom effect" in Smackdown is non-existent. Ring introductions are the best I've heard and the most accurate to television. Commentary is the same as always, with repeated phrases that grow old after five matches with a small catch. In Career mode, the commentary also helps to tell the story as JR and his crew relay the backstage events and recent in-ring confrontations. 8/10

Gamplay/Controls: Studio Gigante has overhauled the old Raw system and introduced a very No Mercy-like system. There are four different grapples: Quick, Submission, Signature and Power. Quick and Signature are performed by utilizing the A and B buttons, respectively, while Submission and Power and done by holding down those same buttons. After initiating whichever grapple you choose, pressing A, B, X, or Y will perform a move. Striking is done using the X button and, again, holding it down will use more powerful strikes. While it took a bit of time to get used to the changes, once learned this is very good system that does actually bring back a bit of nostalgia from No Mercy. The only real noticeable draw back is the pressing the buttons required to pin your opponent do not always respond precisely, although you may have to be positioned right as opposed to just be standing near the opponent.

The other big addition was the Pro-Reversal system. It controls like any other reversal system, but the amount of moves you can reverse has greatly increased to include every single move in the game. These reversals all have their own animations and definitely add the realism of the experience. There is also an icon that will light up when the appropriate time to press the button occurs.

A big complaint has been that there are collision detection issues. At first I looked on with disappointment until I played the game. While it takes time to get used it, it requires you to be more precise with your movements and that only adds to the realism of the game. No longer can you elbow drop a half standing opponent. It takes more work for these high risk moves to connect and thus actually makes them high risk. The other complaint was wrestler bumping into each other. Again, I think it only adds to the realism. In reality, if you run into someone it usually hurts and this game illustrates that.

The game plays slower than it's counterparts on Playstation and Gamecube. And while some gamers may not like that, I, for one, enjoy the fact that Triple H does not fly around the ring like Rey Mysterio. Grapplers all move more accurately with their own size and quickness.

Overall, the word I continue to use in this is realism. No game has ever been this realistic in terms of player movement, move accuracy and damage. While it may become frustrating until a player has gained a moderate skill level, once obtained, you can truly see how excellent it comes together. 10/10

Artificial Intelligence: The good news is that the awful pinning of Raw 2 is gone. The bad news is that people seem to have had some odd things happen, such as an opponent just not even bothering to pin, instead just continuing a beat down. I have not experienced anything similar in my playing, but it wouldn't shock me to see the odd thing happen because wrestling AI is a very difficult, complex issue.

A very good point I've noticed is that if a wrestler injures your back (using the body part specific damage meter as a guide), he will use back related submissions if he has them in his move set.

The AI is very comparable to anything other current games have to offer and is definitely not the issue it once was. 8/10

Career Mode: Although completely linear, this was a fantastic story that not even the WWE has been able to match in years. Without giving away anything, this game takes elements from WWE and molds them together very nicely. Everyone behave true to character and does keep with some continuity from 2004. Unfortunately, the fact that it is linear does cause it to lose points and you do you have win every match to proceed, but it is still worth playing for the fantastic story. 8/10

Intangibles: People have complained about some freeze or lag issues, but I have found those to be centralized with those that own the old Thompson drive consoles. Personally, I own the Samsung and have experienced very smooth gameplay. I was shocked to find the loading times as long as they are though, but it seems to be a very minor issue. I've put in about 24 hours in this game and have noticed none of the glitches and bugs being talked on most message boards which, again, leads to me to believe it is the equipment of the player, not the game itself, as my gameplay experience was been very smooth.8/10

Replayability: Unlockable after unlockable after unlockable. That's the best way to describe it. There are so many different things to buy. From seven legends to CAW parts to Create-A-Belt pieces, you'll spend a good portion of your time earning money unlocking these. The good news, though, is that earning money is the same in both career and exhibition modes, so have you multiple options for money.

Online mode is 50/50 so far. There was a glitch on the discs that didn't allow it to connect to Xbox Live, although that was fixed in a recently released patch. The server itself isn't horrible, but could use a bit of work. Like other online games, I think they underestimated how many would be playing online. The options for online mode, however, are fantastic, as every match type will be available and defending titles will make for some great competition once the server improves. One problem I have noticed is that if your opponent quits, it does not count as a loss for them, which is definitely an oversight by Studio Gigante.

Overall you'll be spending plenty of time on this game provided you approve of the slower gameplay. It isn't for everyone and I can understand how one would prefer the more arcade-like Smackdown. 8/10

Create Modes: Although it initially appears to be limited, especially in face design, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not to be the case. The accuracy with which a face can be replicated is awesome. If you've seen the Steve Austin CAW making it's rounds on the 'Net, you'll see what I'm talking about. The models themselves a great and come out look very comparable to the already included roster. Creating the entrance for each wrestler has, unfortunately, been downgraded a bit from Raw 2 and Day Of Reckoning. Pyrotechnic and movement animations are not as customizable as before and leaves us with much less options. It's pretty much a split here. Creating a championship, though, is much improved over Smackdown. You do not purchase any belts, you only purchase the parts as an unlockable and then you are free to use them as much as you want. Every major belt in WWE history from 1984 to the present is available as well as many nice looking specialty belts. The only drawback here is that belts are more intended for online play and do not have much use otherwise. 7/10

Overall: Overall this is a pretty good wrestling game and definitely worth a try for those looking for an alternative to Smackdown series. Diehard Smackdown fans will probably not be changing sides anytime soon, though, as this game as plenty of areas it can improve upon.

Overall rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Justin Parker on July 15, 2005.

© 2007, Black Pants, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective holders.