WWE Wrestlemania XIX Review

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Wrestlemania remains the most illustrious night in sports entertainment, but is the latest Gamecube game worthy of such a coverted title? Read on…

Wrestlemania XIX isn’t simply an update of last year’s Wrestlemania X8. Yes, there is an updated roster and more match types, but it doesn’t end there! THQ has redesigned the whole structure of the game, taking elements from its most successful titles: WWF No Mercy (N64) and WWE Smackdown (PS2). The result is a more balanced wrestling game.

This year’s biggest change is the removal of a season mode. It has been replaced by a mission based ‘Revenge Mode’. Here you find yourself fired from WWE. Stephanie McMahon gives you the chance to get your job back, if you help sabotage her father’s business. You must go to a series of locations such as a construction site, and shopping mall, and beat up the onsite workers. As the levels progress, you will encounter progressively difficult objectives and characters, including builders, security guards, and WWE Superstars. This is an entertaining, if short-lived addition to the game. Later levels can be quite frustrating as the odds stack against you. Progression is rewarded with cash, which can be used to buy various costumes, weapons for use in Create-A-Superstar mode.

Popular match types such as Tables, Ladders and Chairs, Hell in a Cell, and Cage match have been revamped to offer more interaction with your environment. Other match types include Battle Royal and Iron Man. Those hungry to win gold should try the King of the Ring tournament. Having selected what belt you would like to compete for (heavyweight title, Tag titles etc) you face a series of challengers before finally stepping in the ring against the champion himself.

The grapple system from Wrestlemania X8 has had a complete overhaul, and now features both strong and weak grapples. This effectively doubles the number of moves you can pull off, adding much more variety to gameplay. There are also many new offensive, reversal and counter moves. All moves now create location specific damage so that your opponent really will start to feel the pain. Pull off a particularly impressive move or finisher, and you will be treated to a slow motion, action-replay of your efforts.

A new feature sure to please fans is the inclusion of blood. Complementing the location specific damage, blood will appear if you take too many shots to the head. If you get hit in the face by certain weapons, blood will start flowing right away. Due to the high level of damage caused by weapons, a penalty is inflicted if you use them too often. If you decide to pummel your helpless friend for 5 minutes with a steel chair, his finishing-move metre will continually fill up the more he is attacked. Many matches can now be customised to include a ‘First Blood’ stipulation. The first person to make their opponent bleed, wins!

The graphics in Wrestlemania XIX are consistently impressive, with accurately created superstars, stunning arenas and explosive pyrotechnics. The animation is much more fluid, with each bone-crunching move brilliantly captured.

The sound is good throughout the game, despite the lack of match commentary from WWE’s announcing team. The crowd cheers and boos dependent on how good a show you are putting on. Execute a finishing move and they will go wild. Repeat a move too many times and they won’t be afraid to tell you that ‘You suck!’ Nearly all officially licensed entrance music is present, with only a few exceptions. Fans of Victoria will unfortunately have to put up with an instrumental version of T.A.T.U’s hit.

Even though the game features over 45 WWE Superstars, it also offers you the chance to create your own in the excellent ‘Create A Superstar’ feature. Here you can tweak every last detail of your grappler, from his height to his nose width. There are literally hundreds of costumes and customised accessories available. With many more items available to purchase from the ‘WWE Shopzone’, the sky’s the limit! More impressive still is the mind-bogglingly detailed ‘Create an Entrance’. The camera moves, lighting, fireworks, screen shape, walking animation, titantron, and music can all be controlled to your liking, making each entrance truly unique.

A lengthy tutorial is available for those unfamiliar with wrestling games. Presented by ‘Tough Enough’ trainer Al Snow, you will be taught everything from basic holds to advanced weapons manoeuvres.

There’s little not to like about Wrestlemania XIX. THQ made a conscious effort to keep game play as varied as possible, and succeeded. Matches are genuinely fun to play, and great to watch. With a few friends, and some created wrestlers, Wrestlemania XIX has unlimited replay value. This is easily the best grappling game on Gamecube, and is a must own for all wrestling fans!

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