Since THQ took over the WWE licensing from Acclaim, we’ve been treated to an endless onslaught of top-notch wrestling games. Alright let me change that, PS2 fans have been treated to an endless onslaught of top-notch wrestling games, GameCube fans have received some decent ones and Xbox fans have been subjected to the torture known as RAW. Being that this is the franchise that consistently outperforms the others, Yukes! and THQ have had a hard time topping themselves with each and every entry. Just as you’re about to count them out, they continue to impress by delivering a deep wrestling game that’s fun to play and easy to master. This year’s game is even better than before because the designers have added more depth to the grappling system, included a new feature to exploit the wrestling styles of Faces and Heels and added new storylines that will remind most fans of the WWE product when it was at its peak in the late 90s.
Every year begins a new with the story mode and this year’s version has been revamped quite a bit, featuring fresh storylines and voiceovers from the real WWE superstars. I’m glad that THQ was able to get the real superstars into the studios but it seems like they lost quite a bit when they were removed from the element. WWE is well known for its stars’ over-the-top monologues and confrontations. All of the speech in the game sounds like it was being said politely in a phone booth to an old lady. Even Vince’s usually outrageous demeanor has been tamed down and HHH sounds like he’s on Ritalin. It sometimes works in the backstage elements but it sounds ridiculous when the stars actually come out to the ring and speak before the live audiences. It’s like they’re whispering to them, the complete opposite of what we’re used to seeing on TV.
Thankfully the game makes up for this with compelling storylines that will have you guessing and waiting for the next move. After playing the game for a bit I started getting flashbacks of circa 1997 WWF, back in the Attitude era when millions of people were hooked on the program. The writers did a great job of weaving together storylines filled with twists and turns. Most of the things that happen in the game make an awful lot of sense and some of the turns are just downright brilliant. After I became the champion someone put a hit on my head and all of the superstars were coming after me whenever the opportunity arose. This could have easily been a rehash of the old HHH bounty storyline where Bautista cashed in on the bounty, but it wasn’t. It turned out that Kurt Angle put the bounty on me and was actually in cahoots with Benoit to steal the RAW title and bring it to Smackdown! where they would then proceed to trash it. The designers were brilliant here; they took two different storylines, the aforementioned HHH story, and the WCW Medusa storyline and combined them together to make an entirely new and fresh story. You’ll encounter plenty of these situations that are fun to watch and engage in. It’ll eventually be so good that you’ll wonder aloud why the real WWE doesn’t hire these guys to write their storylines.
My only problem with the storylines is that they were perhaps a little too
good and realistic. Remember that episode of the Simpsons where Homer becomes a character on the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon? There’s this line where he says that everyone should talk about Poochie and when he’s not on the screen they should say “Where’s Poochie?” Well there’s a great analogy pertaining to that and HHH’s role in the WWE. I don’t want to spoil the fun but let’s just say that there are plenty of “Where’s HHH?” moments in the game.
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