Springtime is WrestleMania time for true fans of the WWE. Every March or April, the wrasslers of World Wrestling Entertainment gear up for the biggest pay-per-view event of the year. Long-standing feuds end, some championships change hands and every entertainer does their damndest to entertain fans. Even if you know nothing about wrestling, you know the name “WrestleMania.” But alas, fans of yore only remember old greats like Junkyard Dog, Randy Savage and of course, the Hulkster. Who can keep up with today’s youthful CM Punks or Jeff Hardys?
As a change of pace from the annual SmackDown! juggernaut, THQ has been toiling away at reawakening your old memories of wrestling’s past. Set for release this spring (just in time for the granddaddy of ‘em all), WWE Legends of WrestleMania is set to body slam your console of choice. We recently wrapped our hands around a 360 controller to tell you about the attention to detail THQ’s putting into what’s likely to become their next big franchise.
1) New controls
THQ is hoping to rope in the fans of old by reworking controls that SmackDown! vets have become accustomed to. The only buttons of use now are the face buttons and left analog stick. Gone are the triggers/bumpers and the right analog stick grapple system. The approach is decidedly simpler, but THQ hopes to keep from alienating newer players.
We played an exhibition match, choosing the Immortal Hulk Hogan against his WrestleMania III opponent, Andre the Giant. We immediately noticed a new HUD and quickly had to rework how we fought matches (we’re SmackDown! nuts). X is for Strikes, Y was Defense (block, reversals), A grappled and B was an all-purpose move (exit ring, turnbuckle, pin). Matches retain the quickness of SmackDown! titles, but slow down the action. That means you’ll be executing a lot of strikes and wear-down grapple moves. You will never see Andre perform a shooting star press. Ever. But we did manage to make Hogan leap off the turnbuckles with a flying elbow.
As mentioned, the HUD has received a complete overhaul. At top you have a health meter, which can refill over time or through various context-specific controls. Perform a taunt and your meter may refill some, or discuss strategies with your manager and you’ll get a temporary boost. Next there is a momentum meter that fills whether you deliver moves or take damage. This is important for the last portion of the momentum meter, which we’ll dub the 1-2-3 meter right now. You start out on 1, meaning only quick strikes and grapples will wear down your opponent. Once the momentum bar fills, you’ll get to 2, enabling a wider move set in terms of grapples. You’ll start to see signature moves. Finally, once you get to 3, you can pull off devastating moves and finishers.
For example, we tried to body slam Andre at Level 1, but needless to say, we couldn’t lift a 400lb. Frenchman that quickly. Once we got to Level 3, we slammed him, gave him the legdrop finisher and won to cheers and the resounding theme of “Real American.” The controls are definitely… interesting. We didn’t spend enough time to get used to them, but we wonder if they would eventually alienate fans of the (more complex) SmackDown! series. We have high hopes that THQ can pull off a decent control scheme as we eagerly await the final build.
2) WrestleMania tour mode
Of the two modes we witnessed - the other being Exhibition - we had a brief look at WrestleMania tour mode, which will enable you to relive the main events of the first 15 WrestleManias. We weren’t clued into whether this meant the final matches of each WM or if title matches were included, which is actually very important if you’re a wrestling fan. WM tour mode is split in three: Relive, Rewrite and Redefine.
Relive - the only portion we saw - places you in the boots of the victor of each WM main event. Your goal is to defeat your opponent. Simple. Ah, but there are some twists! Pinning your opponent is fine, but that won’t unlock the next match. You need to fulfill at least one objective in order to proceed. There are a number of objectives listed for each match (for WrestleMania III’s Hogan/Andre, we counted six) and range from knocking down a groggy Andre to winning via body slam/legdrop combo. Perform one of these and unlock the next WM main event. Each objective also has a point value attributed to it. Earn enough points and you’ll unlock a medal.
A pretty cool touch is that a short video segment plays before each match that sets up the feud. These were edited by WWE and look pretty damn classy; as good as any video package you see on TV. We didn’t get to see the other portions of this mode, Rewrite or Redefine, but learned some tidbits. Rewrite places you in the boots of the loser and tasks you with, well, winning. You get your own objectives depending on the match, but the basics are still applied. Redefine enables you to add some special parameters to a match, like adding a steel cage for example. Again, different objectives will be attributed to each match.