Full Review: Do you smell what the Brock is cooking?
After the backlash from wrestling purists, it comes as no surprise that THQ's newest incarnation of their venerable WWE WrestleMania franchise improves upon its predecessor in every conceivable way. An expanded control scheme, inproved aesthetic appeal, amazing attention to detail and subtle intricacies immerse the player effectively. While others may disagree, WrestleMania XIX is definitely a proper evolution of WWF: No Mercy, though it may be one installment away before it becomes the king of the ring.
Graphically, WrestleMania XIX exudes high production values and wise development time. Lifelike animations and excellent entrances featuring great camera panning certainly complement the lighting. Facial expressions gesticulate themselves immaculately and characters such as Goldust have their attire replicated quite well. Other grapplers like Chavo Guerrero and Lance Storm also exhibit great character modeling, while characters like Tajiri, the Hurricane and Rey Mysterio have authentic fighting stances that seamlessly convey their high-flying styles. In general, the visual presentation is quite good, and Revenge Stages featuring objects like cars and crates also offer a little extra. Other additions such as flashy loading screens featuring wrestlers and the climactic opening intro video add to the experience.
After last year's abysmal move list, WrestleMania XIX has captured many obscure moves that rabid followers of WWE TV will be surprised to see. Brock's triple-powerbomb is simply awesome, while the addition of weapon-based moves adds a lot of substance to hardcore matches. Rob Van Dam's signature weapon move, the Van Daminator, which is a spinning heel kick while the opponent is holding a chair, is captured perfectly, especially through replay angles. Undertaker's chair-based jawbreaker, likewise, looks very painful and accompanying sound effects of the jaw-snapping sound authentic. Headlocks with the Singapore canes also suffice.
The create-a-superstar feature has been expanded to such great lengths, and those willing to invest the time to mold a great superstar will be rewarded. Constituents of GameFAQs have created excellent iterations of sorely missing superstars like Ultimo Dragon, Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, while surprisingly great representations of Spider-Man, Samus, Mortal Kombat's Smoke and Conan O'Brien have also surfaced. Beyond that, creating your own behemoth is certainly a viable option, and adding discrete lighting, camera angles or customizing the moves, taunts, and more can heighten the experience. Intricacies like fumes of smoke emanating from the character or abhorrently cool taunts intertwine with all the excellent moves.
It must be a yearly tradition or unwritten rule, but as always, THQ's grapplers seem to lack a solid aural experience. Theme music is one of the game's finer qualities, and taunts have ?face' (good guy) or ?heel' (bad guy) reactions from the cardboard cut-out crowd. However, there are still many areas left uncultivated and under-developed. Voice samples that could have been ripped straight out of WWE: Crush Hour are missing, and ring entrances provided by an announcer are egregiously omitted. Otherwise, the pyrotechnic effects and sound effects of chair-bashing certainly more than get the job done, and moves do in fact sound painful, with the additional rumble generating a sense of unmitigated pain. However, all in all, the auditory presentation needs some more substance.
Rather than provide a fleshed-out story mode, THQ's GameCube team opted to create a ?Revenge' gameplay mode. Instead of in-ring brawling interweaved with creative storylines and interesting scenarios, players must battle through shopping malls, construction sites, and other locales while reaching arduous objectives such as throwing security guards off ledges or destroying property. If it sounds uninteresting, it's because it is. Since there is obviously no ring and aerial attacks are limited, wrestlers must perform the same front and back grapple moves repetitively to security officers or random workers. While variety comes from somewhat platform-like additions, Revenge mode doesn't really offer a revelatory and enlightening experience that WWE fans crave. For the next iteration, a solid, robust story mode is an absolute must. As a supplementary mode to the game, Revenge could have worked, but as the main feature, THQ could certainly have done better.
The addition of the Tutorial Mode is a mixed blessing. Hosted by Al Snow, the mode takes you through the ropes and into the ring, and basically teaches the player controls at a snail pace. Given the game's versatile control scheme, learning all the functions does come in handy for maximizing the experience, though the mode itself is more of a laborious task than an enthralling experience. Nevertheless, the mode lends itself to novices and veteran players alike, and perfecting the controls for this quick game is highly suggested.
WrestleMania XIX definitely centers disproportionately on three fundamental concepts: reversals, spirit and signature moves. In WrestleMania XIX, every single move in the game can be reversed and with proper timing you can eventually become very dominant in the game. Likewise, for finishing maneuvers, with the button press of A + B, players have a ten second time limit to perform as many signature moves as they want. Adept gamers can squeeze in 2-3, and if your spirit is high, that's usually enough to finish your opponent off. However, since moves are often reversed in higher difficulties, matches are sometimes not as clear-cut as one may think.