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OO GAMING CORNER    
Total Extreme Warfare Game Review 

April 2, 2004

by Matt Hocking    
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

As one of the most anticipated sim games on the market, Adam Ryland and 400SoftwareStudio’s Total Extreme Warfare had a lot to live up to.  EWR was one of the best Simulation type games on the market, certainly the best pro-wrestling simulator.  However, when he announced that he was creating a Commercial Game, with no WWE or TNA license and what some may consider a fairly hefty price tag for a sim ($34.99 U.S.), many questions were raised:  Would it be worth the money if WWE Wrestlers did not come with the initial package?  Would it be better than EWR?  Better enough that it would be worth PAYING for?  Would it be any more fun than playing any other wrestling sim?  What the hell happened to my cheeseburger?

The answer to all these questions I’m pleased to say is more or less “Yes” (except to the last question to which the answer is:  “Yes…er…I mean The Hamburgler”).  In the next few sections, I’ll be taking a look at my personal feelings on the inner workings of the game.  Please note that this is not meant to be an in-depth view of EVERYTHING you can do, but a frank discussion on how well I think each of the areas of the game works, both individually, and in conjunction with the rest of the parts.  Later on, we will have a “TEW:  RAW Satire Diary” that will take you through a rough timeline of TEW activities (Edit:  Due to a problem which I address later in the review, the TEW:  RAW Satire Diary is on hold until after I can get the officially unofficial RaveX data and play around with it a bit).

Note:  This is an IMPORTANT note.  Due to the logistics of the situation, I was unable to review the multi-player mode.  If the multi-player mode is what you’re most interested in, I’m sorry.  This review is meant to be a brief overview of the single player mode only, as that is what I was able to test, and that is what I believe is the most important segment of the game.

Now, On with the Show!

Editor:  94/100
Almost assuredly, the first place most players will rush to after download is the TEW Editor.  The editor gives the player the opportunity to modify the Workers, Promotions, Staff, Tag Teams, Stables, In-Game Locales, Move Sets, Gimmick’s, Titles, Champions, Relationships, Match Types, Television Networks, Television Shows, Major Events and PPVs, Sponsors, Magazines, and Non-Wrestling Television shows that will be used in the game.  Here is a brief overview of some of the more interesting ones.

Worker Editor:

This is the Place where you can edit your worker’s name, description, finisher, stats, contract, gimmick, disposition, height, weight, birthday, mother’s maiden name, whether or not s/he’s an organ donor, social security number, favorite snack and more.  As you can imagine, the depth is a little overwhelming, but everything is extremely well labeled.  While one could debate for hours about what exactly “Psychology” means or what the difference between Charisma and Sex Appeal are, everything has a place and a purpose, and both are equally understandable in the context of the game.  One thing to note, however, is that you are not only creating “Workers” in the sense that you create Wrestlers, but “Workers” meaning anyone who makes TV (i.e. Referees, Interviewers, Announcers, Road Agents, etc).  Also note that you can’t put anyone on your booking staff unless they are also a “Worker”.

Promotion Editor:

Here you can set up how over a promotion is (in the whole country, by region, or state by state/city by city), how much money it has, and even whether or not it is owned by or affiliated with another organization (i.e. OVW).  Mostly good stuff here.  Pretty straight forward.  (“Mark-Up,” by the way, refers to how much merchandise is marked up from it’s original factory price.  It took me a bit figure that out).

Staff Editor:

Again, pretty straight forward.  Edit your staff.  In an interesting turn of events, “Staff” in this game is a generic concept.  All staff just finds something to do, and the game tells you how many of them you need to do it.

Tag Team Editor:

Pretty self explanatory.  This is where you can tell the game which workers are in a tag team and how long they’ve worked together.

Stable Editor:

Here you can set the Name, Leader and Type of Stable (normal, gang, cult, union).  This does not seem to have much of an effect on the gameplay.  But it’s a neat option.

Location Editor:

Edit the places where you can have shows.  You cannot add or delete locations, but you can edit the wrestling watching population, what percentage of those are casual fans, and the percentage of Hardcore, Pure, Old School, Mixed Martial Arts, and Womens fans in the area, as well as the affluence and languages in the area.  It all works very well, but the lack of U.S. cities (the divisions in the U.S. are by state), and ability to add or subtract locations is a bit of a downer.

Moves Editor:

On this screen you can create and edit the movesets that are used in the game (i.e. Western Brawler or High Spot Machine).  You do not get to go into exactly what moves are used, but you do get to choose general ones (DDTs, Punches, Ranas, etc) that make up the basics of a wrestler’s moves at low, medium and high levels of skill.

Gimmicks Editor:

Create your own gimmicks or edit the ones that come with the game.  Pretty neat, if I do say so myself.  Which…I…uh…do.  You may select from the minimum skill sets, weight classes, gimmick types and how well it would work if put on a heel, face or tweener. 

Titles Editor:

Pretty much what you’d expect from something called the “Titles Editor”.

Champions Editor:

Pretty much exactly what it sounds like, again.  Pick the current holders of the belts you edited in the “Titles Editor”.

Relationship Editor:

Here you can select whether or not two workers are family, married, dating, friends, student/teacher or hate each other.  That’s right, now you can live out your fantasy world where Spike Dudley trained Steve Austin and A-Train is dating Charlie Haas.

Match Editor:

The match editor allows you to edit current matches or create your own match types.  You can select everything from how many people are involved, what finishes the match can come to (pinfall, escape, get something off of something, etc.) and even select what is around the ring when the match happens and how long of a time limit the match should have.  In a way the match editor is almost dauntingly complex.  I think it’s great that you can make a tag team turmoil tables match, but to do so you have to check 13 different boxes move 6 different sliders and offer up a ritualistic sacrifice to Meklor the medi-evil god of “partying hard”.

Network Editor:

The network editor allows you to add channels, which are willing to broadcast wrestling into the game world.  The editor itself is fairly straightforward (pick the channel and in what regions/countries it is available),.

TV Show Editor:

Edits what television shows are being shown by what organizations.

Event Editor:

Here you can schedule what major events or PPVs your organization of choice will be holding throughout the year.

New Promotions Editor:

Here you can modify the names the game selects from when new promotions are added in the course of a game.

Sponsors Editor:

The Sponsors editor allows you to change the name, Industry, location, distribution, and amount of money to sponsor TV, PPVs, and/or house shows a sponsor is willing to pay.

Magazines Editor: 

Allows you to edit the names, types and circulations of the magazines that can offer your wrestlers interviews/pictorials throughout the course of the game.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a promotional magazine, which would have been, I think, a neat way of giving a moral boost to the wrestler on the cover of that month’s issue.

Other Shows Editor:

Gives you the ability to edit when and where other shows (i.e. late night shows) that may feature wrestler interviews will air and also what bias the host has towards wrestling.  It’s a pretty neat feature, though I’ve yet to experience any practical application that either this or the Magazines editor has had within the actual game (I’ve sent workers to be interviewed and that’s the last I heard of it).

Useablity:  97
Navigatablity: 
85
Curve:  
+3
Overall Rating: 
94

The Editor is Deep.  Perhaps a little too deep for the average customer who just wants to play and not decide what overness the Husslah has in Screwsville, North Dakota or what rules apply in the Hardcore Women’s Jello Roll.  But for stat freaks, scenario makers, realists and all that, it’s a fantastic tool.  There are a few edits, errors and changes I’d like to see in future versions, but nothing so spectacular that it would completely kill me.

Graphics/Sound/Zen:  80/100

It may seem a little harsh to critique the graphics and sound of a Text game, but here I am anyway.  One suggestion:  As soon as you can, turn off sound.  The songs are mildly catchy at first listen, but they begin to pick away at the gooey caramel core of your brain after a few seconds.  Instead pop your favorite CD of tribal war chants.  The rest of the sounds consist of your standard array of “pinks” and “dings” whenever you click a link.  When I played one of 400’s other games (Tournament Dreams NCAA Basketball) in preparation for the possible format of TEW, I had thought it would be kind of neat if the “crowd” at your shows reacted to the match/angle/interview on varying levels like the “crowd” in Tournament Dreams reacted to things that were happening on the fictional basketball court.  Alas, it was not to be, for, like that terrible run on sentence above, it was probably too much of a hassle to change it to make it more palatable.  It’s a little bit of a shame, but nothing that will be terribly missed.

The graphics are an interesting case.  None of the wrestlers are supplied automatic headshots when you begin the game and thus all are just faces with question marks in their heads, the included picture pack too isn’t much better as the faces are mostly fairly generic.  The layouts and backgrounds are all sharp (if a bit generic), however, and graphically it’s pretty much above and beyond what you usually see from a text simulator.  The only qualms I have are is the lack of customization for “other” pictures.  It may seem very tedious, but adding Sponsor, Brand, Event, TV Show, magazine and title icons would be no more or less tedious for the user than creating said sponsors, brands, TV shows, etc. in the first place.  It might make a nice addition for a future version, but I was kind of disappointed that it was absent.

The Zen Factor:

What I like to call the “Zen Factor” of video games is, how do they make me feel when I’m playing them.  Some games are very soothing and easy to play for long stretches (and give rise to that “One more turn” mentality that has cost me many nights of sleep), while others are irritating and only to be played in very short spurts.  At this point TEW falls somewhere in between.  The sheer depth of the game may prove to be irritating for some that liked the point and book, point and book simplicity of EWR.  I’ll admit that at times my TEW playing has reached some grueling levels of mediocrity as I try to cover just the right number of minutes to finish off a Velocity.  On the other hand, it’s kind of neat to be able to manipulate the world in so many different ways.  The game would score, much much higher on the Zen scale, however, if it were not so plagued by the technical difficulties which I will address momentarily.

Sound:  40
Graphics: 
80
Zen: 
75
Curve: 
+15
Overall Rating: 
80

You know what you’re getting from a text game is not going to be flashy graphics or sound.  There are some little changes that I think could have been made to enhance what is already there, but they’re just garnish.  What’s really important is:  does the meat of the game stand up.  So, graphical and sound tweaks, while they help the Zen of the playing experience, do not ultimately effect how I feel about the game.  I think in that respect, an 80 score is appropriate.

Technical Matters:  75/100

While I expect far from perfection in my games (I understand that it’s nearly impossible to test EVERYTHING), TEW shipped with some very unsightly and critical errors which are slowly (and thankfully) being weeded out and fixed by Mr. Ryland as we speak.  The game itself, even with just a few areas open, is a system hog on most later model machines.  This means that one might have to sacrifice other activities (i.e. MP3 players, web browsing, etc.) to free up space for TEW.  The 1.0.1 patch has made it possible for me to type this report and have the TEW window open and be listening to my MP3s, but then again, I’ve probably got more RAM than the average bear.  The 400Studios line is 512 Megs, and I think that’s just about accurate. 

Stability:  70
Patching: 
88
Curve: 
-4
Overall Rating: 
75

I won’t go through the litany of little errors here and there that are already being fixed, but I will say that one error in particular affected the writing of this column and probably contributed greatly to the lowering of the Technical score.  While playing through Smackdown for the purposes of doing a TEW Satire (basically a “week in review” of playing the game which I have now decided might as well be pushed back until I can get RaveX’s full roster update), the entire game crashed and corrupted my save file.  Now I’d only just begun to play through the game, so I can’t imagine how I would feel if I’d been playing for quite some time.  In any event, when it plays well, the game plays very well.  And when it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Game Play:  97/100
This is probably what’s important to most of you and for good reason.  Hopefully, the meat of your time will be spent away from editing and patching and in playing this game.  Once you get into it, it’s an extremely fun game.  Let me break it down into two parts.

Not-Booking:

It is in this stage of the game “A.M.” as the game entitles it, in which you do the “Other” things that do not involve booking shows.  Allow me to futher break THIS section into several mini-sections:

Main Menu:

It is here that you find the things most important to “you” the player.  Among those are “E-Mail” informing you of what events happened that you did not have a direct involvement in, how your shows and the shows of other companies are doing, what your workers are doing and thinking, and more.  Also there are “Pending Decisions” that tell you what the status of contract offers for Television, Sponsors, workers and staff are, and whether or not you can do anything about them for the moment.  There is also a neat little feature that allows you to see what happened on other promotion’s shows (title changes, match results, etc) as well as allowing you to review your own.

Your Promotion:

This is a very complicated screen.  There are many things going on here.  At the outset, you can control what kind of promotion you are running, what storylines are taking shape throughout your promotion, titles/stables/tag teams that you’ve created, and what announcers you are using for which shows.  Along with this, there are options to review the generic staff requirements for your shows, meetings with your booking and road agent teams, a roster screen that allows you to review your workers, a calendar of promotional events, and a screen detailing the financial state of your company.  These last five things deserve a little more depth, which I will now cover.

Roster:

On this screen you can review your workers stats and contract information, edit or change their heel/face standing and gimmick as well as finisher and push.  You can also “Talk” to your worker.  Here you can ask him/her what they feel about their spot in the company, offer them vacations or a spot on the booking or agent teams or ask their opinions on possible future tag teams or feuds.  These seem to be the only options available, and unfortunately your workers are not very often helpful.  What you’re left with is a sort of mish-mash of almost useful information.

Meetings:

Which is actually a pretty apt descriptor of the Meetings with your promotions bookers and road agents too.  First, let me tell you that you must select who you want on each team.  Five bookers and up to ten road agents (five for each brand in a split).  The Road Agent’s job is to keep order backstage and report back to you about your worker’s in and out of ring states. Your booking committee tells you who they think you should push.  In theory that’s great, but all too often (even when you follow the game manual’s advice in who to select for bookers and agents) you get a rather dumb team that either parrots the same things (“I think his basic skills are decent”) or doesn’t seem to recognize important factors of the game (all my bookers believe that John Cena should be Intercontinental champion despite the fact that he is on the wrong side of the brand split).  It is all too easy to treat this section as a novelty.

Calendar:

In this section, you can view your TV schedules, book house show loops (determine the order of states/cities your house shows will visit and what brands will visit them) and schedule Pay-Per-View or large scale events.  It is actually a very nice level of detail as to how often you’d like this event to occur weekly, monthly, or yearly, at what level you’d like to hype the show (so WrestleMania gets more hype than, say, No Mercy) and how long you want the shows to go (up to four hours).  It’s actually a very nice, very easy way of creating shows.

Finance:

In this section, you can view your positive and negative money flows.  Affecting these are sponsors (who you can ask to be part of your shows at the TV, House Show and PPV levels), what equipment you buy (better rings and better TV is more expensive, and it also requires more staff), how high your ticket prices are, and what merchandise you are marketing.  Merchandising is an interesting case.  It might be best, unless you really love the business side of things, to just tick the box that make the computer set your marketing levels.  Or else you can decide how much money you want to dump into making generic merch.  There is even a slider to just set all the workers at a certain card level to have a certain amount of swag associated with them as well as one for the promotion in general.  Yes, now you too can make a line of Jack Doan T-Shirts.

External:

This section allows you to view promotions, workers and staff that are not your own.  It is here that you can offer contracts to available (or soon to be available) workers and staff, or just take a look at the state of your competition.

Game World:

The “Game World” screen is a good place to see how well your promotion is doing in certain areas.  You can call up a map of a country or a region and see information about that region’s fan make up as well as a status bar telling you how popular your promotion is there.

Options:

Here you can change your sound settings, import new files (i.e. match types, workers, etc) and open up the TEW editor to…uh…give yourself that distinct advantage (Note:  There is a ticker saying which files you edited just in case you don’t feel bad enough for cheating).

Booking

Our next item up for bid is the “Booking” segment.  It is here that you can select which area of the world you’d like to hold the show in (which directly affects that area as well as the areas immediately surrounding it in increments proportional to how good of a show you put on).  Then you can add matches, interviews, angles, and videos to fill in the time allotted (in a HUGE step forward this year, TEW has segments that are based on the time that you allow them to run.  So instead of being forced to work around a 12 segment show, you can work in as many segments as you want given that they are all short/long enough to fill a whole show).  In another great move, the crowds and wrestlers recognize whether or not they are watching/performing in a “B” level show.  This means that main-eventers no longer get pissed if you don’t make them work Velocity, and also, you’ll no longer have Heat out drawing RAW in the ratings.  Also new is the option to have a dark match before your show.  It’s a pretty nice little way to include workers you don’t want eating up time of actual TV, but you’d still like to have work.

While the angles list is getting tweaked, the new commentary system could use a bit more work.  Just a list of the highspots of a match is all well and good, but it lacks the personality provided by the match reports in EWR.  As a result, shows come off a little dry, and only vaguely interesting to read.  Not helping matters are the fact that match types only seem to affect the finishes of matches (in the commentary, the match type does have an effect on rating and risk).  Something to aid this along might be borrowing a concept from “Zeus” and having statements about the match, storylines and titles involved in the match, and generic statements (“We’d like to thank our great sponsor –sponsor name-“, or “Folks, there really is nothing like seeing the superstars of –promotion name- live.”).  This would help add some much needed flavor to the match listings.

The storylines themselves are a huge improvement over the “feud” system of EWR.  Up to six people can now be involved in what is a generic story (it does not have to contain two wrestlers or even end in a match), that slowly winds down as you involve the people who are part of the story in matches and segments with each other.  The better the matches and segments, the better the story and the more the workers get out of it.  It’s really quite a nice concept.

One other quick note before I leave this section:  I did not like having to name every match and segment.  I understand that it helps listing in the storyline areas, but it was a bit annoying having to name every little thing that I was trying to do.  It would be nice if this were optional in the future.

The game appears simple, but keeps getting deeper as you peel back its layers.  Hiding behind a very daunting exterior is a very fun booking and business simulator.  Everything is serviceable and useful, and while there is certainly room for improvement, at the time being this is the pinnacle of booking simulation.

The other thing I’d like to note before I do one last rundown, is that as deep and as complex as the game is, the menus can be an absolute bitch to navigate.

Not-Booking:  98
Booking: 
96
Curve:  0
Overal Rating: 
97

Final Ratings

Editor:  94/100
Graphics/Sound/Zen:  80/100

Technical Matters:  75/100
Game Play:  97/100
Comibined:  86.5/100
Curve:  +3.5

Overall:  90/100

To put things simply, TEW is the best text-wrestling simulator out there.  That may not mean as much as it used to, but to us Tuesday morning bookers, it does mean something.  The question you are asking right now is “90/100?!  Does that mean it’s worth $35 or not?!”  Well, let me be honest with you.  I believe that it has the potential to be worth $35, in about a month and a half.  Hopefully by then, all the bugs will have been patched, all the rosters will have been updated, and you will have a very stable very realistic game to play.

Right now what TEW suffers from is the fact that while its much older brother isn’t quite as deep and isn’t as engrossing, EWR is cheap as free and already has years of backlogged support and technical fixes.  My advice is to play through the demo, see what you think, and wait for things to settle down a bit.  Then, once the fixes have been fixed, the rosters have been rostered, and the hamburgers have been hamburgled, you will know whether or not you liked the game well enough to plop down the money for it.  Make no mistake about it, 90/100 is by no means a bad score.  It’s a definite recommendation to buy, but $35 is $35.  Proceed with caution.

If you have any further questions (or if you want to get in touch with me when everything’s all neatly patched up with a bow around it and want to see if I’ve bumped up my score) you can e-mail me at the link below.

E-MAIL MATT    
BROWSE THE RAW SATIRE ARCHIVES


  
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