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VIDEOGAME CORNER    
Total Extreme Wrestling 2007   

January 1, 2007

by Matt Hocking    
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com

 

Way back in September of 2005, I reviewed a little game called Total Extreme Wrestling 2005.  I called it dense, compared it to playing a spreadsheet (though to be fair, Excel used to have that minigame), and mentioned that the game could become tedious.  I also eventually called it one of my favorite wrestling games ever.  Love it or hate it, TEW is back, and in what feels like, in some ways, the series’ swan song, it is still as enjoyably stubborn as ever. 
 

A Historical Perspective

It is the type of game that creates a kind of rabid…fanaticism around it like none other.  The genre of “wrestling simulators” is interesting in its own right.  During the height of the Monday Night Wars, you had camps of zealous fan boys who intently followed the development of straight up match

simulators (mostly for e-Feds) like Zeus and TNM, career sims like ESWF, and the two big promotion simulators EW and Promotion Wars.  Each had their own strengths and weaknesses, ESWF particularly had its own charms, but none of the other games had the personality of Adam Ryland’s Extreme Warfare, so it was no real surprise when Extreme Warfare was the only series to survive the industry’s subsequent collapse, albeit in a new commercialized package as Total Extreme Wrestling.

What made (T)EW games so fun to play?  It’s hard to explain, really.  Every game in the series has had its own frustrations and disappointments, but after enough time playing each of them, there was a sort of epiphany.  You’d figure out how each of the quirks worked and the whole experience would just click, and Mr. Ryland’s enthusiasm, which was apparent in the care taken with every feature of the game, would drive your enjoyment.  It was, indeed, the best outlet for an armchair wrestling fan to “prove” that he could do things better than Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff, Vince Russo, or whoever, and once you’d figured the ebb and flow of the game out, you’d have a great time doing it.

Gameplay

In an age where action seems paramount, the slow-down-and-look genres of games have seemed to fall by the wayside.  My favorite kind of game, the graphic adventure, has all but disappeared from the landscape (despite some really fantastic titles in the past few years like Dreamfall).  So, in the fast paced video game world, a management sim feels somewhat out of place, moreso when it’s based entirely around the fast paced, action oriented wrestling world.  And make no mistake about it, TEW is still a daunting spreadsheet of a game.

But, the fact of the matter is, the kind of people who will be reading this review are probably pretty cerebral anyway.  Under the layers and layers of numbers and letters is a very solid game engine, the same as TEW 2005’s.  In fact playing TEW 2007 feels a lot like slipping on an old pair of slippers with rabbit ears and googly eyes strapped to the top.  Inherently, nothing has really changed, but there’s just more happening.

Booking shows has noticeably improved as a few minor changes namely a tracker to tell you what wrestlers could use some extra face time to improve their standing and one telling you who you’ve already booked to wrestle on the show.  It’s a small change, but one that helps things immensely when you‘re booking on the fly.

Just as a matter of point, however, playing within the game’s new rules takes some getting used to.  The short “crowd popping” segments (in last year’s version a few T and A segments could usually bring your ratings up a percentage point or two) have be castrated somewhat, and the “promotion product” feature, which lets you set expected match lengths and such, can make it very difficult to run a two hour show for Sports Entertainment promotion with the lack of variety in angles.  It really is harder than it looks.  I’m inclined to believe that the scale is weighted a little too heavily against these types of larger entertainment promotions than is probably deserved.

A special note near and dear to my heart is the return of the “Website,” a nice way of displaying important game world news without being invasive.  It really gives the game a much needed jolt of personality, and it can honestly be fun to read every game day.  There is a lot more that could be done with this section, but Spartan as it is, it’s still a nice diversion.  As is the worker specific merchandise section, which lets you pick what types of merchandise and at what amount each worker gets.  Again, a fun little diversion which could’ve been expanded on quite a bit.

The problems with TEW 2005 still resonate with TEW 2007.  It’s not a pick up and play game, so setting up can take hours sometimes, which can try your patience.  Besides that, even when you’re playing the game, it can just be dense at times.  There’s a lot of information to absorb, and some of it is hidden pretty deep into some of the menus, the issue with selecting managers, for example, hasn’t been changed from last year.  Also, it just wouldn’t seem like a TEW review if I didn’t mention my disappointment in the show commentary.  For a game that’s so full of life outside the ring, it’s kind of disappointing to just speed through the show results looking at the letter grades because there’s hardly anything else worth noting.

Sound

Not really much to speak of here.  The title track “Reborn” by The Authority is pretty good, if a bit generic.  You’ll probably have had your fill after one listen through.

Graphics

The interface is nice and clean, though everything generally looks pretty similar, meaning that you can lose buttons in the wash of similar screens if you’re not paying close enough attention.  The gray and blue on black has a nicer look than TEW 2005’s fairly drab browns and reds.  The virtual “Cornell-verse” superstars are well animated in Poseur or some similar type of facial creation software.  As a result they look pretty good, but kind of creepy and lifeless.  Also, some of them come off looking far too…cartoony and weird even for wrestling.  As a side note, I should probably mention that while my previous two reviews have kind of dismissed the “Cornell-verse” entirely (something I’ve taken a lot of flack for from Mr. Ryland’s fan base), I’ve found it to be a fairly entertaining diversion this time around, a credit to the amount of creative effort put into developing the overall storyline in this year’s version.  I, and I’m sure many other players, would probably prefer to play within the “real world,” I think it’s fully reasonable to for new players expect to get at least a little into the characters this time around.

Editor

Once again this year, it’s super, super deep.  Dauntingly so.  In fact, there’s more to edit now than there ever has been before.  My suggestion for anyone new to the series is to hold off on editing on your own until the community has had at it for a while.  Chances are someone will have made the mod you were thinking about before long.  Not that I’m discouraging anyone from going at it if they want, but the fact is that the material is so impenetrable at times, that it can be quite frustrating to spend hours tweaking every detail of every thing in the game world.  A lot of filters have been put in place to streamline the databases, but even still it’s an epic task that few players are going to have the patience to fully undertake.

Technical Issues

I had very few technical problems in playing the game.  The most glaring was TEW’s stubborn inability to recognize my brand split in the when I was sorting my rosters (to move workers around to different brands, I’d have to recreate the split every time, it would recognize it otherwise), and these may all be fixed in the final release.  TEW is also a bit of a resource hog, so users with older computers and multitaskers, beware.

Overall

Once again, this year, Total Extreme Wrestling is something you kind of have to experience to see if it’s *really* right for you, which is why it’s a good thing there’s a demo available right now.  In a lot of ways it’s perfect for every wrestling fan, as it gives you a chance to experience, in intricate detail, every part of the process of booking a wrestling company.  On the other hand, a lot of that stuff, quite frankly isn’t as interesting as what happens on TV.

But I will go ahead and call TEW exactly what it is:  the single best management simulator ever.  For all it’s little nitpicky issues, TEW gets exactly what it does right.  The heart and personality of the Extreme Warfare series may not be back, but it is an infinitely more well rounded and satisfying experience than TEW 2005.

I mentioned earlier that this felt like something of a swan song for the series.  I don’t know if it will be the last game, but it will certainly be hard to improve on the experience without dramatically altering the TEW experience.  Perhaps, Adam is somewhere slavishly working on something else that will revolutionize the wrestling simulator genre, but what he’s already created is a fantastic, immersive, and genuinely educational success, both frustrating, enlightening, and utterly entertaining.  I highly recommend that if you’re a fan of wrestling, you at least do yourself the favor of checking this game out.  It may not be for everyone, but those of you  who “get it” will thank me.

Score:  9.4 out of 10

 
E-MAIL MATT
   
BROWSE THE RAW SATIRE ARCHIVES


  
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