It’s hard to believe, but due to the lack of wrestling games on the market, there’s only two titles competition for your cash dedicated to our favourite form of grappling action this Christmas time. It’s no surprise to see that THQ have released their usual Smackdown! game, which was a bit of a let down this year. So what’s the alternative? If you’ve got a PC, perhaps Wrestling Spirit (WreSpi) is the answer.
If you’ve played wrestling sims like Extreme Warfare Revenge or Total Extreme Wrestling, you’ll have probably heard of Adam Ryland, the maker of these popular titles, who’s now working for Grey Dog Software. As revealed in my interview with Adam not too long ago (Which can be found here), he said that he found the genre to be a bit lacking, and wanted to change that. So has it worked? Let’s find out, as I take a look at WreSpi.
When it comes to the looks of a sim, the most important thing is that it’s easy on the eye. We don’t expect fancy graphics and lifelike animations; most people just want a straightforward, but clear look. I’m pleased to say that Wrestling Spirit’s visual interface provides a nice dash of colour, while still remaining unspectacular. There are a lot of 3D character models spotted throughout the game, which reminds the user that it’s a wrestling game they’re playing, and the backgrounds are clearly distinguished from the action happening in the foreground. There are also some nice graphical touches included in the game, including every sign in the arena shown in the background have something written on it. You’ll need your magnifying glass out to read a few of the ones further away though. Anyway, your PC isn’t going to be pushed to the limit with the visuals here, but it’s a lot nice to look at than some games of a similar nature.
WreSpi is an audio treat in some places, but it does tend to grate a little on you. The opening screen has some lovely licensed music from a band that I’m sure a lot of people will love, but I know as much about modern music as I do about the state of the Belgian economy (please don’t email me about this topic, even if you are a Belgian economist). You may also be pleased to hear that WreSpi has some play by play to listen to during the match. Do you like Lord Alfred Hayes? If so, you’ll love WreSpi’s commentary. Adam Ryland provides it himself, but that soft Midlands accent isn’t really suited to calling a brutal war between two men who will go to any extreme to inflict pain upon his opponent, and he sounds like he’d be more at home on the other end of a phone asking me if I’d like to buy double glazing. Of course, Adam can’t help that his voice isn’t right for this game, and I appreciate the effort made in the commentary and the music, but it’s not my cup of tea unfortunately.
WreSpi probably isn’t like any other game you’ve played before. It places the player in a fictional wrestling world that you may be familiar with if you played TEW with the original data. The object is to live your life as a wrestler, and take part in everything involved in your chosen grappler’s life. From choosing your diet and training regime, buying a pub, talking backstage, to taking part in interviews, all the aspects of life outside the ring are included. But of course, the most important part is the wrestling itself. Suggesting that wrestling is actually a legitimate sport, you wrestle all of your matches from beginning to end. This takes the form of a strategic, almost turn based approach. You choose what moves to perform, how to counter your opponent’s attacks and try to come out on top. You’ll need to think about every action you perform in Wrestling Spirit, anyone who goes for a Gung Ho approach will most likely end up on their back. You need to consider what strategy to approach the match. If you work on your opponent’s leg, he’ll be slowed down. If you work over the head, you can burst him open. It’s all very tactical for a wrestling game.
The game is quite tough to beat, I’ll make no bones about it. You’ll need to put a lot of thought into all of your matches, because the AI is vicious and will rip you apart if you take a laid back approach to any match. It’s all very enjoyable though, and unlike a sim such as EWR or TEW where you could take half an hour to book a show and find out that it was a disaster, you only need to spend a few minutes on each match, meaning that you don’t feel quite as down if you mess up, because your next bout could be just around the corner. All of the outside of the ring stuff is also important to deal with, because things like changing the time spent on cardio work or your sleeping habits could have a major impact on the next few months of your career. The only part I was really unimpressed with was the backstage element of the game, which seemed to be the same every time. With only 3 or 4 options available regarding what you can say to a colleague, you’ll find yourself hearing the same responses over and over. Still, it’s a very fun game to play, and you don’t need to sacrifice a few hours at a time to get a lot back from Wrestling Spirit.
There’s three ways that you can play WreSpi, with these being Exhibition, Superstar or Rookie to Legend modes. Exhibition is simple enough to explain, you take part in a regular match up with a number of existing workers put into the match type of your choice. The other two gameplay modes are much more in-depth. In Superstar mode, you take control of an established wrestler in the game, and take over his life, so to speak. Obviously if none of these options appeal to you, WreSpi probably won’t be your cup of tea. However, if you’re interested in the game’s concept then you can’t really expect much more here.
If you’re comfortable with using the TEW editor, you’ll have no problems with the WreSpi equivalent. All the options are easy to understand, just about everything in the game is customisable and there’s a tool that you can use to check the data before running a new game, so you know everything’s in order before you start, which is always good to have. One feature about the wrestler that a lot of people will be happy to hear about is a Total Extreme Wrestling data converter. If you’ve got a particularly nice scenario running in TEW, you can convert the data into a format that’s compatible with Wrestling Spirit. It’s a great idea, as it allows you to go from being the booker to living the life of a worker all in the same game world. Unfortunately though, it’s not a quick process. Many key stats and attributes needed to play WreSpi, for example, a full move set, aren’t included in TEW. This means that you’ll need to go through the entire database that you’ve exported and make changes and additions, which could be a lengthy process indeed. The editor itself, I have no problems with, but for people who want to create their own real life, or even fictional, scenarios, you could be doing a lot of tweaking before you even step into the ring.
Once again, you’re playing in Adam Ryland’s fictional universe. Unless you create or download an unofficial update, you won’t be seeing your favourite WWE and TNA stars near this game. With the game world set one year after TEW’s beginning, you might recognise quite a few names if you’ve played with the Cornell-verse before. While I was extremely keen to get a real world scenario for TEW, I don’t mind it so much in Wrestling Spirit. As the booker, you need to know the ins and outs of your promotion off by heart. As a wrestler, you only need to know about your next opponent, which can be accessed easily from the Scouting option in the game. OK, so you won’t be hitting Stone Cold Stunners or Rock Bottoms on Undertaker or Triple H, but you can start your own legacy in WreSpi, and for me, it’s just as satisfying to beat a fictional character as it would be to defeat a household name. Adam has put an awful lot of effort into making an engrossing fictional world, and his endeavours shouldn’t go unnoticed.
While you might have put Smackdown! Vs Raw back in it’s box just a few weeks after it’s release, WreSpi offers much more in terms of durability. There are so many ways that your career path can go in Grey Dog Software’s latest title, and while it might not seem like a different game altogether at first glace, playing a career mode as a high flying spot monkey is very much unlike going through the same mode as a lumbering giant.
It will take you a great deal of time to go from living on a pittance wage to earning millions of dollars a year. Due to the fact that some matches can be very short, you don’t need to dedicate a lot of time to the game. If you’ve got half an hour spare, you can fit a few matches in during that time. Of course, due to the addictive nature of the title, that empty thirty minutes will soon turn into forty five minutes. Then an hour. Next thing you know, it’s three days later, you’re starving, smelly, but determined to finish your feud with Joe Sexy. WreSpi has that magic X Factor (not the stable or reality TV show) like the best games do, which makes you think “just one more game”, whether you’ve had the game for days or for months.
Overall (Not an average)- 8/10
For me, there’s no competition as to which is the best wrestling game out in time for Christmas. Smackdown! Vs Raw might have the WWE’s backing which will guarantee plenty of sales, but people in the know will realise that WreSpi is a better proposition altogether. As I said earlier in this review, you’ve probably never played a game like this. Not many titles can boast that they’ve totally shaken up the genre, but Wrestling Spirit is one that can make that claim with ease. It’s the thinking man’s wrestling game, pitting the gamer against tricky AI, while still remaining fun to play. It’s deep, but you can still have fun playing the game for only a few minutes at a time. It’s difficult, but you’ll certainly win a few matches if you know what you’re doing. I have a few problems with the game, such as the lack of backstage interaction, but not anything major that would make me avoid the game. From the reaction I’ve gauged online, I think a few people were a bit cautious about Adam Ryland moving out of the environment that he’s tried and tested in. I can assure these people that they have nothing to worry about, because Wrestling Spirit is a brilliant addition to his CV, and would make a wonderful Christmas present, aside from the fact that it’s difficult to put in a stocking or wrap, due to the fact that you need to download the game.
My ever-faithful Wrestling 101 Video Game Section lackey Colin also tried out Wrestling Spirit, and here’s what he thought of it.
I find Wrestling Spirit to be enjoyable and fun. It requires a lot more effort on your part to carefully plan your moves and your career and if you start with Legend to Rookie you’ll spend a lot of time with WreSpi. If your looking to a graphical masterpiece, WreSpi is not for you, if you’re looking for challenging fun, like myself, it is. I give this game 8/10.
So there you go, thumbs up all round then. If you’d like to try a free demo of WreSpi, you can download that here. I’d like to give thanks to Adam Ryland, Tara Clover and everyone at Grey Dog Software for their helpfulness regarding this review.