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WWE Wrestlemania X8

Reviewed by JPeeples WWE WrestleMania X8 was released in June of 2002 for the Nintendo Gamecube. WWE WM X8 was developed by Yukes, the development house that created the first 3D wrestling game series, Toukon Retsuden. Yukes also handled the development for the WWF/WWE SmackDown games on the PlayStation systems. As the pioneers of the 3D wrestling game, Yukes' games are held in high regard among wrestling game fans. We expect the best from then, sometimes they deliver, as they did with every Toukon Retsuden game. And sometimes they slip up, as evidenced by the omission of number basic features in their most recent PS2 release, WWF SmackDown: Just Bring It. Yukes has gone back to the drawing board for this game, and they have incorporated some of the best features of both the Toukon Retsuden games, as well as the SmackDown games, into the creation of this game. WWE WM X8 combines the speedy gameplay of the SmackDown games while at the same time managing to maintain a realistic match pace, as evidenced by the Toukon Retsuden games. This perfect blend of speed and pacing really makes the game a joy to play. WM X8 is the first game to be released under the “World Wrestling Entertainment" (WWE) name following their many court battles (which the Federation lost) to the World Wildlife Fund, which now owns the WWF name. The old World Wrestling Federation scratch logo still appears in this game, but the extraneous parts of the game (disc, manual, packaging, etc. feature the new WWE logo, which gets the “F" out. This game also marks the first WWF/WWE video game appearances by many of the WWF vs. WCW/ECW invasion wrestlers. Contractual problems with many of the invasion wrestler prevented them from appearing in any WWF/WWE game at the time (any wrestler signed to a “WCW Inc." contract, namely, each and every wrestler in the invasion that wasn't already a part of the WWF/WWE before the invasion began. These “WCW Inc." contracts prevented any of these wrestlers from appearing in a WWF/WWE game because the WCW name is still owned by EA for use in interactive media, such as video games. This game also marks the first appearance of the New World Order (NWO) in a WWF/WWE game. The in-game NWO (Hogan, Hall, and Nash) hadn't appeared in a WWF/WWE game since the 16-bit era. Hogan was last featured in the 1993 Genesis release of WWF Royal Rumble, Nash hadn't been seen since the 1994 release of WWF Raw, and Scott Hall hadn't been seen since the 1995 release of WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game. Seeing these three wrestlers in a WWF/WWE game, under the NWO gimmick no less, is certainly a surreal happening for those of us who thought that we would never see these men in a WWF/WWE ring again, let alone in another video game. Now that all of the pomp and circumstance is finished, it's time to get down to business. The all-new gameplay engine is a near-perfect blend of the methodical wrestling engine featured in the Toukon Retsuden games and the fast-paced striking engine used for the SmackDown games. The ground submission system, which has been a weakness for Yukes in everything but the Toukon Retsuden games, has been overhauled to the point of perfection. Submissions now last a proportionate amount of time depending on when they are executed. If you attempt a submission early on, it will only last for a short while because your opponent is too alert to allow that move to last for too long. However, if you execute that very same move five, maybe ten minutes later, it will be applied to an opponent longer because your opponent is more fatigued. The same principles that apply to submissions in pro wrestling, apply to this game. This is a pleasant change of pace from the poor submissions in the SmackDown games, which featured a fixed time setting for each submission. Gaping logic holes like that one made the SmackDown games a bane for fans of realistic pro wrestling action in video games. The fast-paced striking system perfectly replicates what is seen on WWE television today. Your strikes are quick and sudden, and, much like on TV, your opponent's selling of the move varies each and every time. Unlike nearly every wrestling game out there, each and every strike can be sold in many different ways. A kick to the stomach, for example, can send an opponent back, hunch them over, or knock them down. This variety in selling ensures that each match will be fresh and helps to prevent a sense of stagnation. The combo system from the SmackDown games is back, and, thankfully, Yukes opted to go with the combo system from their arcade and Dreamcast game WWF Royal Rumble in regards to actual execution. That game used the SmackDown engine perfectly, and the combo system was integrated perfectly. You had two striking moves to set up a third, and final strike, which was viewed as the most devastating in the bunch. The best part is, unlike the SmackDown games, which pretty much forced you to take the abuse, Royal Rumble, and this game, allow you to block, and counter the strikes as they happen. This simple technique prevents you from taking any unnecessary abuse at the hands of your opponent. The grappling system in the game, is, sadly, a completely different story than the near-perfect submission and striking systems used in the game. Yukes has hacked the grappling down to a mere five grapples from either a front or back position. To put this in perspective, the first 3D wrestling game ever, Toukon Retsuden, enabled you to do six front grapples and three back grapples. Now one would logically think that will nearly seven years of developing games for a genre that they created, Yukes would actually ADD features to such a rudimentary aspect of wrestling. Sadly, that is not the case. Hopefully, this is just a case of growing pains since this is Yukes' first Gamecube game, but I doubt it. It isn't all bad in regards to the grapples though. They are easy to pull off, and they can be executed in an instant, keeping the pacing of the game fast. This instantaneous grappling system also lets you keep the pacing methodical if you so desire, so you get the best of both worlds. Unless you, for some odd reason, want some level of variety in grapples, in which case, you are out of luck. You'll be able to test out the mixed bag gameplay engine in many, many modes. You can have a regular exhibition match, which, in and of itself, gives you the chance to have ladder matches, hardcore matches, TLC matches and Hell in a Cell matches. The exhibition match mode gives you a nice bit of variety. It is also great for fine-tuning your in-game skills. These exhibition matches are pretty much what you would expect if you have played other wrestling games on the market. None of them, except for the Hell in a Cell and TLC modes, do anything new. These two modes do some small things that have never been done before in a video game, and they really help to make these modes feel complete. Whereas other wrestling games had a Hell in a Cell that was simply attached to the ring, the one included in this game features a cell that goes halfway between the ringside barriers and the ring, just like the real deal. This simply touch really adds a sense of realism that the HiaC modes lacked. The TLC mode adds a plethora of little touches. Things such as more tables, ladders, and chairs, that other games lacked. These types of things would be seen in the TV/PPV versions of the match, including the ECW versions of the match. ECW, by the way, was the first company to ever do a TLC match. This subtle increase in on-screen realism adds a sense of believability to the mode. You actually feel like you are a part of history, since you can now accurately recreate it. Speaking of recreating history, there are a number of championships you can go after in this game. You've got the usual assortment of WWE titles to go after in the Path of a Champion mode, in which you fight a fixed number of matches in order to get a title match. This mode is nearly identical to the Championship mode in WCW/NWO Revenge, only with poorer execution. You see, Yukes opted to give you, the player, the most non-sensical matches to go after per title. You'll see Hell in a Cell matches when going for the hardcore title. Matches against the Big Show when going after the Light Heavyweight title (which should be called the Cruiserweight title, since the Light Heavyweight title was killed off in February), and other illogical matches when going for gold. Considering how idiotic it gets most of the time, I am amazed that you only have tag matches when going for the tag gold. However, no matter how bad this mode is, it is light-years ahead of the idiotic story modes featured in other games. Even though the Path of a Champion mode is pretty much a blow out, hope is not lost for those who desire gold. For you see, Yukes added the greatest mode ever in gaming to quench your thirst for championship gold; the Battle for the Belts. In this mode, you'll go through a set of matches (just like the PoaC mode, stay with me here, the end result is worth this hard-fought journey) in order to gain a certain belt, which you decide to go after. Depending the difficulty level of the game, you will go after different belts, there are 51 title belts in total. These belts are all real title belts, only the non-WWF belts have some minor appearance changes to prevent legal problems. There are WWF title belts in this mode, WCW belts, ECW belts, AWA belts, NWA belts, New Japan Pro-Wrestling belts, Pro Wrestling NOAH belts, and even XPW belts to go after in this game. This mode allows you to right the wrongs of wrestling. Want to give “The Crippler" Chris Benoit a WCW World Heavyweight Title reign without controversy? Go right ahead, while you're at it, give him both versions of the WCW Word Title belt, just to dot the exclamation point. You can also give Steve Austin the WCW World Title reign he always should have had, but didn't get due to the political games of Eric Bischoff and “The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. On top of being able to right the wrong of the past, you can relive some of the greatest moments in pro wrestling. Thanks to the NWA World Heavyweight Title belt being in the game, you can recreate “The Nature Boy" Ric Flair's first World title win. Or, you can give Lance Storm three titles at once, in an effort to recreate his super-hot entry into World Championship Wrestling. If you would like to get a friend involved in the mix, you can unify your titles. Hopefully, you won't go overboard, and unify everything a few dozen times like the WWF did in late 2001 with their constant unification, then splitting, of the WWF and WCW titles. This mode is stroke of pure genius, and it is the one think that really sets this game apart from the rest. It can be the greatest mode ever made, if you embrace it and use it to its fullest potential. It can also be the most monotonous, pointless mode ever made, if you just take it at face value and don't examine the sheer history encompassed by the belts featured in it. This is definitely one mode that gives you back exactly what you put into it. If you have the patience to go through the hardship of the chain of opponents, you wall be rewarded with a title belt. A belt which you can customize, albeit minutely, and add your own personal touches to. If you choose not to embrace this mode, you will be cutting the game off at the knees. You will only be hurting yourself, so just take advantage of what Yukes has bestowed upon you. The game's Create a Superstar mode will let you create many legendary wrestlers, who you will want to create if you want to recreate some of wrestling's most legendary battles. However, the mode is very flawed. The amount of moves in the mode is stunted. Yukes' first Create a Wrestler mode ever, in Toukon Retsuden 3, gave you more options than this game does. The appearance features of the mode are also lacking, however, the game does give you appearances that make the wrestlers look like they belong in the game, unlike in the SmackDown games, where it was near-to-nigh impossible to make anyone look like an in-game character. Yukes saw fit to include some of the faces of wrestlers who should be in the game to begin. Diamond Dallas Page's face is in the game, as are Billy and Chuck's faces, Maven's face in the game as well. These men definitely should have been in the game to begin with since they were all champions going into WrestleMania. Not to mention that Billy and Chuck had been World Tag Team champions since February, and a team since October of 2001. DDP was European champion going into, and coming out of WrestleMania X8, there is no reason he shouldn't be in the game. Maven is in the same boat as DDP, he was the Hardcore champion going into, and coming out of, WrestleMania. I can't believe Yukes would do such a copout as this, but, they did. At least they put their parts in the CaS mode. The best thing I can say about this mode is that it could be worse, and that at least the wrestlers you create look like they belong in the game. Now that I am done dissecting how this game ranks as an accurate representation of pro wrestling, it's time to judge it as a game. Graphically, the game is splendid. The character models are full of life, and they really give off the same kind of personality as their real-life counterparts. The character models are nearly perfect, and they are even shiny, which does a great job at reflecting the copious amounts of oil used by wrestlers. I could do without the shiny look when it comes to the clothing though, the Hurricane looks like an action figure. The animation for nearly everything is nearly perfect. However, the collision detection is horrid in some places. Arms and legs tend to pass through the opponent's body, which sure doesn't help to achieve a sense of realism. Also, collision detection for the game's many weapons is spotty, at best. When things such as chairs, and other weapons with relatively simple shapes are used, it's all right, but when you use a garbage can, or a fire extinguisher, the odd shapes really cause problems. Entire portions of the weapon will pass through an opponent, and it really harms the sense of realism in the game. There is some good with the collision detection though, which, given how specific it is, makes me wonder how on Earth a simple issue such as weapon-based collision detection can be such an issue. You see, when you execute a move on someone, it will actually cause the ring to shake. When more than two wrestlers are in the ring, a third or fourth wrestler will be knocked a little bit loopy if they are too close to the people executing the move. The severity of this effect depends on the power of the move. A body slam's effect would likely just lead to the other wrestler(s) being dazed, while a high-powered move, such as a Rock Bottom, would likely lead to the other participants being knocked down. The graphics in the game are, for the most part, great. The only real hang-up lies in the collision detection, which really does need some work. The control of the game is spot-on perfect. The button configuration is logical and adds to the game. It works with the player, instead of against him, as is sadly the case in other wrestling games on the market. The controls are responsive, and perfectly suit the game engine. However, the inability to use the directional pad, even for menus, is a negative point. The analog stick is simply far too sensitive, and it can lead to you picking the wrong match type, or other needless errors that waste time, and could be easily avoided if you were able to use the d-pad. The sound in the game is yet another mixed bag. The game features quite possibly the worst in-game music ever in a wrestling game. This is coming from someone who actually liked the faux-techno featured in the Aki games. This game features generic music that sounds like grade-A elevator music, the kind of stuff you would hear in a dentist's office, although not as bad as the shrieks coming from the office of the dreaded Isaac Yankem. Speaking of music, the theme music for many of the game's wrestlers has seen some radical changes due to these wonderful things called copyright laws. You see, the WWF has had the habit over the past few years of using production music, and other copyrighted music, on their telecasts. Now, most of the time, they only used a couple of songs, which made their transitions to games relatively painless. THQ, who, as the publisher, is responsible for dealing with this kind of thing, had the time to take care of the legality in getting a couple of songs featured in their games. However, this game features around 20 wrestlers who use either production music, or copyrighted music. Herein lies the problem, there were simply too many themes to secure the rights to, and not enough time to get the rights. So THQ, knowing they couldn't get the rights in time, simply went with music they could use. They either had Yukes make it, or they used WWF-owned tracks which fit the wrestlers. In some cases, like the Hardy Boyz, who now use an instrumental version of “Live For the Moment", off of Forceable Entry, the song fits. In some cases, like the in-game NWO theme, it doesn't. It's a give-and-take battle here. Some themes fit, some don't. This kind of thing will happen, and it could be worse. Be thankful the theme music situation turned out as well as it did. The replay value for this game is simply through the roof. You've got tons of secret characters to unlock, and the deep gameplay will keep you glued to the screen for weeks as you try and unravel it. The Battle for the Belts mode is the make-it or break-it mode for the replay value. You can make the most last for years, or you can just toss it by the wayside. Hopefully, you'll go with the former. All in all, WWE WrestleMania X8 is one of the finest wrestling games I have ever played. The game features an excellent submission and striking system, as well as a sub-par grappling system that needs to be severely retooled. The game's constant use of animation helps to keep the game fresh, especially in regard to the selling of moves. The game's Battle for the Belts mode is the bread and butter of the game. It will either give you the most bang for the buck, or send you crying back to return the game. Those who are tough enough to endure the hardest of the game's many difficulty settings, and be rewarded with some highly sought-after belts, will love the mode. The game's controls are great, and perfectly suit the game engine. The CaS mode is a huge disappointment, but it could be worse. The omission of some wrestlers, especially those who were champions at WrestleMania, is simply inexcusable. Especially since the game is named after the event. The missing wrestlers have been wondrously omitted from the game's video packages, although these omissions really show just how much butchering was done to them since they are missing. If you are a wrestling fan looking for the best that money can buy in regards to next-gen wrestling games, you will get your money's worth out of this game. You can't go wrong with this game, it combines the best of two game engines into one nice package. If you are a fan of WWF Royal Rumble for the Dreamcast, you will love this game. It is basically a souped-up version of it.

Overall: 7 out of 10

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