Inside Pulse 12

Review: Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 (PC)

Total Extreme Wrestling 2010
Publisher: Grey Dog Software
Developer: Grey Dog Software
Genre: Wrestling Simulator
Release Date: 01/25/2010

Sometimes you wait for a game to come out. Weeks, months, and even years can pass between installments. The wait can seem eternal, but all is forgiven if the new title is as good as expected. Is Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 as good as the previous TEW titles?


Story/Modes
As with the previous four editions of Total Extreme Wrestling, TEW 2010 comes with the fictional Cornellverse as the default database. The Cornellverse is a parallel universe; a place that would be mostly familiar if you woke up there one morning. Each new TEW, along with the Wrestling Spirit and World of MMA series, updates the game world and pushes along the hundreds, if not thousands, of plotlines.

It is impossible to summate the entire Cornellverse in this space, seeing as it is a universe and all, but I will give you an example of how one company can be rife with plots. United States Pro Wrestling (USPW) was once a floundering joke of a promotion, a place for old wrestlers to ply their trade until they retired or died. Former SWF announcer Danny Jillefski was running his company into the ground. That was until Sam Strong, the freshly retired former Champion of the World, bought the company from his old friend and set about righting the ship.

In TEW 2008, the USPW was in a state of flux. A few big stars had been brought in to reinvigorate the main event. Sam remolded flailing youngster Tom E. Hawk into the future of the company, and Sam’s young daughter, Alicia Strong, was brought in to be the cornerstone of a Women’s Division. Things were looking up.

As TEW 2010 starts, the changes that Strong started are coming to fruition. The Women’s Division is populated with the cream of the crop in American women’s wrestling. Nicky Champion, the rechristened Tom E. Hawk, is on his way to stardom. The undercard is younger and hungrier than it was in 2008, with Darryl Devine, Andre Jones, and Des Davids all on the verge of being stars. The USPW World Champion is none other than former SWF World Champion Enygma.


Every worker on the roster has a hook for future plots. Having Giant Redwood, the aging monster who most exemplifies the “old USPW,” turning one or more of the youngsters against the perceived threat of outsiders, like Enygma, could be a major storyline. How about a DaVE alumni trying to push Chris Caulfield back into the “Extreme” lifestyle? Peter Valentine, Sam Strong’s friend that everyone else hates, has resurrected the National title for himself, but to what end?

Even unemployed workers can spark a whole new approach to the game. Take the Paratroopers. Paradigm, Paranoia, and Paradox are three green rookies, freshly graduated from CZCW’s dojo. With no place for them on CZCW’s roster, they were released into the indy ranks. Sure, any of them could be signed individually, but the real fun is in bringing them into a promotion as a unit. In MAW, a traditional wrestling company with an eye towards training youngsters, the Paratroopers could be a face unit to face off with the Succession, a group of second generation heels. They could be a boon to Canada’s 4C, a company with a similar bent as CZCW. You could even do as Adam Ryland, the game’s creator, has and have the Paratroopers invade CZCW. The choice is yours.


TEW 2010 puts the creative impetus on the player but it also provides a sandbox full of toys to play with. As it stands now, the Cornellverse is a magnificent place to play pretend and has become my favorite game world.

Story/Modes Rating: Unparalleled

Graphics:
TEW 2010 is a text-based game. There are no animated recreations of matches, no glitz, and certainly no glamour. The only graphics of any consequence are the interface and the pictures of workers, promotion logos, and the such. The interface retains the blue and black look of TEW 2008 but with an important twist in the form of customizable skins. The ability to make and use custom skins has always been there, but it is much easier now, thanks to a button on the task bar.

One of the things that made me fall in love with the Cornellverse was the high quality of the renders used for workers. Wrestlers like Lobster Warrior and Big Smack Scott came to life through their renders. I often wonder if the renders actually outweigh the statistical merits of prospective hires. I suspect it might, but that is beside the point. I am happy to report that, despite what might be the biggest expansion of the game world thus far, the standard of the renders has maintained the high standard previous games set.


New artist jtlant has made Mexico come alive with his new renders of old luchadores. A previously underused region, the lucha libre scene in TEW 2010 comes to life through his work and it is hard to resist the urge to run a company south of the border. I look forward to what he does next.

The most controversial issue springing from the demo release was the merit of subsplex’s renders, which populate Australia. With a high contrast, almost cel shaded look, they evoke the art style of Borderlands. While some have argued that they are too cartoonish for the Cornellverse, I like them a lot and they make me look forward to using two of the game’s more intriguing promotions: ZEN and RAW.

The promotion logos were also given a sprucing up and it shows. South of the Border Pro Wrestling has always had a classic aesthetic, but the new logo is perfect. I probably spent three hours looking through the in-game editor, ogling the logos and worker renders.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

Sound:
Much like the 2008 edition, TEW 2010 has no music and no sound effects. All the better for me to listen to the Vile Evils on iTunes while I play.

Sound Rating: N/A

Control and Gameplay:
One of the biggest additions to this iteration of the series is Drag and Drop Booking. Whereas the drop down menu was previously the only way to pick workers for a match, now workers can be selected from the static list to the right and dragged over. The seconds saved add up quite quickly, especially when it comes to booking tag team matches.

Another major addition, the Dirt Sheet, is even more essential. The Dirt Sheet is an optional source of information that spells out what went right and what went wrong with a match or segment. While it is a Godsend for number crunchers, even casual players can glean useful information from it. The importance of locker room morale, a major thrust in this year’s gameplay, becomes crystal clear. Figuring out what works is an essential part of the TEW series and the Dirt Sheet makes that even more user friendly than ever before.

Truth is, things as simple as the Tour function, which gives the basics about a promotion when you are on the “ËœSelect Promotion’ screen, make this the most easy to enjoy TEW yet. There is a list of over 100 new features on the Developer’s Journal and, while most are small, they add up to a very satisfying experience.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Great

Replayability:
There was a reason that I wrote a column expounding my love of TEW 2008 in the fall of 2009; I was still playing it! Heck, I was still playing it the week the TEW 2010 demo came out in mid-January of 2010. I still have a copy of TEW 2005 installed on my PC. At this point in my life, almost every video game I buy is disposable, eagerly traded for the next one. I have little desire to replay beaten games and even less to restart games quit due to apathy. InFamous, I am so looking at you right now. I fully expect that I will be playing TEW 2010 whenever the next iteration comes out, if there is one. If not, I guess I can play this game dang near forever.

Replayability Rating: Unparalleled

Balance:
For a game with no real difficulty settings, TEW 2010 can be daunting at first. Even as a veteran of the series, I am constantly learning the nuances of the game. The first thing I can recommend is that a new player read the included Help File. It is an illuminating piece of text, spelling out things that come across as arcane initially. The second trick to learning the intricacies of TEW 2010 is to join the Grey Dog Software forum. Trust that if they can turn me into a decent booker, there is hope for you, too.

Once the learning curve has been conquered, there is a startling array of challenges ahead of the prospective booker. Choosing to play as 21st Century Wrestling, with it’s TV contract and exciting roster is rock hard, but rewarding like no other promotion. Each promotion can be run a myriad of ways and success is measured more by the player than the game itself.

Balance Rating: Classic

Originality:
Each year that the Cornellverse gets further from 2005, the universe feels more and more unique. The analogs that plagued the earlier versions of the game world have all taken such different directions than their real world counterparts that they are hardly noticeable any longer. In fact, as I played I wished that I could watch the wrestling being performed in the Cornellverse instead of what is available in the real world. After some time in the Cornellverse, you too will want to read the Idaho Punisher’s book and watch an episode of Supreme TV.

Yes, TEW 2010 is a sequel, but it is such an inspired take on the franchise that is seems like something new. With no other games in it’s genre to compete with, TEW 2010 is racing a one horse race and still running as hard as possible.

Originality Rating: Very Good

Addictiveness:
Do you know what I did on Friday night? I played TEW, watched Letterman, and went to bed. What did I do Saturday night? I played TEW. Since Wednesday, I have logged over 30 hours into this game. If the real world would stop intruding, there is a significant chance that I would put even more time in this week.

There is always another show to run, another company to try, another worker to hire. I find myself using PhotoShop to edit worker pics and logos in my not so spare time. I have said it before and I will say it again: TEW is more than a game, it is a hobby.

Addictiveness Rating: Unparalleled

Appeal Factor:
The hardest thing in the world to market might very well be a text-based wrestling simulator. On one hand, wrestling is at a pretty low point in its history, at least as far as popularity and creatively are concerned. A text-based simulator is a hard sell on top of that. Coupled with a fictional wrestling universe and you have quite a difficult case to make.

Thing is, those who do get TEW, really get it. The dynasty writers, coming up with ingenius plots and writing some of the most entertaining fiction I have read as of late understand. Same with the artists who spend hundreds of dollars and hours leaning to use rendering programs to make new workers for the game. Try the demo. If you like it, buy the game.

Appeal Factor Rating: Poor

Miscellaneous:
I have mentioned them before, but I will mention them again, the community is a big reason to get TEW 2010. Have a question in the middle of the night? Post it on the forum and get an answer. Someone is usually awake. Want to bounce an idea off of someone else? You can have a hundred eyes looking at your concept forthwith.

GDS also has great technical support. How often does the designer of a game personally fix any issue you have with a game? With TEW it happens all the time. The helping part, of course, not the problems.

Miscellaneous Rating: Very Good

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Unparalleled
Graphics Rating: Mediocre
Sound Rating: N/A
Control and Gameplay Rating: Great
Replayability Rating: Unparalleled
Balance Rating: Classic
Originality Rating: Very Good
Addictiveness Rating: Unparalleled
Appeal Factor Rating: Poor
Miscellaneous Rating: Very Good
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
It is easy to damn a niche title with faint praise. Calling Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 the best text based wrestling simulator on the planet is a perfect example of this. It is true that TEW 2010 is, in fact, the best text based wrestling simulator ever made, but it is more than that. TEW 2010 transcends its genre and is one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I have ever had. If you have even a passing interest in wrestling or business simulators, give TEW 2010 a shot. You will not be disappointed.