WWE Wrestlemania XIX
Released: September 2003
Capabilities: Memory Card
Review Written: September 29, 2003
THQ and Yukes are back for another round of WWE gaming with Wrestlemania
XIX, the sequel to 2002’s Wrestlemania X8. Last year’s game played
similar to Yuke’s PS2 Smackdown line of games, but its fast gameplay
speed, toned down graphics, and lack of storylines didn’t fare too well with
gamers. While the developers over at Yukes have addressed most of the key
complaints from X8, there are still some flaws in an otherwise solid wrestling
game all around.
The roster for this title is right around the same size as X8, with a total of 45 selectable wrestlers. Most of the big names are here like Kurt Angle, Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam to your average mid-carders like the Dudleyz, Matt Hardy, and John Cena. The developers did manage to squeeze in a few star wrestlers who recently debuted within the last year like Bill Goldberg and Scott Steiner. There are a few faces in here that haven’t been seen on WWE television for over half a year like Edge, William Regal, and Hulk Hogan, but the extra roster depth is appreciated. Unfortunately, XIX has the smallest amount of characters this year when compared to the 60+ rosters in this years RAW 2 on Xbox and Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain on PS2.
Nearly everyone was shocked last year that THQ didn’t keep star developer AKI to develop the WWE games on the Nintendo consoles and that they went with the developer of the Smackdown series (Yukes) instead. Nobody welcomed the arcadey-controls in X8 to the GameCube last year. And while the pace was toned down slightly, it still seemed too much like the stale gameplay of Smackdown. Apparently Yukes heard our feedback this year because they enhanced the gameplay dramatically this year. The developers even added an extensive tutorial mode that is hosted by wrestler, Al Snow to familiarize you with each and every element of the controls.
Right from the get-go you’ll notice a much slower pace of gameplay. The second biggest change noticeable was the addition of weak and strong grapples by the amount of pressure applied to the A button. With those two big changes alone you can tell the developers were going for more of an AKI-oriented gameplay system. Other changes made were wrestlers getting worn down after taken a lot of damage. The wrestlers will be rather sluggish to maneuver around the ring, and slower to get up from falls or even moves they perform like suplexes and piledrivers. After a while this aspect gets annoying, because with all the time spent getting the recuperating wrestler back on their feet, don’t be surprised to see their opponent get back up before them and do a move before he is back to his senses. Yes, the old AKI engine had this too, but their way of countering the opposing wrestler doing a move too soon to you is by holding the R button as you get up so you can do a quick evasive roll or couter-strike! That one vital control is absent in XIX, and the consequences got on my nerves way too fast. Hell, Legends of Wrestling 2 had that feature in it, and I have no idea why Yukes omitted it here.
The basic “Path of a Champion” mode from X8 where you wrestled several random matches and then got a title shot is gone (along with the “Battle of the Belts” option too), and replaced with a much more storyline-focused single player mode dubbed “Revenge.” The mode starts off with a cinema of your wrestler of choice (in a first person perspective) getting kicked out of the arena as the guards explain to you that Vince McMahon fired and stripped you of the heavyweight title! Never to fear, because Stephanie McMahon (complete with voice acting) comes to your aid outside and you help her back by completing missions to stop revenue flowing in to Vince McMahon. This is done by destroying merchandise stores in the mall and preventing product from shipping at the harbor by kicking the crap out of security guards and opposing wrestlers, in a classic Final Fight/Double Dragon beat-em-up fashion.
While the Revenge mode may sound all fine and dandy on paper, the way it is executed is rather lackluster. There are 25 missions set in five different stages, but each mission has silly goals such as “knock x construction workers off the platform in 10 minutes.” Coupling that along with the fact that the average security guard and construction worker have the same knowledge of wrestling moves as you will also make it a royal pain completing missions. Then there’s the horrible camera angle that can be controlled anytime with the C-Stick, but by the time I found a half-decent view I was already getting pummeled on by my opponents. There are a couple of neat platform elements mixed in like climbing and swinging from chains, but they hardly make up for the monotonous gameplay. The only positive thing about the Revenge mode is the rewards. The only wrestlers unlocked are up to 20 different “bosses” which are basically generic created wrestlers with a different costume. Completing missions also nets you cash used to purchase items from the Shopzone store (hosted by WWE Diva, Stacy Kiebler) such as create-a-wrestler parts, extra entrance animations, and moves to be used in the CaW.
Now this wouldn’t be the ordinary WWE game if there weren’t any of the extra gimmick matches that the fans all know and love. I can assure you that all of the Cage, Tables, Ladder, TLC, Hell in a Cell, and Royal Rumble modes are here for your pleasure. And even though the PPV is not around anymore, King of the Ring tournaments can still be created with the added option of putting belts on the line. The Create-a-Wrestler option is back, and it has a little more depth than last year as it allows you to create your own face paint designs with a MS Paint type of tool. The entrance editor is also a bit more robust as you can add up to three pyro-techniques in the entrance and set exactly which moment for them to go off. Sadly, the amount of clothing designs, and other textures is extremely limited, just like last year in X8. You still can’t add letter textures on the wrestler’s costumes either! But at least some of it has improved this year.
The slightly cartoon-ish character models from X8 are no more. XIX now features more realistic, heavily detailed characters, yet they still fall up short when compared to the stellar models in Shut Your Mouth on PS2. Which is odd considering the fact the GameCube is a slightly more powerful console than the PS2. The animations for all the moves are crisp and fluid, this especially goes in hand for the finishing moves where the developers made sure to add that extra effort so each and every Rock Bottom and F5 looks exactly as they are done on television.
The presentation has also improved, instant replays now occur where the camera will take three quick looks at a finisher. The entrances for the wrestlers also look tons better, as they do each and every one of their trademark poses on their way to the ring exactly the way they do on television! Even the web browser for Matt Hardy’s entrance is in here, complete with random Matt Fact’s! There are also nice little cut scenes that occur whenever a wrestler is busted open and bleeds! Yep, this is the first WWF/E game to feature blood since 2000’s No Mercy and it is about damn time!
All the sound effects are right on the same level as last year’s title. Those zany effects for the low blows and submission holds are still here, but I eventually got use to hearing them. More of those generic guitar riffs make up the background music for gameplay are back, but weird techno beats that alter slightly when going to different menus (and seem more appropriate in a porno) are in place for menu browsing. No commentary again this year and again I’m not complaining after dealing with Smackdown’s horrific commentary efforts.
Last year’s X8 was notable for omitting several wrestlers’ entrance theme songs due to licensing issues with some of the bands. While they manage to secure most of the popular themes (Triple H, Edge, Hulk Hogan, and Chris Benoit still come out to Motorhead, Rob Zombie, Jimi Hendrix, and Our Lady Peace, respectively), the ones they didn’t manage to include they either replaced with some of the wrestler’s older themes (as was the case with the Gurerro’s, RVD, and the Dudley’s) or included much more convincing instrumental versions (like they did with Hardy, Orton, and Stacy Kiebler).
There’s a bit of everything to keep you coming back to playing XIX. Even though the Revenge mode gets pretty darn frustrating quite often, you’ll be destined to beat it to get enough cash to purchase everything from the Shopzone. The versatile amount of gameplay modes is also perfect for multiplayer parties with your friends for up to four people. If you’re disappointed that a favorite grappler of yours is not in here, than you can create him, or fully deck out your own dream wrestler. One little extra I like is the profiles section that archives most of the titles and tournaments won by the superstars in the game.
Replay Value: 8.3
This series continues to show great potential. Even though the countering element of gameplay isn’t in here, this is still the most user-friendly control scheme of the latest crop of WWE games. The Revenge mode may have flopped this time around, but if it gets the right amount of tweaking it can be the killer single player mode out of next year’s wrestling titles. In the end, WWE Wrestlemania XIX is a great wrestling title that should be in your Cube collection, as there’s enough new changes and content added to justify a purchase this year.
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