Looking at it while it was in development, Wrestlemania 21 looked to have all the things people wanted. Promises of an AKI-like control system, online play and smoother play than the other Xbox wrestling games out there (namely RAW and RAW 2, two games I hated). I was all pumped even though it was being done by a rookie to the wrestling genre, Studio Gigante. Gigante is best known for Tao Feng, a fighting game that didn’t get much in the way of lauds except from people like the Console Gold owner, Ron Burke. I didn’t get the chance to ever play the game unfortunately, but he still stands by his statement that it’s a great game.

As the months moved closer to Wrestlemania 21‘s release, word started getting out that the game was going to be delayed a bit and actually come out after the wrestling event was over. Things didn’t bode so well for Studio Gigante and their new game. You’ve seen the other reviews on other sites, let’s get to my review.

I am sad to say that both RAW and RAW 2 on Xbox look better than this game. The wrestlers themselves look good, but they aren’t as detailed as they were in the two games named above. There are more problems with the game than just that though.

The primary minus in the graphics section is the animation of the whole game. Everything is way too jerky for its own good. You can press the A button to lift a guy up from off the mat, but sometimes you’ll go into a submission move instead. Yes, it is “area of body” dependant, but they really should have made a button specifically for lifting from the ground. Pulling off moves is a timing thing for the most part. Once into the move motion the animations are not smooth at all and are very jerky as they go from one move to the next. It’s all very sad to watch just because at this point in the life of the Xbox a wrestling game should be able to run with smooth animations instead of jerky ones.

The other big minus is there really is no life to this game, it just feels empty. Sure, the crowd is there, but the action in the ring is not exciting at all. It’s nothing like the excitement I had with N64 games like WCW vs. nWo Revenge, Wrestlemania 2000 or No Mercy, all games developed by AKI corporation who went on to make the Def Jam games for Electronic Arts (which are good games in their own right). The graphics section just takes a nosedive for me simply because it isn’t the best looking game around and it so could have been given what the RAW games had shown.

The first bad thing about the game are the announcers. I’m happy that they are trying to put the announcers into the games, but unless the situational programming is fixed it just doesn’t work very well. Early on in a match Jim Ross or Michael Cole (lead guys for RAW and Smackdown respectively) will say, “Oh my God…he could tap out!” on the first submission move done by either wrestler. Trust me guys, the other wrestler isn’t going to tap out 5 seconds into the match unless he is throwing the match. They then proceed, along with their commentary mates (Jerry Lawler and Tazz respectively) to repeat the same lines over and over at the rate of once a minute. Pretty sad commentary and it is sad you can’t turn it off or else you also turn off other sounds as well.

The music for the wrestlers are nice, although they are very soft unless you tweak the sound levels for things like the crowd and speech. I’ve always liked Randy Orton’s opening music, so I started that up first. You can also put your own music into the game, one of the few nice things in this game.

The sounds are standard wrestling fare. You hear the thuds and bangs where appropriate and actually the sound is pretty good for what is presented, it’s just that the commentary brings the whole darn thing to a crashing halt.

They try so hard to duplicate the nuances of the AKI engine, but they fail miserably in control. Yes, there are a lot of moves, but you will find yourself pulling off the same move multiple times because you simply can’t move around the ring as well as you’d like to. Heck, it took me a while to figure out how to get back in the ring once I was outside of it. I ended up picking up something underneath the ring and smacking my opponent with it, disqualifying me from the match. There really is no rhyme or reason to the controls, although I do understand that A and B are the key buttons in this game, but there aren’t a whole lot of moves while grappling.

There will be times where you grapple and try to pull a move off only to have the other wrestler break it off or reverse it after he just got his ass handed to him. I should be able to pull off a nice move when he’s dazed, but instead he reverses and does a move on me. AKI had a nice and simple control scheme, but many of these developers on these new wrestling games make the controls a bit too complex for its own good.

There is a career mode in this game, although you have to create your own wrestler to get into that mode. Create-a-wrestler is actually pretty nice in this game, but if you are like me and jumped straight into an Exhibition match without seeing CAW first, you’ll find the game sucks and you may just forget about the CAW mode.

The aforementioned problems talked about in graphics and control are present in the gameplay as well. I would like to add that when the match is over and they replay some of the moves that the game gets very choppy. No reason for it to be so choppy, but there it is. The commentators are choppy and the video replay is choppy; that’s just piss poor programming honestly.

Online mode would probably be more fun if the game was more fun. There were barely any people on to play with simply because most people know this game sucks by now since it’s been out for 2 months. When the game shipped the online component was broken, but I did not have a problem with my version of the game, so I must have the new disc that THQ sent out not long after the game’s release (or you could have updated it via Xbox Live). Simple fact is that none of this is worth your time with this game unfortunately.

Is there any replay value in this game? Once you start playing you’ll realize how broken this game is and want to bring it in for credit. I tried that very thing, but EB wouldn’t allow me to trade it in simply because the game was “broken” (the aforementioned problems) and THQ evidently never changed the SKU on the new product, so I get to hold onto this game for the rest of my life probably unless I can trade it to someone.