Full Review: Yuke's: Prove me wrong.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Wait a second; scratch that, because contrary to popular belief, WWE WrestleMania X8 is in fact a good game. I'm the first to admit that, like many others, I fell into great disbelief that Yuke's had taken the strap from AKI and stepped into the squared arena for the GameCube. However, times change, and I've moved on with Yuke's new blood of sports entertainment action. Unfortunately, some wrestling enthusiasts haven't, and this game is far from the rush-job that people make it out to be.
Graphically speaking, WWE WrestleMania X8 is easy on the eyes. Right from the start, you'll notice the character models consist of high polygon counts and are meticulously put together. They feature your bevy of prerequisites such as excellent facial animation, proportional size, true-to-life ring attire, attributes down to the tattoos (let's not go any further), and solid, robust taunts. While the game's cartridge-based predecessors featured just awful wrestler size, this time around, the Big Show is a giant (ahem), and the Hardy Boys are, well let's just say it's all about heart and soul in this business. Also, Rikishi's butt is the same disgusting atrocity you see on television.
For lack of a better phrase, this game is everything you've come to expect. The Undertaker's motorcycle features spinning wheels, while entrances, most specifically Christian's, are near perfect, apart from some blurring in the special effect pyrotechnics. Booker T's hair moves dynamically, and overall, I can dig what's going down. Such attention to detail including Kurt Angle's mouth opening during belly-to-belly suplexes is quite impressive to say the least. In addition, everyone oversells the Stone Cold Stunner to laughable heights. You really can't go wrong aesthetically. The cage match offers a solid, interactive environment, and trash cans dent... uh? well. Yeah, so the crowd is comprised of cardboard cut-outs. However, I couldn't really care less. Indeed, it could have used a fully polygonal crowd in the same vein as NHL Hitz, but it's nothing to fuss over.
Aurally, the game is awful. Obviously, not enough time was spent on how this game sounds. For starters, the lack of commentary is simply inexcusable. This isn't a cartridge anymore, folks. Why waste valuable space having Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler sitting there doing nothing, aside from moving away when action gets in close. Yes indeed, the character count is up to seven at maximum, including four wrestlers simultaneously, one referee in Earl Hebner, and the two announcers. Back to the point, however, this is embarrassing. Even the highly-underrated WWF Warzone had commentary, which was not to mention a nice treat on Acclaim's part. Maybe the development time dwindled down quite a bit, I don't know. Otherwise, all goes wrong in the musical score of in-game menus. Interestingly, the create-a-wrestler background music is more suited to be in Wave Race. It seems more inappropriate than anything. If the music was adequate, I would be less picky about the lack of color commentary.
The saving grace of the sound issue is the officially licensed music, including, but not limited to, a Motorhead and Limp Bizkit tune to spice things up. All is well here and everything is of the highest quality. Sound effects, likewise, get the job done. Quite simply, everything sounds the way it should. Chairs smatter, tables sound like authentic wood, and Singapore canes are accurately portrayed. Back on the down run, why the Hardy Boys don't have their real music is beyond me. Also, Chris Benoit's entrance music isn't up-to-date, nor some of the other guys such as Booker T. On the New World Order front, you get a cheesy but decent rendition. It's in no way terrible, so let's just leave it at that.
Onto the gameplay. Everyone laments that it isn't No Mercy. It isn't, but that's not a bad thing. There's no actual grappling in this game. Instead, you press up/down/left/right/neutral + A to do your basic front moves on the go. There's no starting grapple, not unlike that of No Mercy. I basically find it to be the same deal, because the counter reversals add the same strategy as in past games. Unfortunately, what you will find is a lack of moves. Compared to No Mercy's sixteen front moves, you get five, which severely cuts down the replay value of wrestlers. There are no big and small grapples. The same goes for back moves. Otherwise, everything else is very similar. You get running attacks and striking moves, and while the list of moves is not what we've come to expect, it's sufficient for a first effort.
One thing that bothers me is that the artificial intelligence has an annoying tendency to spontaneously go up the turnbuckle, randomly in a match. Yeah, sure, it allows some breathing room to regroup, but it seriously detracts from gameplay. One other drawback is that all of the flying turnbuckle attacks are the same whether your opponent is standing or on the ground. For example, a missile drop kick will hurt an opponent on the ground, and so will an axe-handle, despite the fact that the attacking wrestler lands on his feet. Try doing a five-star frogsplash when the guy's standing. Yeah, it works too. However, perhaps the gameplay issue that perplexes me the most is the fact that you can do a superplex (that's a top rope suplex for you uninformed) five seconds into the match. It shouldn't be possible, and you should have to work your way to fatigue the wrestler. The balance is simply way under par.
Collision detection is the most realistic in any game I've played. For example, knock a ladder down while someone's up trying to grab the belt, and if you're in his way when he makes his fall, you'll be out cold as well. Or try doing a suplex to an opponent while another wrestler is close. He'll also accumulate damage. It's all very nice and shifts momentum constantly.
The pack of features is impressive to say the least. You get a bunch of modes that just weren't possible on the N64, including Hell in a Cell and table matches. This time around in a cage match, it supports up to four-players simultaneously, while table and ladder matches are downright cool. In a table match, you win by sending someone through the table. You can set them up ECW-style in the corner, or the normal vertical way. In ladder matches, you grab the belt suspended at the top of the arena by using, of course, the ladder. The strange thing is that you can win it in a minute, whereas in No Mercy your spirit had to be high. It makes you stay alert, but let's be blunt, it hurts the game. Otherwise, other gameplay modes include Ironman matches (most pins in a preset time limit), battle royals and the Royal Rumble. There's unfortunately no career mode, and it's forgivable due to time restraints, but of course, it would have been a nice addition nevertheless.
The presentation is simply astounding, aside from the lack of commentary. Seven arenas are present, and all have their respective televised display. For example, on the WWE Smackdown! arena, wrestlers come out with a vertical menu on the side taking up one third of the screen. All the different spots for the Titantron videos are there, and yes, the WWF logo is present. The roster of wrestlers consists of 42 blood-hungry guys hell-bent on paying off their gambling debts. Signature moves are performed by pressing A+B simultaneously, and guys with running finishers such as Rhyno's Gore or Test's big boot offers a nice change from the standard front finishing maneuver. It's all very well done. One last thing I have to mention is how William Regal digs into his briefs for his brass knuckles. It's great.
The replay value, however, is not high. Perhaps it's the recent WWE product, regurgitating storylines and offering stale retreads of gimmicks we've seen to death, or not putting Vince Russo to use, or not pushing Tommy Dreamer, but I think the overall lack of moves and superstars is the main point. The move list comprises only the ones wrestlers have, so you won't find anything interesting for create-a-wrestler. Speaking of that, the create-a-wrestler is not deep at all, but since it's their first effort, and they just wanted to get the engine down, I'll cut them some slack. Even Smackdown! could be brought up by its roots, but WWE X8 was something new.
Admittedly, I'm a huge wrestling fan. While I absolutely adored No Mercy and its predecessors, this game equally rocks. It hasn't been given a chance by N64 owners blinded by loyalty, which is quite unfortunate. Compare this one to the arrival of WCW vs. nWo: Revenge. Nevertheless, you can't go wrong with WWE X8. Do the spinaroonie. Rent before you buy.