Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: Total Extreme Wrestling 2013 (PC)

9:16 PM

After Grey Dog Software announced the next entry in the Total Extreme Wrestling simulator franchise, I immediately sweated with excitement. Could the developers possibly top what was already a fantastic game in Total Extreme Wrestling -- also known as TEW -- 2010? How would the developer grow the series after working through other games such as World of Mixed Martial Arts 3 and Comic Book Hero?

The only sure way to find out was to load up TEW 2013 and experience every single aspect the game had to offer myself. Right off the bat, you find yourself able to jump into the updated Cornell-Verse, which is the fictional world of wrestling created by GDS with its own set of wrestlers, legends and promotions. Personally, I shy away from this built-in mod mainly because it's always tough for me to book shows with these custom wrestlers and expect long-term emotional investment. Instead, I tried out the game's ability to transfer previous mods and successfully carried over a real-world mod from TEW 2010 and started a new game with that data. Granted, this mod wouldn't necessarily capture everything TEW 2013 had to offer perfectly, but without any expansive and concrete real-world mod at the time of the review, it was a fairly minute impediment.

So, I had finally started up the mod -- changed a few things in the database to fix some loading errors -- and chose the WWE promotion to get myself familiar with the game mechanics as quickly as possible without worrying about booking some unfamiliar names. Already, the main internet screen is hugely improved with all of the wrestling headlines placed on the right side of the screen. Clicking on these numbered stories brings up an expanded story on the top left with the option to either click the story to read a show's result or a worker's image to get to his profile. Below this square is a quick results box that lists all of the wrestling programs that took place the day before with the results only two-clicks away.

On the left side of the entire screen in a vertical format are: News Archive, World Diary, Company Wars, Power 500, End of Year Awards and Hall of Immortals. Not much difference from past TEW games except for the Power 500 which is basically like the Top 100 yearly ranking from the past, but with 400 more workers added in for good measure. Even better is that the Power 500 screen tells you the result of previous years either from a drop-down box or by clicking a worker's name and seeing where he or she placed any other year in a list format. GDS promised a friendly user interface with 2013 and thus far, they followed up big-time.

While booking a show, I found out the hard way that the game did indeed change the “Advance Booking” name to a more, stoic “Pre-Booking” label. It still functions the same way, but the use of this option is a little bit more unclear than what it probably should have been. Not only does the game not let you know that Pre-Booking could or could not affect television ratings (by trial and error, I found out that it does affect TV ratings), but when you pre-book a match or angle, you have to then go back into the option and add it in by clicking a button to erase it from the Pre-Booking screens.

I mean, in a way this is pretty helpful as you don't have to open up a list of angles, find the angle you want, pick the workers, set the time, etc., but I'm human and sometimes I forget and even if I run the same match or angle I had already pre-booked, it will stay in the Pre-Booking option until I delete it myself. It was one of those rare moments where I felt like I was baby-sitting the game and forced it to pay attention to what I had wanted to do, instead of the game being functional enough to do these things by itself.

I could be here all day if I wanted to just going into depth with all the changes – a ridiculous amount at that --- GDS made for the latest, and greatest, iteration of the TEW series. However, make no bones about it, TEW 2013's changes are all improvements to either the flow of the game, ease of access or general look of it all. Speaking of which, as a TEW veteran, the “Your Office” screen was a bit of a headache to stare at the first couple of times I started passing through the days.

I didn't know where to rest my eyes whether it was the top-right corner with the “Email” and “Decision” buttons, the middle portion with a ton of quick access reads such as “Recap Last Show”, “Quick Finance” or “Booker's Advice”, or the bottom layer with its own gaggle of different options. In the 2010 version, you had a simpler and cleaner Control Panel, but once you get the hang of this newer version, it can save you a lot of time elsewhere; this was just a fair warning.

If there was anything I felt TEW 2013 was missing, it may have been the lack of an online component to the game to help share your files with your friends. I mean, previous versions of the game ship with a multi-player aspect in mind but only if it's played in person on the same computer. Is it realistic to assume that the core audience of TEW all live in close enough proximity to share just one computer and take turns playing what already takes hours to play through with just one person? I mean, the only other alternative to play online with friends is to share files through Dropbox or create a message board and post shows there (or use the nifty official TEW '13 forums). As the game says: it's 2013.

Creating an online infrastructure for TEW from such a small team may be asking a ton, but even including options to at least have a direct click to the GDS forums (such as, “Post Show Results To GDS Friends List”) would be a monumental step for this wrestling simulator series.

As it stands, Total Extreme Wrestling 2013 is by far the best entry in the long-standing TEW series and the best wrestling simulator to date. In fact, it may rival other sports simulators whether it be the built-in EA GM modes for their FIFA or NBA or Madden games or WWE's attempts at sims. Another fair bit of warning would come by way of the game's hefty price-tag; TEW 2013 will run you $35 USD. I have personally seen a plethora of users ask anyone who paid for the newer versions if the purchases were worth it, and the majority of the time those users said it was, but could it be time for the series to finally drop their standard prices to something more appealing?

I get the developer is taking advantage financially of a game that is sure to be in high demand within its niche, but it's still a video-game that is in competition with other video-games that may sometimes be more worthy of that much money such as The Walking Dead (not online, but a Game of the Year worthy experience), Call of Duty (last year's used went for as much during the holidays), or even Minecraft which is huge online. With that being said, TEW 2010 dropped to a nicer $30 and various other GDS developed simulators have gone on sale with TEW 2005 being available for free.

Enough of my quibbling; if you were unsure about whether or not to give in to the price-tag of TEW 2013, let me tell you that TEW 2013 has provided me with the best wrestling sim experience I have ever had the pleasure of playing through and I expect it to for years to come. So, do yourself a favor and head over to the GDS Store and buy this game! Now, if only there were news about a World of Mixed Martial Arts 4 (thank to a reader for the catch)...

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