Some of you may know that the latest instalment in the WWE gaming franchise 2K20 was released late last year to generally poor reviews. Some of this was based on graphical issues, but mostly it was due to the many glitches and bugs found – many of which are hilarious to witness.
Now it would be easy to say that we are currently at a low point for wrestling games, but that seems a little unfair. The behind the scenes issues facing the developers have been widely reported, and it isn’t like WWE games haven’t had some bugs before.
In this article, FinalBoss look at the overall decline in the wrestling game genre as a whole.
One the biggest gameplay gameplay elements in wrestling games is the number of match types available.
A typical WWE show is a spectacle and as such features a variety of matches from the standard 1v1 or tag team match to other more over-the-top contests. Over the years, structures such as cages have been used to amp up the danger factor, as well as objects like tables and ladders or even extreme rules/hardcore matches allowing normally illegal weapons to be used legally to inflict more damage.
There’s no doubt that 2K20 and other recent iterations have plenty of match types including Elimination Chamber, Backstage Brawls and even Iron Man matches, but unfortunately the wrestlers don’t fly around the arena in Marvel-themed metal suits. Instead, a time limit is set and the winner is whoever has the most pin falls or submissions by the end of that time.
It seems a shame that the many match types from previous titles are missing completely from modern games.
Matches like Special Referee, where a wrestler can wear the shirt of an official and count the pin fall and count outs, but can also choose to attack the wrestlers; which is a huge part of the matches appeal. We also used to have an ‘I Quit’ match, which has you beating your opponent until they are forced to say ‘I Quit’ into a microphone. And what about First Blood? Which, as the title suggests, has a winner declared when they are the first to draw blood.
Even something as simple as 2 out of 3 falls, that allows damage to be carried across from one match to the next, is no longer featured.
Part of this lack of match type may not be down to the developers but rather due to the WWE changing its content with the introduction the PG era, meaning that some of the more extreme matches have been toned down or removed completely.
There’s no doubt though, that when comparing recent titles to those of previous generations the more arcade-style of gameplay has been left in the past and the games are now made more like a sports sim. It’s down to the individual as to which style is preferred but, as with many sports sim games, the annual releases have been blending into each other with little to no difference in gameplay apart from an updated roster.
The Wrestling ‘Monopoly’
Another factor in the quality of wrestling games is the lack of market variety compared to earlier console generations. Looking back over the 4 PlayStation generations, there are significant changes to the number of titles released.
- The PS1 had 16 wrestling games in its catalogue of which only 6 were WWF/WWE.
- The PS2 wrestling scene exploded with 28 wrestling games released of which 12 were WWE.
- The PS3 dropped considerably to less than the PS1, with only 14 tiles of which 6 were cross-generation with the PS2 and 12 of those 14 titles were WWE games.
- The PS4, at the time of writing, has just 7 wrestling games. Of these 7 titles, 6 are WWE games with only Fire Pro Wrestling standing out from the crowd.
So, what happened?
The first noticeable change between PS1 & PS2 is the lack of WCW or ECW titles on the later console. During the PS1 era the WWF/WWE had these two major rivals. Between them, they released multiple titles on the console. However, by the time the PS2 had come around, WWE had bought out its two competitors and their roster of superstars started to feature in later WWE games.
The second change is the PS2 has such a large catalogue of games, 3800 compared to the PS1’s 1300 titles. Also, there is the long lifespan of the PS2 to consider, with wrestling games being released on the console for over a decade. In total for the PS2, we had 3 All-Star Wrestling titles, 2 Fire Pro Wrestling titles and 2 Backyard Wrestling titles.
Unfortunately, this did not follow on with the PS3. The console was notorious for being difficult to develop for, but there’s no way to be sure if this or something else contributed to the drastic drop in wrestling games, specifically non-WWE, wrestling games from being released.
So, what is there to say? Can we categorically say that the genre of the wresting game has become worse over time? Really, that’s down to the individual and what you want from the games. For those that want the competitive sports sim then the latest title will always be the option for you. Those who are wanting a more arcade-style game with greater match variety will need to dust off their older consoles.
What I am sure of is that for 20+ years we have been lucky to have some great wrestling games to play with some brilliant variety to be enjoyed either solo or multiplayer. I just hope personally that we can see more variety going forward. Who knows, maybe the AEW are secretly working on a WWE 2K killer in the shadows. Only time will tell.
This article was contributed by Roy Turner, follow him on Twitter!