Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring Review
Let me start by saying I’m a huge wrestling and video game fan. Separate from each other that’s fine, but combined it’s like living in a powder keg and giving off sparks. For every great wrestling game there have been 6 bad ones; for every Fire Pro Wrestling or No Mercy we had a dozen like WCW Thunder or Backyward Wrestling. Despite knowing they’re bad games, I have had the unfortunate luck of being obsessed to the point of actively seeking out these game. I honestly can’t control myself. No matter how terrible I will play a game if it has wrestling in it. This review is an example of that. I paid $60 for this.
Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring(PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Developer: Immersion Software & Graphics
Released: October 12, 2010
The menu music is very good. It feels unique for a wrestling game and that’s exactly what this product needs. I especially love the music in the edit mode. It’s very slow and downbeat; much different than anything I’ve ever heard in a “create a wrestle” mode. As far as theme music, the luchadores have knock-offs of their real licensed themes and that’s alright to me. They all sound fine.
Arenas are nicely done. There is a circus arena for the Psycho Circus that I absolutely loved. You can see elephants, seals, and other animals walking around in the crowd. It looks like a wrestling ring in the middle of a circus tent and I love it. Another arena I really loved takes place at night in an outdoor venue which you don’t see ever in wrestling games. The graphics really shine in that level.
The graphics are good for a game of this caliber. Everything is slick looking. The models are big and fill up the screen nicely. I don’t know much about Lucha Libre, but the luchadores I recognized look very much like who they’re supposed to be. The best part about the graphics is the damage modeling. This is very subtle and you might not really take time to appreciate it. If you beat on a guy’s face he’ll have cuts and bruises on it, legs and arms get little chunks and cuts taken out of them if you work the body part enough, but my absolute favorite part of this is the rips and tears you’ll see in a luchadores mask. It’s a nice little touch that I didn’t expect at all.
One problem I did have is that a lot of the animation is either robotic or looks too unrealistic. For instance, the torture rack looks like the guy wraps himself around the shoulders of his opponent like a snake. Most of the animation is passable with a few stand-out exceptions like “DDT 1” which is one the best DDTs I’ve ever seen in a wrestling video game. It’s the closest anyone has ever come to matching Jake the Snake’s DDT in video game form.
The Edit Mode is basic. It’s better than, say, TNA Impact, but can’t touch Smackdown as far as current wrestling games go. You have limited clothing options and limited designs, but the mask creating has a good amount of options.
The most unfortunate part about this mode is the number of edit slots you have: four. That’s not enough to do anything with. The games story only allows you to play as edits so you would think they would have spent more time putting options in here, but as it stands its basic like most of the game. You won’t be re-creating many real guys or going wild with edits. Barely serviceable. It reminds me of WWF Attitude with fewer options.
Banner Editor seems worthless. You basically create a sign that the audience will hold up. I personally have only noticed my created sign once so it’s not even a big thing. It’s neat they decided to include it, but you can’t tie your signs to the edits you want or anything like that. There are four slots to save your signs and you pick the one you want to be displayed during matches. It’s a non-factor in this game.
There are two story modes in the game; one for the Rudos and one for the Technicos. I was honestly lost through most of these. In the Rudos campagin I wasn’t sure half way through if I was a good guy, bad guy, or neutral. Eventually in both campaigns you come to a handicap match that is reminiscent of the handicap matches in No Mercy, only I’d wager that these are harder than those even on the Normal difficulty. The campaigns took me roughly 5 hours each, and an hour and a half each on easy. Not really anything to write home about here, but the live action videos in-between were a nice touch.
The controls are fairly simple. Left trigger goes into a strong grapple and right trigger goes in to a weak grapple. From inside the grapples you press one of the face buttons to do a move. This is refreshing when you have games on the market like TNA Impact! that have such complicated grapple controls. To do special moves you build your popularity meter up, pull both the triggers at the same time, then go into a grapple. Strikes are fairly simple as well. X does punches, Y does kicks, and B does strong attacks. Strong attacks are risky because a reversal of one of those leaves you on the ground. Speaking of reversals, can reverse almost every attack by timing a press of the right bumper, and you can also hold it down to block strikes, but this leaves you vulnerable for a second. The left trigger pins, right trigger does grapples on the ground. It’s a very simple system and after a few matches you’ll never be confused with how to do anything.
The popularity meter is a good re-imagining of the momentum meter. You gain crowd support in the form of stars to unlock your strong grapples, and eventually your finishing move. The more you cheat as a Rudo the more popularity you gain. The more you follow the rules as a Technico the more popularity you gain. It’s a good system, though following Rudo or Technico tactics doesn’t lead to that much extra popularity versus just landing moves and reversals. I’m happy they tried something a bit different and something a bit more suited for Lucha Libre.
I do have a lot of problems with the system. For one thing you can’t reverse high flying moves at all. Pretty much everything else is reversible. I sort of see this as a way to balance the system out a bit, but I would have liked to have had total control. The best thing you can do is to tap the A button as fast as possible to get up before the guy jumps at you, but that’s another facet of the game I’m not too fond of. Having to mash the A button every time you take some major damage is a pain. It becomes a chore after playing a few matches.
I’m happy they tried an AKI-lite system instead of trying something too unfamiliar and over-complicating things. However, this copying of the AKI system does lead to clunky moments. If you remember in No Mercy you’d have certain unblockable situations like when standing up or crouching down. This has moments like that were you can tell the gameplay has that AKI influence. This is a much clunkier copycat of that engine, and the special system does force you to use a finisher once you have your meter filled up which I feel is restricting, but since this has more of an arcade feel I understand the decision.
I saved this for last because it’s my biggest complaint: the high flying system. A game like TNA Impact! actually did this right with all its faults. You had multiple springboard moves off the ropes, about three different high flying moves depending on which way your guy was facing on the turnbuckle. That game had a lot of freedom in its high flying and it just felt right. In this game you have two high flying moves whether the opponent is lying down or standing, and one tope if they’re outside of the ring. That’s it. No springboards or apron moves. No different moves depending on where you’re facing. I’m not an expert on Lucha Libre, but I’ve seen enough to know that high flying and risk taking is a huge part of it. This should have been a top priority in development.
The game isn’t terrible. It’s a very basic arcadey wrestling. If you’re willing to accept that it’s maybe worth a rental. For the “hardcore” wrestling fan there isn’t much here. The match flow doesn’t come anywhere close to a real wrestling match, there’s about 60 moves total with a quarter of them finishers, about 40 in-game luchadores and only four edit slots. It feels like they struggled to create a basic gameplay engine and then tacked on the AAA license. For the lucha libre fans in the audience, there isn’t even an option for trio matches. I think that might tell you all you need to know.
They didn’t do enough with the AAA license, gameplay wise, to really make the game stand out from other wrestling games. This was a unique chance to create a different wrestling game, but instead they opted to clone a ten year old engine. Poorly.