TITLE: WWE WrestleMania 21
Distrubuted by THQ/Jakks
DEVELOPER: Studio Gigante
DATE RELEASED: April 20, 2005
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 1-4
XBOX SYSTEM LINK: no
XBOX LIVE COMPATABLE: yes
HDTV Support: none (480i)
Communicator Headest: yes
Content Download: no
Online Multiplayer: yes
5.1 Surround Sound: yes
ESRB: Teen: Blood, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence
Retail Price: $49.99
This is the third installment of WWE wrestling games for the Xbox...and the THIRD developer for said games (I believe Asmik/Anchor handled Raw, and Asmik got canned toward the end of Raw 2's development cycle and I don't remember who took over which left Raw 2 as an unpolished game, just like Raw).
Graphics - Mind you, I'm playing on an old 19" TV, but being that this game doesn't support HD, there isn't much missed out on. The graphics look somewhat improved over Raw 2, but I wish that Studio Gigante would've used Normal Mapping so that the wrestlers didn't look like plastic figures (they can't say it can't be done since games like Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory uses it, and I'm not sure if DOA3/DOAX/DOAU uses it (and maybe didn't need it) and it doesn't look plasticy). The entrance ways are well done, as is the ring and ringside area, but the other areas look a tad generic (offices, backstage, parking lot, etc.).
Audio - Outside of a few new bands added to the list, it's the same F**KING song list as on Raw vs. SmackDown! and Day of Reckoning. If WWE must insist on bands contributing music for the games, please follow EA's example and use different music for EACH game...how many times must one hear Bring the Noise? Music bitching aside, the voice overs are nice...at least for the wrestlers. Tazz/Michael Cole/JR/Jerry Lawler's commentary tracks are all holdovers from the other two mentioned games...and gets annoying fast since there's little variety. Use a dual-layer DVD if you have to, dammit! The game weighed in at less than 4GB (I checked...). Usual punch/kick/grunt/slam sounds as well.
Gameplay - Here's where it all falls apart. First, THQ is blaming the disc pressing facility for the studdering in the replays at the end of the matches...I say bullshit! Playing from the disc, it stutters a LOT...especially during a heavy read, but it's less noticable when I copy it to the HDD and play it from there. For that reason alone, there was a patch released on Xbox Live to cure only the replay studdering, and for those without Xbox Live have to call the disc pressing company and tell them you have a bad WrestleMania 21 disc (they then overnight, via UPS, a box to send the bad disc back to them and then you get a replacement disc...about a week turnaround). Gameplay is further haunted by pathetic AI. You could beat the crap out of your opponent and with one slip-up (and trust me, it's easy to do), your opponent(s) will beat the hell out of you...and this is on Amateur difficulty. Collision detection is horrid, as this affects striking AND grappling. Your opponent can be at a point where you think they can't grapple or hit you, but you get grappled or hit. This breakdown leads to a match becoming a "How quickly can I make him tap out" kind of deal. The cherry on top is the sluggish controls...ALL THROUGHOUT THE GAME, MENUS INCLUDED! You actually have to pause between button presses on the menus to get it to work. The career mode is alright, but is shallow in the depth of storyline (of course, I also preferred the Raw 2 carrer mode).
There is an upside, and it's a very shadowed upside by all the bad things about this game. This is the second WWE game to offer online play, but the first one to offer more than one-on-one matches that Raw vs. SmackDown! offered only. Just about everymatch you can do offline can be done online as well. Also, you can create titles and put them up for grabs on Xbox Live (you create a belt, challenge/defend the belt a few times offline to build up the belt's prestige, then can offer it online where anyone can challenge for it by sending you a challenge).
Overall, this game is more trouble than it's worth. With lousy collision detection, sluggish controls, and nothing much new this is more of a "rent it and see if you can tolerate the problems" rather than outright buy it. I could probably be considered generous in giving this game 6 out of 10.