Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 Review (PC)
Most wrestling fans are happy to tune in each Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday night and see their favorite characters battle it out on TV. But some wrestling fans are more interested in what goes on behind the scenes than what happens on the small screen. If you have ever wanted to be Vince McMahon or Eric Bischoff, this game is for you. Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 does one thing better than any pro-wrestling simulation that you have ever played: It gives you the feeling of running a wrestling promotion from top to bottom.
Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 (TEW 2010 for short) is the fourth installment in the TEW series from Adam Ryland and Grey Dog Software. It has been about 18 months since Total Extreme Wrestling 2008 was released. In that time, series creator Adam Ryland has taken an enormous amount of fan feedback into consideration. The result is 200 new modifications and additions, making this the best pro-wrestling simulator on the planet.
TEW is back and sporting some notable improvements.
Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 is a text-based simulation similar to Out of the Park Baseball, Football Mogul and World of Mixed Martial Arts. So right from the start, you know that TEW 2010 will be a menu-driven game. The game starts out by asking you to choose the active regions of the world. Here, for example, you can choose to turn off any of the promotions to streamline the process and loading times. Next you choose a one-, two-, three- or four-player game.
Now it is time to select an avatar to represent you. One of the new additions to TEW 2010 is the ability to customize your avatar's talents. You are given 20 points to distribute between four skills: negotiation, motivation, creativity and leadership. How you choose to spread around these points will determine your strengths and weaknesses in the game. The addition of skill points (you gain one more point for each 100 shows you complete) is a welcomed RPG-style element to the world of TEW.
After setting up your user preferences, you choose the promotion that you want to start with. In this review, I used the default CornellVerse, but there are many real-world mods available using both today's pro-wrestling promotions, workers and scenarios from wrestling's past. In the CornellVerse, you choose to start with one of 36 available promotions from all over the world.
While there are no adjustable difficulty options, you control how tough your experience is going to be indirectly via your choice of promotion. Obviously, starting with a larger WWE-style promotion will give you a huge advantage, while starting with a small independent promotion will yield a much stiffer challenge. You have the option to start as the owner of any of the 36 promotions -- answering to no one (think Vince McMahon) -- but the real fun comes from being the head booker.
As the head booker you will wear many hats. You are an event booker, deciding which matches, interviews, skits and stories to tell. You are a talent evaluator, scouting free agents as well as workers in other promotions. You are a businessman, negotiating contracts for your workers, television deals, pay-per-view deals and making choices on merchandising and production. You also must satisfy certain goals that the owner of the company puts forth.
The meat and potatoes of the game is booking your shows. This part of the game is rock solid, and new additions such as drag and drop booking and stronger AI-controlled competition really make the experience that much more enjoyable. However, storylines are still a little hard to manage. Storylines are key to getting people to watch your product regularly, so the fact that they are still a little clunky to create and navigate shows that there is still room to improve future TEW installments.
Once you begin to make your mark in this sandbox world of professional wrestling, you will begin to get feedback from your workers, your agents, the in-game Web site and the new dirt sheet. The dirt sheet is new to TEW, and it is a great way to keep track of what is working and what is not. Wannabe bookers would be wise to heed the advice given on the dirt sheet. Each segment is assigned a grade from A to F and then the entire show is given a grade. Your ultimate "goal" is to be the number one wrestling promotion in the world, and it is up to you to create matches and stories that increase your promotion's popularity and importance.
Creating matches and stories while managing your roster with TEW is simpler than ever.
To put it simply, a lot is new in TEW 2010. Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 includes 200 new additions and modifications, according to series creator Adam Ryland. Some of these changes are under the hood, but many others are very easy to see and appreciate. The aforementioned drag and drop booking and dirt sheet are not the only notable additions. Some of the new game changers include hair length, masks, auto-naming of segments, dirty tricks, sick bumps, predatory AI hiring, injury-frequency options, shoot interviews, achievements, top 10 lists and a completely overhauled locker room morale system. Most of these are self-explanatory, but I want to expand on a few of them.
Dirty tricks allow you to try and sabotage rival companies you are at "war" with by planting fake stories, mocking them on your TV shows and hiring people to disrupt their shows with signs and chants. Dirty tricks have a great balance of risk/reward. If you succeed, you damage your competition's reputation. If you fail, you take a major hit to yours. It adds another layer of strategy to an already deep game.
Predatory AI hiring is an attempt to make the AI more "human-like" in its approach to talent. One of my biggest gripes from TEW 2008 was that the AI was never aggressive enough in trying to steal my talent or outbid me for free agents. Now the AI will attempt to expand or reduce its roster size based on economic factors and popularity, and attempt to sign big names more often.
One of the largest changes is the new locker room morale system. You will handle this every day in the game world, and managing your locker room is now more challenging and strategic than ever before. Individual workers have both positive and negative effects on your overall morale. If a worker becomes disgruntled because he does not agree with a decision you made, he might intentionally work a lazy match, spread negative rumors and start fights backstage. If your star wrestler becomes disgruntled, you could be in big trouble, just like in real life.
On the flip side, there are also positive influences. These are the workers, usually veterans who are good to have around because they share experience with the younger workers on your roster and generally keep morale high. Sometimes these "locker room leaders" may not be the most skilled workers. Balancing the locker room is great fun and very frustrating as well at times. I consider this to be the most "sim" part of the experience because it mimics real-life backstage politics in pro wrestling very well.
Presentation and Graphics
It is hard to rate a text-based sim on its graphics. TEW 2010 has no animations, no entrances and no motion graphics at all. The interface is nicely arranged and requires less clicks to get to the relevant information than in TEW 2008. It also adds some helpful buttons in the control room and has built-in customizable skin support. As far as text-based sims go, I have to say that TEW 2010's interface is very well done.
Another aspect of TEW 2010's graphics are the worker pictures. Every worker in the game has a picture along with a short biography. Every promotion has a logo that represents it as well. Obviously fans looking for graphical representations of the action like those in WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2010 will be disappointed. There is also no sound at all in the game. However, most people will just put on the music in the background, so this is not a huge deal at all.
Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 is obviously a niche product. It targets a certain portion of the pro-wrestling audience, as well as those who enjoy a more "insider" approach to pro wrestling. It excels in what it attempts to achieve. In its current form of menu-driven, text-heavy gameplay, it will probably never be a huge commercial success. That said, I could not recommend this game strongly enough. I played TEW 2008 weekly all the way up until the release of TEW 2010, and now I can never go back to TEW 2008.
TEW 2010 is everything I could ask for in the genre it resides in, but it also has that certain "it" factor that all great games have. It is fun and addictive. It requires strategy, planning and careful management. Total Extreme Wrestling 2010 is a great value for your gaming dollar, and I recommend you buy it and enjoy it.
In The Ring: Live your dream of running a pro-wrestling company.
Graphics: Interface serves its purpose, workers have photos to give personality. Presentation is passable.
Sound Design: No sound effects whatsoever.
Online: No online play, but user-created mods extend the replay value.
Entertainment Value: Fun and addictive. Be prepared to lose track of lots of time.
Learning Curve: New players face a steep learning curve. The Grey Dog Software forums are a big help.
Score: 8.5 Excellent