Tired Of Having Your Intelligence Insulted? Get Real With The Wrestling Mpire!

Wrestling MPire boasts a 200-strong roster across 9 pools of wrestlers, and marked the first full-pro-wrestling game MDickie produced in 3D! Alongside this, an in-depth Career Mode was put into place, as well as the game allowing up to 30 wrestlers and 100 items on the screen all at once.

Welcome To The Jungle

The "Wrestling MPire" is a huge network of promotions from all over the world, which has brought order to the wrestling industry. Featuring over 200 wrestlers, spread across 9 talent pools, it is by far the biggest world ever seen in gaming - or real life for that matter! It's the most diverse world too - featuring 6 unique majors, a wrestling school, a star-studded retirement home, and a resting ground for the deceased. Each of the 6 main federations are truly distinctive - from their selection of wrestlers through to their Popularity and Reputation. Federation Online is a product of "shock TV", featuring the most outrageous action and characters. All American Wrestling is the star-studded industry leader. United Kingdom of Wrestling is a rough, no-nonsense organization. Rising Sun Puroresu is an honourable Japanese outfit, which boasts incredible talent. Maple Leaf Grappling is a brutal shoot-fighting group, featuring the world's real tough guys. And finally, Super Lucha Libre is a colourful Mexican show that specializes in high-flying action.

The Learning Curve

Before you get to enjoy any of those promotions though, you must pay your dues on the "Wrestling School" circuit. This pool is full of laughably bad wannabe's - all hoping for their big break. You must turn up week after week, and bust your ass for free in an eerily quiet training hall. It's not always such a depressing experience though. Every month the students get to put on a small show for the local residents, which is a rare chance to enjoy working the crowd. Even more exciting is the possibility of a famous wrestler dropping in to give you a work-out! It's often an eye-opening reminder of what it takes to beat a professional...

Contract Killer

If you show potential at wrestling school, the heavyweights will come sniffing around eventually. Their agenda is to sign you up for slave labour, so it's a good job that you have a say in contract negotiations! When the time comes, a booker will state his position and then offer you a deal. You may then make any changes you see fit, before submitting it back to be considered. This battle of wills takes place until a deal can be agreed upon - or until the booker loses his patience! Your power in negotiations is accurately based on how talented and valuable you are. Popularity is the biggest factor, and those that have it can pretty much call the shots. Those that don't will often find themselves lucky to have a job whatsoever.

Read The Small Print

Getting a generous salary and a relaxed contract duration is just the tip of the iceberg in this game. Just like in real life, there's the "small print" to look out for. These are 4 additional options that can have a devastating effect on your life. The first is the best example: image rights. If you let this one slip then you'll find yourself losing control of everything from your name to your costume! You'll become a doll for the booker to play with as he wishes. As frustrating as this is, it's simply another case of paying your dues. Until a wrestler becomes a major player at an organization, they cannot possibly be trusted to develop their own gimmick. Next up is a "Performance Clause", which states what you have to do to get paid. Bookers like to set it so that you receive a reduced amount - or nothing at all - if you lose. This can ruin an unlucky wrestler's life, but on the flipside it's the perfect motivation to succeed! Another clause that can ruin your life is the "Health Policy". Injuries are all too common, and if you don't negotiate some cover you could find yourself losing money whenever you can't work. The fourth and final clause is the "Training Policy", which simply states how much - if anything - the company is willing to pay towards your training. These clauses make the 6 federations even more unique, because each booker has a different approach to negotiations. Federation Online, for instance, don't care about controlling your image - whereas Super Lucha Libre consider it essential...

Bring Home The Bacon

All of this talk about money is more important than you'd think, because every week your finances are calculated. You have a bank balance to worry about, and your income can sometimes go as easily as it came! First up is living costs. If your character is over 18 then life isn't free. Roughly one sixth of your income - whatever it may be - is fluttered away on life. This means you have to work hard just to make ends meet, and as a student you will even find yourself paying out of your own pocket to stay in the business! Other costs are a little more optional - such as training, managers, and gimmicks. It's not just your ring work that brings in the money though - backstage banter with fellow wrestlers can also lead to an exchange of cash...

Step Into My Office

Contracts are just one of many subjects that bookers like to talk to you about. Once you're employed by them, you can be called into their office at any time for a discussion. These include turning Face/Heel, becoming a Tag/Singles wrestler - and possibly less honourable matters, such as taking steroids or being blackmailed! In this game, how you handle yourself backstage is just as important as what happens inside the ring...

Tales From The Locker Room

These meetings can also extend to the locker room, where it's fellow wrestlers that are doing the talking. As you'd expect, they can range from friendly offers to corrupt threats. Either way, you have to be just as careful with them as you would with a booker. When a wrestler gets upset they settle it in the ring - or even with a backstage brawl! Either can make your life a misery if you're not careful. Anybody that takes up residence as your "Enemy" will regularly interfere in your matches, and perhaps even act as a corrupt referee if they get a chance! On the other hand, you can also make friends who will cover your back more often than not...

Master of Ceremonies

The storylines can often spill out into the ring. In fact, that's were most of them originate! The game cleverly acknowledges what went down in a match - such as an interference - and occasionally sets up an angle for the following week. With microphones in hand, the wrestlers then make their voices heard. There are over 30 such storylines, so you can go through an entire career without seeing them all! There are solo speeches too - for situations such as arriving at a federation, or saying farewell when your contract expires. Thankfully, they're arranged automatically so all you have to do is go with the flow...

Know Your Role

Your exploits in any company are largely governed by the role you take. Once you've established a firm friendship there's often the opportunity to work the Tag Team circuit full-time. This is entirely a matter of taste, of course, but sometimes it's good to share the workload. The obvious drawback is that dedicating yourself to the doubles division takes you out of the World title race - although you do have the Tag titles to pursue instead. In any case, you can revert back to Singles competition whenever the opportunity arises. Another factor in the role issue is whether you choose to be a "Face" (good guy) or a "Heel" (bad guy). Far from an empty gesture, your allegiance decides which side of the roster you're likely to face (Faces are booked against Heels and vice versa). So if you take the time to study the rosters, you can actually make it a tactical decision...

Dressed To Kill

If you're fortunate enough to have control of your image then you can have a lot of fun developing your character. You have access to a limited version of the editor at all times, where you are invited to adjust everything from your name and theme music through to your various costumes. You can even revise your move set if your training regime is good enough. As drastic as these changes sound, they all happen bit by bit - because it all costs a little money here and there. There's also the fact that you don't have full control over things such as your build and height (they come over time or with training). All in all, this means your image evolves as it would in real life - whereby you look back after a few years and barely recognize the person you once were! That feeling proved so significant that it was actually incorporated into the screenshot system. Whenever you take a photo it's saved in a special folder, complete with your character's name and the date in your game world. You can then take a look a few months later and be reminded of your greatest moments...

Self Improvement

Developing your image is pretty much a luxury, but developing your skills is essential. As a student, you start out with mostly pathetic statistics and you must then mould yourself into the wrestler you want to be. This is largely done with training, where you can choose which area to work on and how hard to do so. Even then it's a slow process - one which may never end! Due to the nature of the business, a wrestler's body is constantly being knocked backwards. Every injury undoes most of your hard work, and sometimes skills can deteriorate or improve at random after each bout. If you don't make the effort to rehabilitate yourself then you could find yourself struggling to perform...

Killer Rep

Your most important attribute, "Popularity", is one of the few things that cannot be honed to perfection in the gym. This statistic is governed by your in-ring performance, as it goes up with each win and down with each loss. Your "Reputation" is similarly affected. This statistic tells the world what kind of wrestler you are - ranging from a depraved hardcore act to a highly respected technician. The value goes up every time you take part in a clean match, and down every time you overdose on the weapons! However, Reputation is one of the few values that doesn't necessarily need to be high. Your style is a matter of taste, and you're well within your rights to become a hardcore legend. Just don't expect to have the world's most respectable outfits fighting over you... and you can kiss that health insurance goodbye!

Making The Headlines

You'd be forgiven for thinking the MPire revolves around you, but it doesn't. Every week you're kept up-to-date with the latest news - from your company and others around the world. The other wrestlers evolve as surely as you do, and so do the federations themselves. Titles change hands, careers deteriorate or improve, wrestlers jump ship, and entire companies lose their way. This makes it essential that you pay attention to what's happening. A promotion you had plans to work for might have lost its appeal, whilst one you dismissed might have blossomed. Likewise, a wrestler you grew up with at school might have soared to stardom - whilst the wrestlers you used to respect deteriorate into cripples...

The Wonder Years

The fleeting of time makes the evolution of the world even more interesting. Your annual schedule is broken down into 12 months of 4 weeks - and even the year is recorded, taken from the real life year that you started the career. It then progresses as it would in reality, so you find yourself working deep into the 21st century! In any case, the months consist of three TV tapings and one spectacular PPV at the end. That's not your schedule set in stone though. Shows can be cancelled at the drop of a hat, and new ones such as charity or inter-promotional events can be booked for the weeks ahead. Your company can even go on tour with multiple PPV's, which bring in some big pay days! The inter-promotional events are the most rewarding shows though, because these rare nights bring the Wrestling MPire together. Instead of the usual suspects from your own show, you get to face talent from other companies - usually your counterpart too, resulting in a clash of the champions! These events are made even more special thanks to formal introductions, in which each wrestler is accompanied by their booker and introduced by a guest referee...

This One's For You

The most special of nights are the memorial shows, which take place whenever a famous wrestler dies. As in real life, death is all too common - and can happen both in and out of the ring. Far from the gratuitous butchering seen in most games, death in the Wrestling MPire is a shocking event that's handled very tastefully. Your booker solemnly asks you if you want to take part, and if you do you will then proceed to lead a touching tribute to the deceased grappler - whose portrait haunts you from the video screen...

"I'm a wrestler... get me outta here!"

With a bit of luck you'll survive to see your retirement, which you can choose to do at any time. It's not all about quitting when you're bored though. As it should be in real life, retirement in this game is also about 'going out on top'. When you retire your career is analysed, based on 4 key factors, and awarded a percentage. The first factor is "Success", which is basically your win rate. Keep going when you're a broken down wreck and you'll taint that score! Next up is "Experience", which is perfected by working for all 6 major companies, holding all 6 World championships, AND having Tag success. Achieving a good score there is what keeps wrestlers going for as long as possible. Third is "Wealth", which is based on how much money you had in the bank upon retiring. The fourth and final factor is "Dignity", which is yet another reason to go out in your prime. This score is based on the prestige of your final working place and the value of your body. For instance, if you're a broken down wrestler that's embarrassing himself back at school then you've got no dignity! The overall score is simply the average of those 4 values, and works out to be spookily accurate. Another nice touch is that your high scores are recorded in a "Hall of Fame", so you can compare and contrast your previous efforts...

Meet Your Match

Throughout your career you get to participate in dozens of different matches. However, the most amazing contests take place when you set the rules yourself in the Exhibition mode! Here you get to mix and match every single option that makes up a bout - from the rules and aim, through to exactly what counts as a fall. You can even decide what's on the line - from championships through to "Loser Leaves Town" stipulations! For your convenience their are plenty of presets, but the opportunity to create your own matches is hard to resist. Especially when you've got the Royal Rumble style "sequential" format at your disposal. This option takes Battle Royals one step further by breaking the wrestler entrances down to one every minute. Sure enough, with each passing minute a buzzer sounds and the next wrestler pops through the curtain to join the action. For added authenticity, you can even choose "over the top" as the elimination method - resulting in a sumo war like no other! The match is especially interesting in this game, since there are countless ways to topple over the ropes - from move throw-outs, to knock-outs, and even accidental stumbles..

Two's Company; Twenty Two's A Crowd!

The most jaw-dropping aspect to this game is that you can have a record-shattering 25 characters in the arena at any one time! You do, of course, need a lethally strong computer to get away with matches that big - but it's good to know that the option is there. In any case, most computers will be able to handle up to 10 or 15 - and that's certainly enough to be getting on with! This feature does, of course, enhance the match possibilities even further. For a start, you can have "real-time" rumbling - with every character on screen whenever they need to be. The team possibilities are the most exciting though. You can have 10 vs 10 wars, or 5 vs 5 tag bouts - both of which offer mind-blowing chaos!

Directing Traffic

Even the most outrageous matches never get out of hand, thanks to a handy label system that follows the characters around. They remind you who the legal men are, who needs to "get out!", who's been eliminated, who's injured... and practically everything else you'd need to know! They never interfere with the action either; only ever appearing when absolutely necessary. The health bars, on the other hand, didn't translate so well to the world of 3D - so they're reduced to static displays that adorn the top of the screen. They're nice and tidy though, and easy to recognize thanks to each wrestler's name and portrait. In any case, like many things, they can be toggled on or off at any time...

Control Freak

In true MDickie style, every single aspect of these matches are fully interactive. You don't need to be walked to the ring - you can do that yourself! Every wrestler starts backstage, behind the curtain - as they would in real life. If you look closely, or even move the camera back there, you can see for yourself! Then, when their time comes, each wrestler appears and marches to the ring - where they 'patiently' wait for the match to start. At least that's the idea, but wrestlers have been known to get a few cheap shots in before the bell. As ever, the wrestlers are accompanied by their own light show and theme music too. Speaking of which, this game sees the triumphant return of CD music - in addition to the 43 tracks supplied as standard!

Home Sweet Home

When the match comes to an end, you're even trusted to celebrate as you wish - and then make your own way back to the locker rooms. Doing so is of course a pointless exercise (there's nothing to stop you from pressing Escape), but in the Career mode it's sometimes nice to cherish your first title win, or your last match for a company, etc.

Hot Property

Another reason to hang around is to appreciate that each arena is decorated differently. Everything from the ground and walls of the main arena, through to those backstage, have several variations. These can range from the bright lights of a stadium through to a cosy brick hall - or even outdoor locations! The ring itself changes just as regularly, featuring various rope, canvas, and apron designs. Naturally, they're faithful to the type of show you're at (TV, PPV, etc.) and the federation that's promoting it. However, even the most familiar of arenas can be given a new edge thanks to the atmospheric effects. These different coloured clouds of mist give the locations a much more realistic feel - such as the sky blue that accompanies outdoor locations. The lighting itself has even been known to vary; giving some events a dull, realistic look whilst others are bright and cartoony. The true atmosphere is provided by the fans in attendance though, and it's painfully obvious how they vary. Depending on the promotion's Popularity, attendance can range from the embarrassing silence of an empty hall to the roar of a sold-out stadium! That's in the Career mode, of course. In Exhibitions you can mix and match all of the above to create your own environments.

Get The Tables!

No arena would be complete without furnishings, and that's yet another area where this game excels! Up to 50 items and 50 weapons can be placed on the scene - in whichever way you choose, from the tidy "Standard" layout through to the messy "Random" scattering. You can even choose which types of item or weapon are preferred - such as filling the ring with glass or explosives! Whatever the layout, the best thing about items is how interactive they are. Smashing through them is just the tip of the iceberg, as you can carry them, throw them, climb on them, burn them - and even fix them. You can even stain them with varying degrees of blood if you go too far! When it comes to interactivity, the smaller handheld weapons take it even further. These can be held during ANY action - and are often put to use too! Everything from the moves, to attacks, to flying crushes - and even submission holds - will carry a nasty little damage bonus if they're done with a weapon in hand. This breathes new life into even the most standard of moves, and opens up unlimited possibilities for destruction.

Behind Bars

Wrestlers that display such violent behaviour deserve to be 'behind bars' - and that's exactly where they'll find themselves if they're not careful! This game features several variations of steel cage - from wire mesh to square bars - each offering the same claustrophobic action. Not only do the cages act as one huge item that can grate the body of your opponent, but (for the first time ever in my games) they can be climbed too! Scaling the walls of the cage allows you to launch flying attacks from higher up than the usual turnbuckles - and they can be accessed much more easily to boot. That's where the cage gimmick stops though; there's no climb-out victory condition. I've never felt that works in real life, let alone in a game.

Rope Burn

If mountains of items, weapons, and steel cages still don't do it for you then fear not - there's plenty more carnage to see! The ropes themselves can turn the ring into a danger zone. Whether it's barbed wire, electrified cables, or old-fashioned flames, the ropes can become a flesh-eating weapon. With these gimmicks set, even climbing in and out can be a painful experience - let alone being whipped against them! If that's still not enough, you can also time the arena to explode. The explosions caused by TNT, or electrical equipment, will be the least of your concerns when the entire ring is due to blow! That's just the beginning too, as countless smaller blasts litter the arena until the match comes to a bloody end. Explosions are better than ever in this game as well - now sending anybody in their vicinity flying into the air in dramatic fashion. It's not all bad though; some explosions, such as those from fire extinguishers and water bottles, actually put out fires.

Air Play

If all of those deadly gimmicks start to feel tame, then you'll just have to take danger into your own hands! The most back-breaking bumps come from flying attacks, which can be launched from pretty much anything. The turnbuckles, the railings, the items, the cages - and even the video screen - can all be used as death-defying launch pads. Pulling off such stunts is a game in itself, somewhat reminiscent of Big BumpZ - especially when there are items involved! That feeling is enforced by the fact that you once again have a little control over your flight.

Damage Limitation

In this game, such reckless behaviour takes its toll like never before. The scarring introduced by Big BumpZ joins forces with the gore from The MDickie Show to produce the most painful action yet! It's serious business this time though, since you've got a Career to worry about. The health you lose and the injuries you incur all have very real effects - leaving you limping into your next match, or maybe even out of action completely. Those regrets are nothing compared to losing a limb though! As you'd expect, disabilities are also carried forward - leaving you disfigured for life. In extreme cases, it's even possible to kill and be killed.

Make Your Move

Fortunately, it's not all hardcore antics. This game builds on the brawling of The MDickie Show with a vast range of more sophisticated moves - and the introduction of ground grappling. Each wrestler has 2 holds for each half of the body (head and legs) with which to stretch a submission out of their opponent. The system is nicely handled too - featuring crawling, rope breaks, and even grimacing pain on the faces of the wrestlers! All in all, it makes the action much more technical and adds an extra dimension to the gameplay. So too does the introduction of Irish Whips. This most basic of wrestling moves has been missing from all of my previous games - but now it's finally arrived and is most welcome. Not only does it add a momentum move to your arsenal, but it also gives you an amusing means of sending your opponents hurtling into items!

Test Of Character

The new move sets aren't the only thing that makes the characters unique - a modified selection of models has also pushed things forward. For a start there are new and improved body shapes, extending all the way to Yokozuna style obesity! There are also one or two other novelty bodies - such as a big chin that Antonio Inoki would be proud of, and a male version of the skirt for punks like Raven. There are also new hairstyles, including a better Afro and a bizarre "Spikey" style that wouldn't look out of place in a Japanese cartoon! One of the most noticeable improvements is that the characters now have various heights too - ranging from 5 foot kids to 8 foot monsters. Seeing wrestlers of all shapes and sizes gives you get a better sense of who you should and shouldn't fear - making it an important part of the game. The system works perfectly too; hardly ever messing up the way the wrestlers interact with the scenery and each other.

The Latest Fashions

However, all of the above revelations are insignificant next to the brand new texturing system. Gone is the tiresome limb-by-limb approach; replaced by an effortless system that paints entire legs, arms, and bodies in one go - much like the 2D version. Not only does this make costume changes joyously simple, but it also looks much, much better. Every single costume is designed to wrap itself around the body correctly - and since they're dedicated to a specific body part they can contain more detail than ever, such as muscle tone and defined fingers. As ever, the images are available for your editing pleasure too. In fact, you can add clothes to the range and the game will automatically detect them.

They're Alive!

The characters also benefit from a new range of taunts, gestures, and stances. The most nicely animated yet, in fact. The stances in particular help to give each wrestler a unique style. Technicians like Kurt Angle stalk you with ready hands, whilst brawlers like Steve Austin have a fist at the ready - and monsters like Kane confidently tower over you. The personalities even extend to things like pinning, where wrestlers occasionally look to the sky and shake their heads at a near fall! Combined with the facial expressions, it all comes together to make the models feel as though they're very much alive.

Respect The Law

The referees also help to bring the matches to life, by enforcing the rules and counting the falls just as they would in real life. The beauty of this gimmick is that the referees are deliberately fallible - so you can stress them out or suffer at their incompetence! They can even be corrupt by fast-counting for friends and slow-counting for enemies. If you choose to be a referee yourself, then you too can enjoy that power! If you like your wrestling called down the middle though, you can always turn referees off and have the automated system that is commonly used in other games. On the other hand, if you can't get enough of them, you can push the number of referees up to 5! Under those conditions you can't put a single foot wrong without being punished. Speaking of refereeing, it's also worth mentioning that the game has a super-realistic pinning system. Not only can you hook the leg as you're used to, but you can also scores falls by crawling over a lying opponent. This makes for some frightening near falls as the referee acknowledges guys that have collapsed on top of you! It also means you can steal falls when you haven't even got the strength to stand.

Space Invaders

Extra referees can sometimes come running in from the back to help restore order! However, more often than not, intruders are out there to cause trouble. There's a nice system in place too, as bystanders are literally hanging around the arena or in the crowd - biding their time to make a move. If you're feeling troublesome, you can even provoke them with a cheap shot of your own! In hardcore matches, intruders have even been known to become part of the match in true 24/7 style. With the option to have up to 5 of these interferences, you'd be glad of a manager at ringside to help keep you safe. Numerous wrestlers have these loyal friends or valets - and you can even have one in the Career mode if you're willing to part with 10% of your salary.

As Seen On TV

The game tops off its unparalleled interactivity with an unparalleled selection of camera angles. There are over 20 in all, ranging from playable views to various novelty angles that are best reserved for spectators. These include "Fan's View", "Announcer's View", "Referee's View", "Wrestler's View", and a nice "Building Plan" angle that looks down from the rafters! The standard angles are less dramatic, but they do work better than ever. Case in point is a new "Contain All" camera, which cleverly calculates where it needs to be to track all of the wrestlers. That one is, of course, a godsend for multiplayer battles and Rumbles. All of these camera angles are backed up by the tidy presentation that was championed by The MDickie Show. Wrestlers enter with a TV-style name line, complete with a reminder of their championship status. Just as much effort has gone into the menus that precede the action too - not least a new graphical box system, which feels much more professional.

Cheats, Secrets, and Federation Novelties

  • Press keys C + N at the calendar screen to force a job offer
  • Hold the "I" key during the news to force an Inter-promotional event
  • Hold the "C" key during the news to force a Charity event
  • Press CTRL + END at the fed editing screen to unlock all feds
  • Press CTRL + END at the promo selection screen to unlock all promos
  • Press CTRL + E at the calendar screen to give yourself an enemy
  • Press CTRL + F at the calendar screen to give yourself a friend
  • Press CTRL + C at the calendar screen to give yourself a title shot
  • Press CTRL + T at the calendar screen to force a change of role
  • Press BACKSPACE over a character in the editor to give them full health
  • Press TAB to cause a random explosion!
  • Press ALT + F to change the fog colour
  • Press ALT + L to change the light colour
  • Press ALT + B to change the lighting location
  • Press ALT + V to change the shine colour
  • Press PUNCH + RUN whilst "Special" to perform your opponent's finisher
  • Hold down SPACE while the characters are loading to make them ghosts!
  • Use the LEFT and RIGHT cursors at the Title screen to screw up the theme tune!
  • Federation Online don't care about controlling your image...
  • All American Wrestling are happy to pay for your training...
  • UK of Wrestling don't care how short your contract is...
  • Rising Sun Puroresu are happy to give you full health care...
  • Maple Leaf Grappling are happy to give you unconditional pay...
  • Super Lucha Libre insist that they control your image...
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