Total Extreme Wrestling 2008

by on 18th August 2008

If you haven’t heard of the name Adam Ryland yet, allow me to introduce you to the year 2008. For as long as I’ve been on the internet (nearly seven years now), Ryland has been churning out management simulation games with the intention of providing us wrestling fans with as close to our own “Championship Manager” as we are most likely to ever get. Thus far, no one has been able to touch his franchise of updates, and the latest one – Total Extreme Wrestling 2008 – gives Ryland an extra nudge away from any competition unlikely to give him a run for his money.

Some may say that it’s simply a more drawn-out copy of the SmackDown vs. Raw “GM Mode”, but that’s unfair. TEW in fact came first, and THQ followed suit with a bland and ultimately frustrating version that TEW trounces with relative ease. TEW 2008 takes the format to another level entirely, not only with it’s ever-increasing user-editor that allows players to modify the data to their heart’s content, but with a more fine-tuned gaming experience that draws even more from the real-life wrestling industry.

Let’s start with the basics: you take a wrestling company, choose to either book or own it, and then you build on it; either by hiring new stars and creating new, legendary events, or by running it into the ground with high-priced creative control-wielding main eventers and illogical storylines that annoy your audience away to the competition. If you are the booker, you have a boss to answer to. The more challenging your game choice (some can have free reign, but you may choose to run under a strict and realistic corporate regime that blocks the moves you want to make and forces you into decisions you‘d otherwise ignore), the more compelling the game becomes and the tougher it is to reign supreme over the wrestling world.

Built onto that base are a number of fascinating, and potentially product-changing, tweaks that any wrestling promoter in the world has faced at one point or another in their career. You have the opportunity to make deals with TV companies to air your weekly show, and you can split your company into different brands and give them a show all of their own if you desire. Some wrestlers will have creative control clauses, meaning that they can flat-out refuse to do what you ask them to. Other wrestlers may be on drugs and it is down to you to test them and punish as necessary. If you decide to punish them at all, that is.

The only problem that TEW really has is just how much data there actually is. It can take up to half-hour in some instances to pass beyond a single game day, if you wish to explore the full range of what is available to you. Booking shows is both a fulfilling, creative process with a stunning amount of storylines, match types and combinations to put together, and a time-consuming nightmare for the impatient. Furthermore, you have to hit certain criteria based on your promotion’s set product limits. Unless your TV network is ran by Howard Stern, you’re probably not going to be allowed to promote a Flaming Table Texas Death match. And if your fans expect to see half wrestling, half storylines in a single show, you will alienate them with a show full of 5-star classics, no matter what Meltzer would say about them.

Luckily, the interface is helpful in directing you to exactly where you need to be. It will take some getting used to, what with all the pages and sub-pages and sub-sub-pages and so on, but once you know your way around, it’s relatively straightforward. It’s not the most appealing of designs, mind. But it does what it has to do. You can always change it, anyway.

Which leads to what many perceive as the most important aspect of the game – the ability to edit as you wish. For legal reasons, the default data is an entirely fictional world called “The Cornellverse” and it isn’t difficult to start becoming aware of who may or may not represent or be inspired by a real life wrestler in an almost parallel world. However, there are a number of hard-working individuals over at the TEW forums who slave over the database to create “real-world mods” which means that, yes, you can book CM Punk to lose every week to completely random jobbers as he should be in real life. Or maybe that’s just me.

Total Extreme Wrestling 2008 is a challenging, stimulating and above all, entertaining management simulator that tries to recreate the reality of what is essentially a simulation of reality in itself: pro wrestling. It’s a mindboggle to think about it logically, but you won’t care after a good hour getting into the meat of the game. There’s no real end to what you can do or achieve within your promotion, but setting time aside is recommended. It’s not for those who pop their heads in and out for five minutes at a time. Give yourself an hour to just sit down with it, and you’ll start to reap the full benefits.

Total Extreme Wrestling 2008 is available from GreyDogSoftware.com for $34.95

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