For years the virtual wrestling world has been dominated, much like the real wrestling world, by a couple massive organizations. Back on the N64 there were games featuring the NWO and WCW and today really the only wrestling game on the market is THQ’s yearly Smackdown Vs. Raw series. Immersion studios, the first Mexican developer to publish a major video game hopes to change that with their take on Mexican Lucha culture in Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring. Although time constraints prohibited us from getting us a hands-on demo, Slang, the publisher of the title, did give us a presentation on exactly what they planned to do in order to dethrone Smackdown Vs. Raw.
Lucha is all based around your popularity, which is measured in an unobtrusive star meter which can be filled by doing doing different things within the match. This includes all of your offensive movements, counters, taunts, in addition to all sorts of acrobatics and weapon attacks. As you build up popularity within a match, your move set will increase, allowing you to access bigger, flashier, and more deadly moves. Increasing your popularity will also make you faster and be able to take more damage, at least until the crowd turns against you.
Once you have filled your popularity meter fully, you will be able to execute a very flashy special move. The alignment of your luchador will also affect the way in which you gain popularity, as there are two factions, the Tecnicos and the Rudos, each of whom earns popularity in different ways. The former are the good guys of the game, and as such earn more popularity by doing moves within the ring, while the latter are the bad-boys of Lucha Libre and get a popularity bonus for the actions they perform while in the ring.
Getting bodyslammed is just part of the job for a lucha
Each of these two groups has their own campaign with a unique story. In the brief look at the story mode that we got the story didn’t look to be incredibly deep, although it certainly wasn’t incomprehensible. The area where the story mode really shines is in the create-a-character, more specifically create-a-mask features. True to the spirit of Lucha Libre, your mask is very important, and Immersion gives it the respect it deserves. You can customize a ton of features on your mask; everything from shape, colors, patterns, even down to whether it looks more like plastic or fabric. In addition to tricking out your mask there is a fairly standard character creation model which allows you a decent degree of customization over the different parts of your lucha’s body.
After creating your character you go off to fight. The controls are pretty simple and standard, with buttons mapped to punches, kicks and various types of grapples. You can also counter your opponent’s strikes by timing them with button icons which appear on the screen. Once you’ve sufficiently beaten your opponent and gained the crowd’s favor you can finish your fights by pin (which has its success determined by your popularity meter) or submission. In addition to fighting the more than 30 authentic luchas lined up, you can also take your game online. Once there you can take other luchas in up to four player battle (which is also available offline).
The really unique mode online is mask vs. hair. In this mode, players wager their mask or their hair against that of another player. The winner will collect the mask or hair of the losing player for their trophy case, which can be viewed by everyone on xbox live. To add to the humiliation of losing their mask, players must win another three ranked matches before they get their mask/hair back, and will compete bald/maskless until they do so. This seems like a cool addition which can help Lucha Libre differentiate itself for some of the competitors and could inspire
Overall, Immersion looks to be doing a lot of things right with their first title. Many of the features of the game, from the popularity to the mask vs. hair mode really add some extra flavor to a genre that has always been dominated by American superstars. So, if you’re a fan of wrestling games but feel like they’re getting a little bit stale and could use some new blood Lucha Libre might just be your cup of tea. Look out for it on August 9th, 2010 on the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and PSP.