In March of 2002, nearly 70,000 fans flocked to the SkyDome in Toronto to watch incredibly exciting wrestling matchups, such as Ric Flair versus The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Scott Hall, The Rock vs Hollywood Hogan, and Chris Jericho vs Triple H, all battling it out at what turned out to be the end of the WWF era. This was, of course, WrestleMania X8.
Seasoned wrestling game developers Yuke’s worked tirelessly to bring GameCube fans the best wrestling game thus far, relying on the skills they acquired while working on the WWF Smackdown! series. Yuke’s had been pumping out wrestling titles for a couple of years at this point, so they had enough experience behind them for players to expect a great title. When X8 was released in June of 2002, consumers had one other option already available to try and satisfy their wrestling fix: Legends of Wrestling. You may recall from our recent episode that Legends wasn’t received very well, and with good reason. More than just the crowd felt like cardboard, and the effect of re-living moments of your favorite wrestlers could have been just as effectively achieved by a stack of VHS tapes of their famous fights.
Thankfully, WWE Wrestlemania X8 is, comparatively, head and shoulders above the competition, much like The Undertaker is way better than Scotty 2 Hotty. There’s a huge variety of match types, including the always entertaining Cage Matches and Hell in a Cell, as well as Tag Teams, Triple Threats, Battle Royals, Table Matches, the list goes on. Players can create their own characters, or even their own championship belts, which they can then compete with and for in different types of matches.
The character models look incredible, when put up against Legends of Wrestling. One of the advertised selling points was the fact that character models packed 3500 polygons each (remember when that mattered?)! There’s a ton more detail, and each wrestler has two different outfits you can choose from. The crowd might even be worse looking than the crowd in Legends, as the attendees are displayed as just a handful of photographs, but they will hold different signs supporting different wrestlers, which makes it feel more alive than a generic audience. All of these details are most evident in the wrestler entrances, which do their best to show off the wrestler models, but inadvertently highlights how strange the crowd looks in the background. Thankfully, the gameplay is so fast-paced that your attention won’t be on the fans for long.
It’s not all a beautiful masterpiece, and X8 definitely has some weak points that highlight just how quickly the game was put together. The biggest and most glaring example is in the collision detection. Certain wrestler matchups – such as Kane and the Undertaker, both enormous men – create some problems that affect the fun. If your opponent is just too big – or even too small, in the case of Lita – the hitboxes don’t fit the character models, and the results are kind of glitchy. Sometimes it’s limited to a visual glitch, other times some grapples or strikes won’t even land properly, and your opponent will blow right through your defenses. There was also a conspicuous absence of certain features that THQ advertised leading up to release, such as backstage fighting, or the inclusion of some WCW wrestlers like Diamond Dallas Page.
There’s a huge variety of options available to players who’d like to either play alone or with up to three of their friends, making X8 feel like a nicely wrapped present for the wrestling fans who own a GameCube. It’s not perfect, and it’s doesn’t hold up as well as the N64 classics such as No Mercy, but it’s a solid wrestling title that helped me to appreciate the sport much more than I used to.
WWE Wrestlemania X8 was released just after the name was changed from WWF, and was released at an important part in American wrestling’s history. It would be followed on the GameCube with four more wrestling titles. We’ll look at each of them in future episodes, but for now it’s safe to say that X8 has held up over time much better than you’d think.
Did you ever play WWE Wrestlemania X8? What did you think of it? What did you like or hate about the game?
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