Hands-on: Backyard Wrestling

Eidos unveils its unique take on the wrestling genre.

Eidos held an event this week to unveil in-development versions of its upcoming wrestling game, Backyard Wrestling. The game will contain the Backyard Wrestling license from the people responsible for the sometimes-gruesome video and Pay-Per-View series, which focus on extreme, no-rules wrestling between two usually self-trained performers. It will also contain the license to Insane Clown Posse's own personal wrestling league, Juggalo Championshxt Wrestling, or JCW, meaning that both Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope will be playable in the game. Also appearing along with the rest of the JCW cast is former ECW maniac Sabu. Eidos is currently unable to confirm the game's final roster or the number of wrestlers that will be in the game.

The gameplay in Backyard Wrestling is still early, but what's currently in the game is definitely different from what you find in other wrestling games on the market, and it looks like it could come together quite nicely. The game puts the two wrestlers in a variety of hard-core wrestling environments. While we were only shown the game's mansion level, brief clips of a mall level and a more traditional backyard were also displayed.

The fast-paced gameplay appears to be a mix of the fast object interaction found in Capcom's Power Stone series and a more traditional rock-paper-scissors-based wrestling system. The control gives you two attack buttons to work with--one for picking up or throwing items and one for grappling--and you can use them to create a variety of combos for each character. There's no block button in the game, however. Instead, attacks will clash with one another depending on their priority. Strikes can cancel each other out, though a grab will, if timed properly, reach right through a series of strikes and put players into a grapple state. From the grapple state, you can execute a series of strike- and slam-based wrestling moves. Moves from the grapple state can be countered by a well-timed button press, with the timing indicated when the countering wrestler flashes. There are many other rules that apply to stunning wrestlers and breaking objects and how the wrestlers act when teetering high atop a level's many ledges, letting you set up lots of high spots and other dramatic high-damage moves. To climb objects you simply run into them--no button press is required. Overall, the game's mechanics seem well defined, are reasonably deep for the subject matter, and are easy to learn.

Graphically, the game appears to have potential, though the animation is currently in a pretty early state. The character models do a tolerable job of looking like their real-life JCW counterparts when examined up-close, but the fast-moving gameplay keeps the focus off the model quality and on the animation. The game currently has a pretty exaggerated set of animations, which at times give the game a slightly more lighthearted feel than you'd expect. Huge frog splashes from the top of a house down to the ground below cause both players to bounce off the ground upon impact, and the animation used when you Irish-whip someone through a board conveys a good sense of impact. The game is using an increasingly popular rag-doll-style physics engine, so the characters flop around pretty convincingly when being slammed into things. The version of the game we were shown sported a nice amount of blood loss on every solid hit, and blood will splatter around a bit, coating nearby surfaces. As expected, the Xbox version of the game has a slightly cleaner look than the PS2 version, though the PS2 version is currently a bit closer to completion.

The game's soundtrack is currently placeholder, but with the involvement of the Insane Clown Posse, you can expect that several of the wicked clowns' songs will appear in the final version of the game.

While Backyard Wrestling still has a bit of a journey to make before it reaches its scheduled summer release date, the game definitely has some interesting new twists on the wrestling genre, which should please anyone fed up with the current crop of wrestling games on the market. We'll have more on Backyard Wrestling soon. Check out new screenshots from the Xbox version here.

Written By

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

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