WWE Aftershock Hands-On

We hit the new WWE game for the N-Gage with an editorial elbow splash.

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THQ Wireless, in cooperation with British developer Exient, is on the verge of expanding the WWE franchise to include the N-Gage. The new game, called WWE Aftershock, hopes to deliver the world's most popular pro-wrestling brand to the mobile console, in a format that fans of THQ's other WWE games will be familiar with. Well, fans, you're in luck: We recently had a chance to play a beta version of WWE Aftershock, and it looks like this game is going to follow very closely in its predecessors' footsteps.

Since the WWE's creation out of the base material of the WWF and WCW several years ago, its highly dramatized, flamboyant style of violence has put a veritable stranglehold on the pro-wrestling market. This monopoly isn't baseless, however--after all, the WWE has a lot of compelling, telegenic characters to offer. Twelve of the most popular wrestlers from the league are wading their way into WWE Aftershock, including superstars like Triple H, Chris Jericho, and the Undertaker. According to the producer of the game, two of these guys--Kane and Big Show--are going to be locked from the outset, but if you perform the right in-game tasks, their beefy physiques will be placed at your disposal. Each wrestler comes with his own personalized introduction sequence and music, too, so you'll get to see Triple H's trademark geyser before his matches, for instance.

In a departure from real-life pro wrestling, the outcomes of these matches are very much in doubt.
In a departure from real-life pro wrestling, the outcomes of these matches are very much in doubt.

WWE Aftershock features a comprehensive list of game modes to put these wrestlers through their paces. In addition to standard one-on-one brawls, players will be able to pick from king of the ring matches, which are multiple-wrestler brawls; survival matches, which test your mettle against an unbroken string of opponents; tag-team matches; "first blood" fights, where the objective is to break your opponent's skin before he does the same to you; "I quit" matches, which are all about submission holds; and "no DQ" matches. And if you're so inclined, you'll be able to bash a buddy in Aftershock's Bluetooth-enabled multiplayer. Sadly, it doesn't look like four-player support is going to make it into the final version of the game. But, in case this cornucopia isn't enough, WWE Aftershock will have three single-player difficulty modes, as well as some limited Arena functionality (pertaining mostly to high scores and WWE content).

As every pro-wrestling aficionado knows, though, the most important aspects of the sport are the bone-crushing moves that the fighters use to slap each other silly--and Aftershock will have them in spades. Each wrestler will be equipped with his signature move or hold, which can finish off even the most recalcitrant foe in a trice. To use this powerful technique, however, you have to charge up your "smackdown" meter with the usual array of chops, punches, kicks, holds, throws, counters, grapples, and slams. We played a quick game as Triple H, and beat the living daylights out of Jericho using the game's simple control scheme, which mostly revolves around the 5 and 7 buttons. For example, you can put the other guy in a figure-four leg lock with an easy button command, and then keep him there by rapidly alternating between 5 and 7. Like any decent wrestling game, Aftershock also has weapons for those who want to "innovate" their way to victory, but at press time the weapon selection was limited to a folding chair.

Ow! That hurt!
Ow! That hurt!

So far, WWE Aftershock has a nice visual style that will hopefully only improve before the game's release. The 3D character modeling is genuinely impressive--these wrestlers may be some of the smoothest N-Gage characters yet. They seem to move pretty realistically, too, although the punching and kicking could use some tune-up work. The game's sound effects range from guttural thumps and groans to mat-shaking crashes, providing a solid background for the combat. And, as indicated above, there's plenty of hard-core rock music during the character-selection and introduction sequences to get your heart pumping.

WWE Aftershock is scheduled for a February 2005 release. Look for a full review as soon as it reaches retail.

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