Next month, the N-Gage will get the sports entertainment treatment, courtesy of THQ's WWE Aftershock. Although wrestling games are common on most available gaming platforms, Aftershock marks the first time N-Gage users will be able to tie up. From the late build of the game we played, it's clear that THQ has designed Aftershock to approximate the console wrestling experience as closely as possible. While a create-a-wrestler mode is notably absent, Aftershock features many of the trimmings you'd expect from a WWE game.
Players may select from 10 initially available Superstars, including WWE mainstays like Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio Jr. When a gamer completes the King of the Ring ladder-style tournament with one of these wrestlers, a new wrestler may be unlocked. For example, completing the game with Hunter Hearst Helmsley--more commonly known as Triple H--unlocks The Big Show, a notorious heel.
Other available play modes include tag team, survival, best of three pinfalls, and "I Quit," a grueling submission-based match. In each of these modes, the basic gameplay remains the same. You can execute three types of moves: strikes, grapples, and submission holds. Each of these moves triggers location-based damage, represented on a color-coded anatomy chart onscreen. Aftershock uses the typical momentum meters to subtly affect the success of each move attempt. If your momentum meter fills completely, you'll be able to inflict massive damage with a character-specific special move. Landing a special move pretty much guarantees you the pin.
WWE Aftershock will also feature a Bluetooth multiplayer mode, allowing you to face off against other wrestling fans with N-Gages--probably a small Venn diagram cross section. Still, it's great that this feature will be included.
Graphically, WWE Aftershock isn't likely to knock your socks off. Menus are presented nicely, but the actual wrestler models bear little resemblance to their real-life counterparts. The ring environment is much more impressive to look at. There are even big-screen monitors on which the action is mirrored.
Aftershock's soundtrack, replete with double-bass-pedal blast beats, is composed of the sort of metal you'd expect from a wrestling game. Ring entrances are accompanied by hard-hitting guitar riffs, which unfortunately sound pretty underpowered on the N-Gage's tiny speaker. Headphones are recommended.
WWE Aftershock is staying close to its console roots, which is probably a good thing. We'd like to see some more graphical polish applied in the month or so before the game's commercial release, but we are fairly pleased with the core gameplay. Check back for our full review.