Backyard Wrestling is not something for the kiddies. Though a very fascinating American subculture, the Backyard Wrestling videos contain everything you wouldn’t want your little brother seeing. Backyard Wrestlers aren’t just athletes – they’re machines. Immune to pain, backyard wrestlers do everything from stab each other with bottles, hit each other with barbed wire enwrapped bats, and even fall three stories through tables engulfed in flames. It’s sick, it’s demented, and unbelievably entertaining to anyone who doesn’t have a weak stomach.
So, when Eidos announced half a year or so ago that they would be release a game based on the Backyard Wrestling movies, with the demented minds behind Thrill Kill behind it, gore-loving gamers rejoiced the world over. The possibilities seemed endless, no longer confined to a ring setting, Paradox Entertainment could go nuts with their game design to bring gamers the bloodiest wrestling game ever invented. Now that Backyard Wrestling is out its quite clear that Paradox Entertainment did not do anything with the Backyard Wrestling license but deface it with an unbelievably mediocre title.
The game starts by letting you pick from Talk Show Mode, Exhibition Mode, or Bonus Games. If you pick Talk Show Mode you’ll be led to the main game mode, where you’re brought to a cinematic that’s setting is (surprise!) a talk show. After a few stereotypes are thrown out and a few remarks made about Backyard Wrestling that are obviously meant to be sarcastic, guests on the talk show will talk about their encounters of Backyard Wrestlers coming through their property and the injuries they sustained during the rampages.
When this process is done you get to experience the main flaw with Backyard Wrestling: the gameplay. Though Paradox entertainment’s fighting system is certainly ambitious it doesn’t work that well. Playing more like a fighting game than a wrestling game, the fighting controls span more than four pages in the game’s instruction manual, which is sure to be a shock to anyone raised on THQ’s simple wrestling titles. The truth is though that even fighting game fans will have an unbelievably hard time picking up the many quirks of the control system.
Even if you do pick up the controls you’ll still have an incredibly hard time beating your opponents. Not only is the AI in Backyard Wrestling cheap and vicious, but in order to pass through an environment in the game you will need to beat three different opponents in a row, starting back at opponent one if you get your butt handed to you by the second or third guy you face. Oh yeah, don’t forget that you have to do three separate challenges all within this process, and that every time you lose you have to sit through a minute of loading screens as you’re taken back to through a save process, back to the title screen, then through the opening cinematic again every time you screw up on that finishing body slam.
One high point that alleviates this process is the game’s audio, which is sure to please many angry white suburban boys who think that rap stands for Retards Attempting Poetry. The soundtrack includes a wide variety of acts in the punk, rock, and metal worlds both well known (Sum 41, Bowling For Soup) and underground (Chimaira, Shadows Fall, Spineshank). The only blemish on the soundtrack are the many additions by The Insane Clown Posse. Though it’s understandable that there would be additions from the ICP (since they allowed their own league’s wrestlers to be put in the game) that doesn’t change the fact that ICP’s blend of cartoonishly violent rap and metal overtones is woefully annoying.
The game’s graphics are also noteworthy, as Paradox has done everything in its power to make sure Backyard Wrestling earns its M rating. Blood splatters in highly detailed glory here, and damage is reflected so specifically on your wrestler that you can’t help but feel his or her pain. The animations also look awesome, with fantasy wrestling moves looking as beautiful as they are gruesome. The environments you fight in though are the greatest display of Backyard Wrestling’s graphical prowess, with every interactive facet displayed in beautiful 3D.
None of this though makes up for the game’s sluggish gameplay, and after a while no amount of blood is going to appease your appetite for some good gameplay. Backyard Wrestling is a great disappointment. With some more refined design and gameplay the title could of been a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, as it stands now, Backyard Wrestling is nothing but a clumsy fighter whose better points can only be appreciated if you’re playing with friends or with the patience of Gandhi. If you’re a fan of the Backyard Wrestling movies you might want to check out this game, but everyone else should rent before they buy.
Developers: Paradox Interactive
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox