Wrestling has always had its fair share of larger-than-life characters, and nobody does it better than the WWE. So much so that a portion of its history is known as the Cartoon Era, a time when The Undertaker would rise out of coffins before a match, Doink the Clown would prank fans and rival wrestlers alike, and when heels like The Repo Man or Irwin R. Schyster were as unlikable as they could be.
It makes sense then, that we would see a video game that took the concept of the larger-than-life wrestling characters and took it to the next level. A game where WWE Superstars were transformed into supernatural gladiators who had could settle their differences with battles that would be the stuff of legend. Well that game has arrived, and despite a few characters feeling a little uninspired, that game is a ton of fun!
I’m talking about ‘WWE Immortals’ from Ed Boon’s NetherRealm Studios, the creators and developers of Mortal Kombat. Those of you who have been gaming for many years will remember that Midway (developers of the classic Mortal Kombat games) attempted an arcade fighting game based on the WWE (then WWF) called WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game – and it was awful. Thankfully, WWE Immortals is a much better game. In fact, it’s now one of my regularly played mobile games.
WWE Immortals begins with a cutscene detailing the story of the game. I get the feeling that NetherRealm are delivering a tongue-in-cheek kind of story, one that plays up to the odd premise of the game but doesn’t mock it outright. The WWE roster have all been fighting for control over a powerful artifact, the Dark Lantern. The Authority get their hands on it and unwittingly open doors to parallel universes, where the WWE Superstars are “knights and mages, superheroes and supervillains, strange creatures and mighty warriors.”
The story though, is mainly to set up the game – and not to be overly concerned with. Gameplay is fairly simple, almost too simple, as players will discover this is very little variation in how each character plays or how their combos are performed – you simply tap the screen repeatedly, though some characters may have differently executed special moves. Players can create a team of three wrestlers, each one being able to tag-in their teammates should the player feel the need. I say “feel the need” because inactive teammates don’t regenerate health like in other team-based fighters, meaning that swapping characters is pointless unless you have team members with stored special moves.
Speaking of special moves, each character has 3 different special moves based on their real-life rasslin’ repertoire. Daniel Bryan will use the leg-twisting Dragon Screw, Kane will Powerbomb his enemies, etc. At the end of the match, players are rewarded currency which can be used to purchase different perks or costumes for their team. Now while the game doesn’t push you to purchase the the in-game currency using real money (yes, there are micro-transactions), you will spend a lot of your time grinding against the same wrestlers over and over for pocket change.
Now while WWE Immortals will be a fun little time-waster for many people, those expecting more of NetherRealm will be sorely disappointed. Indeed, this is a competent game (and damn impressive for a free mobile game) but the entire time I’ve been playing this I’ve felt like NetherRealm were simply phoning it in, without any real effort. For one thing, just about every fighter plays the same – tap, tap, tap, swipe, repeat.
Another disappointment is how bland Daniel Bryan’s character was designed – he’s simply wearing a “yes!” T-shirt and jeans. That, and he’s bouncing around like a five year old on a jumping castle (ugh). Roman Reigns also disappoints (much like his in-ring persona) as he is presented as a Roman centurion (way to be original, NetherRealm!). I could go on and on about the bland (and at times, stupid) character design but just know that there are some good ones in there like Paige and the Big Show.