There can be no denying the massive popularity that wrestling has achieved over the last thirty years or so, the video game tie-ins that have seen the “sport” replicated on our small screens have been somewhat hit and miss though, sometimes brilliant, whilst other have been just as impressive in their sheer lack of quality. Even the latest WWE games from 2K and developer, Yukes, have been altogether disappointing, but 5 Star Wrestling was intended to be something different. From the outset, it was intended to be a videogame that captures the very essence of professional wrestling, and yet, after years in development limbo, it’s rather saddening to say that not only have Serious Parody failed in their ambitions, but they have actually created one of the worst games that I have ever had the misfortune to play.
Naturally, the game lacks the WWE license that defines 2K’s efforts, so you’d think that Serious Parody would have focused on the gameplay mechanics and controls to ensure that the experience was as polished as it could possibly be, right? Well, the controller layout, if you’re used to the mainstream WWE games, will be instantly recognisable, yet they are hampered by their unresponsiveness, as well as the downright abysmal collision detection that sees this game look set to fall well short of the standard set by Yukes’s perennial disappointment.
Much like that, player utilise a combination of strikes and grapples to earn the opportunity to use their signature move, and as expected, the various moves all deal differing levels of damage. At the bottom of the screen, there are two images that highlight the amount of damage dealt as well as its location by the colour that the parts of the body are indicated as. These start off in yellow and progress, via red, to black, which you’d assume would mean that identifying and exploiting weak areas of the opponent’s body would become an integral aspect of the game, much like the Fight Night series, yet you’d be wrong to do so. The move list available for each character in no way indicates which areas that they target, so actively utilising different moves to target specific areas is really just an exercise in futility. Despite this, players with severely weakened legs will be rendered unable to lift their opponents any more, and in doing so, will instead collapse under the weight, a nice touch, but it can prove to be frustrating when it happens to your own fighter.
Performing moves in a game this glitch can be rather off-putting, as wrestlers simply pass through one another when performing an Irish Whip, and likewise, competitors can simply pass through the mat or the ropes as if they weren’t there. In addition, players can sometimes grapple and perform moves on opponents despite standing far apart, all in all, they give 5 Star Wrestling an aged feel, and not in a good way.
To compound matters, the visuals are categorically disgusting, whilst indie titles rarely do deliver the goods in terms of aesthetics, Serious Parody’s wrestling arenas – despite the presence of crowd noise – are entirely devoid of life. Despite the fact that every wrestler featured in the game is based upon a real life WWE combatant, the backwater toilets in which the action here takes place are all drab, grey affairs that even the more fervent backyard wrestler would be ashamed to ply their trade in. On the whole, the game looks far more akin to an early PS2 game rather than a recent PS3 release, with visuals this poor, you’d think that Serious Parody would have ensured that the gameplay was honed to perfection, and stacked full of game types. Though if you did, you’d be very wrong indeed.
Now, as if this all wasn’t bad enough, there’s actually not even a career mode to speak of, but rather players can simply take part in exhibition matches or complete challenges, so there’s absolutely no longevity to speak of, assuming that it were possible to look beyond 5 Star Wrestling’s many issues in the first place. Challenges set players the task of winning under certain conditions, and completing these rewards them with points that can be spent unlocking new match types to expand the range of exhibition match types that can be participated in, from the outset, there’s actually only one available.
Strangely enough, there are absolutely no customisation options to speak of, aside from the alternative costumes that can be unlocked that is, yet there are no wrestler creation tools, and perhaps worst of all, there’s no online functionality whatsoever either. Considering the length of time that the game has been in development, there can simply be no denying how bitterly disappointing 5 Star Wrestling really is, making it absolutely impossible to recommend to anyone - even the most ardent of wrestling fanatics. Personally, I don’t much care for wrestling, but even I can see that, as a recreation of the “sport”, it fares even worse than Cheech and Chong’s efforts when they were “Still Smokin’”.