Management sims are a tricky genre. For every major success that spawns a legion of fandom like Football Manager, there are others not as well received by their audience like Pro Gamer Manager. But what happens when you combine the rabid fandom of pro wrestling with the insanity of a management sim? You get Total Extreme Wrestling. That’s what you get. Will it be the cream of the crop like a Macho Man promo or will it be maligned from the top by President Jack Tunny?
TEW2016, in a nutshell, is a management simulator that lets you take over a wrestling promotion as either the owner and/or head booker. You call the shots. You book the matches, hire the talent, kick them to the curb, run the storylines, determine the product, everything. Want to take over the WWE and bring back the Attitude Era? Do it. Want to take some no-name, garbage company and make them rival the big boys? Do it…but good luck. The world is your oyster.
The meat and potatoes of the game is that you hire the talent, make the matches with whatever stipulations you want, choose the venue, and see how they did. Each segment, whether match or angle, gets a rating. These ratings determine your popularity. Run an epic card that are getting a lot of A-rated matches and your popularity will increase. Run a bunch of stinkers and obviously the dreams of selling out the Silverdome are just that, a dream. Of course, the more popular you are, the higher the expectations of the fans, and thus the need to keep running high rated events. This is the vicious cycle that consumes you on the way to the top. How healthy the economy and wrestling industry is at the moment of the show also adds to the number of fans attending, as well as the difficulty of raising your popularity.
So you might be asking, “I only have one legit star. How am I going to A+ every match?” The genius is the game’s engine takes into account real life. When we watch a fight event, whether it be pro wrestling, UFC, or boxing, it is the main event which draws the money and draws the criticism. Unless you’re a diehard boxing fan, do you remember who else fought on the card during the Rumble in the Jungle, or Tyson/Douglas? For good or bad, the game is kept fair, grounded, and less tedious by making the main event of a card the most important.
This is a text-only game. So if you’re looking forward to watch Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior ala WWE2K17 style, it ain’t happening. A lot of the fun is having to use your imagination. There are a plethora of pre-set matches and angles, plus any you choose to make yourself, but obviously since you can’t see what is happening, it’s just a bunch of boxes you click on for an effect. If you want to make the Nitro Girls cheerleaders to open a show, the built-in angle maker lets you do it. You just won’t be seeing them dance. For those who are of the Football Manager vein, this will not serve a problem. Others needing that visual element will need to look elsewhere.
The biggest boon about the game is it is wide open to allow you to play a wrestling world of your own fantasy and design. This is accomplished by the plethora of in-game options you can turn on and off at whim, like perfect match theory, fog of war, and various chemistry effects, to the built-in data editor and easy to create mods. Furthermore, this also extends to the type of product you want your promotion to represent. The balance is every change you make requires learning to adapt and prosper under it. A luchador is not going to wrestle well in a hardcore promotion, and a popularity magnet is going to draw dead in a promotion with fans caring more for performance over popularity. This makes every game unique, and every player’s experience unique, as everyone has different tastes.
TEW doesn’t have licensing deals with any of the real-world promotions, thus the vanilla database was built by the designer with no-name wrestlers and 3D pictures. However, it is the extremely rabid fandom that deserves the most credit for how fun this game can be. I’m reviewing this game a year after its initial release, and there is a wide range of mods for it now, and likely more to come and be updated. These mods give the game its unique life. Want to play with all the real-world wrestlers? Download the mod of your choosing, and the problem has been solved. I don’t think I’d have nearly as much fun with the game without that avenue in the game. Part of it is the authenticity aspect, just like how no one buys a football game not called Madden. Even so, a bigger reason is the ease. With the various stats needing to be looked over, that name recognition of a Hogan or Cena or Natalya makes hiring and firing staff much easier.
Unlike other sports, in the pro wrestling world a lot of the time the wrestler works for many different promotions at once…unless they work for WWE. This contractual battle does play out in-game, as you can hire someone on a pay-per-appearance deal and get into scheduling conflicts as they choose to appear on a different program at the same time. Add in regional and national battles for ratings, and the real-life drama of the Monday Night Wars comes into play. Nothing sucks more than getting your best talent poached because a bigger promotion snaps them up on a written contract, offering bigger money. This also extends to the TV broadcasters, as some are more pro wrestling than others, and they won’t take on every wrestling program their way. Sometimes you might have to scrape by while waiting for another promotion’s TV contract to run out before attempting a negotiations as the station only wants one wrestling show at a time. This kind of attention to detail adds a lot of replayability to the game, as well as mimicking real-life.
TEW does have its faults. The first, like a lot of management games of its ilk, is the scope. It is a deep game with tons of bells and whistles that just British Bulldog power slams you. There is no tutorial in TEW 2016. So it’s just start, go, and hope you’re not jobbing to Scott Steiner for too long before you learn the ropes. Once you survive jobberville, then that scope isn’t a problem.
The real fault of the game is it always feels bulky and tedious. 16 has made improvements over 13 by the addition of an auto-booker to do your whole card for you, which does speed things up. The problem is it takes control out of your hands. The AI might not make good choices, or ruin your masterly crafted plan, thus forcing you to fix them. This then defeats the purpose of a feature to save time. With a small promotion of only a handful of wrestlers, it is not a major time sink, but when you’re trying to be the size of the WWE or bigger, it eats away at the clock. The pre-booking option is also clunky because each pre-booking needs to be added manually for every show, instead of just defaulting for specific shows. Also, you have to intentionally put in one wrong wrestler because if you use a pre-booked segment without a change, it deletes it after use.
How popularity is used in the game is also another negative sticking point that takes away some of the shine. Popularity is a huge part of the game, as it affects how well a segment performs and how many fans are drawn to see the show (in other words, the higher the popularity, the better for everything). The problem is individual popularity doesn’t overlap into individual ticket sales per say. In real life, if Hulk Hogan in his prime showed up, that place is sold out. However, that is not translated in the game well at all. You’ll get a note saying the expected number of ticket sales to help you plan which location to book, but it doesn’t give any details on if certain wrestlers are bringing in extra ticket sales. For all, I know the game does take into account wrestler popularity for some extra sales, but because it’s never relayed to me, it takes away that fine touch of management immersion.
In overall, TEW 2016 is a good game for the diehard wrestling sim fan who is still waiting for WWE2K to bring back some form of GM mode. Those of the Football Manager mindset will get wrapped up in the game easily, but casual fans will be turned off by the unforgiving nature of the game. How much fun you have with the game is how much you put into it, as the in-game editor is the make it or break it feature. Without the ability to craft your own wrestling universe, the small flaws would be compounded by a generic world.
+ In-game editor allows you to craft your own universe
+ Easy to mod and import parts of mods
+ Dozens of matches and angles to choose from
– Certain game effects not explained well (Popularity)
– Dense and unforgiving for management beginners
– No music or sound in the game
Replay value: 5/5
Grey Dog Software’s “Total Extreme Wrestling 2016” is a great pick for management fans who need a wrestling fix. The hard learning curve will keep away those weak of will, but once figured out it will bring about an unlimited amount of enjoyment. Non-management fans, obviously, will not get their wrestling fix and won’t find much fun at all.
Title: Total Extreme Wrestling 2016
Developer: Grey Dog Software
Genre: Management Sim
Release date: 25/04/16
Spent time: 30+ hours
Average grade internationally: 70% Gamerankings.com
PEGI age rating: E
Price: $34.95 USD
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