Fire Pro Wrestling World aims to put on a Wrestle Kingdom class main event, but does it succeed?
Review by Chris Mullins
I went into Fire Pro Wrestling World after a prolonged sabbatical from wrestling games. The yearly updates to the 2K WWE games have been massively underwhelming (outside of the excellent Showcase mode) and I was hoping that a return to classic arcade style wrestling action would be the perfect antidote! Whilst it generally succeeds, it doesn’t quite deliver the strong style clinic that I expected…
The first thing that needs to be said is that internet access is absolutely essential to get to grips with this game!
Not because the game is online only, but because you will be spending a large proportion of your time paused mid-match whilst frantically consulting Google to find out how to kick out of a pin, pick up a weapon and countless other basic commands that the game seemingly refuses to explain.
There is a tutorial mode (inexplicably called Mission Mode?!) which covers the basic grappling techniques but these early ‘missions’ led to the most frustrating hours of my gaming life! The first mission attempts to teach you how to grapple (which is how you execute your main collection of moves), this is dependant on pressing a small, medium or big attack button with precision timing.
The first mission tells you whether you were too early or too late if/when you mistime it but that is as much help as you’re ever likely to get! It genuinely took me over half an hour to complete the corner grappling mission as the animation and timing is subtly different and no matter how many times I failed (which invariably ended with me being dumped out of the ring and taking an age to climb back in) the game refused to tell me why!
As I mentioned previously, the game is an old-school arcade style wrestling game so the 2d isometric viewpoint will be instantly recognisable to anybody who experienced the WCW/WWE titles of the mid-90s. A look that it pulls off beautifully!
Whilst this viewpoint works fantastically from a visual standpoint, it does create a few problems for the actual gameplay. For a game that is clearly a love letter to New Japan Pro Wrestling and their iconic ‘Strong-Style’ of wrestling, that melee attacks are so difficult to hit that they’re pretty much rendered obsolete. Also, whilst you have complete freedom of movement when you’re walking, running is limited to up, down, left and right so if you need to get somewhere quickly, to break up a pin attempt in a tag match, for example, if you’re not lined up perfectly you’re going to struggle for a long while.
Binning the game off definitely crossed my mind during the initial 3-4 hours as they were Goosebumps levels of terrible! So it doesn’t take a giant leap to imagine casual gamers doing exactly that. Which would be a great shame as the actual core of the game is genuinely enjoyable, especially if you’re remotely familiar with NJPW and their current crop of World Class performers!
And that’s because, whilst the wrestling action does have it’s negative points, along with a few contradictions (grappling is all about precision timing whilst other aspects such as kicking out of pins require furious button mashing), the basic gameplay is extremely enjoyable and possesses plenty of depth which will demand a significant time investment to master.
And you will need to master it if you want to put on the best matches!
Whilst the 2K WWE games have implemented a 5-star match rating system, this was visible throughout the match and was extremely easy to manipulate as it seemed to be entirely focused on what you, the player was doing. Now, I may be wrong, but the match rating in Fire Pro seemed to be based on the match as a whole and basically demanded that you allow your opponent some significant time to beat you down in order to create the momentum swings and drama of the real thing. Mastering the wrestling mechanics in order to beat your opponent is not enough as you have to understand what makes wrestling such an incredibly entertaining product to its millions of fans worldwide and this has clearly resonated with Fire Pro’s extremely passionate fan base!
Having said that, my first ever match, when I still didn’t have the timing down and didn’t understand the mechanics resulted in a match with countless near falls, a lot of back and forth action and a match rating of 98% which is still my highest 10-15 hours later so I’m obviously my own worst enemy when it comes to putting on an exquisitely constructed match!
The biggest pro point Fire Pro has, in my opinion, is it’s excellent Fighting Road mode!
This is Fire Pro’s equivalent to the Career Mode and, whilst obviously constructed on a low budget, has endless charm and actually attempts to represent a genuine career trajectory, unlike other games where you just win matches to climb a rankings table, win that title then move on to the next title…
Now, I’m not a massive fan of NJPW but I’m well aware of the big hitters and I surprised myself with just how much I marked out when the likes of Tanahashi, Okada and Naito appeared (I can almost hear the squeal that’ll escape me if/when I finally meet Omega as I write this!) so, if you are a big fan of these guys, you are going to get a HUGE amount of mileage out of this mode! I think I’ve currently played about 7/8 hours of Fighting Road and have a completion percentage of just under 7% so the road to the IWGP Championship is a substantial, but extremely satisfying one!
There are a few little niggles where the text will say that you won the previous match regardless of whether you actually did or not and the personality of your wrestler is set to be pretty cocky and arrogant, at least it is so far, which can be a bit of a turn off at times. Not to mention that occasionally you’ll come across some ridiculous story missions! The third story mission requires you to perform 16 signature moves and one finishing move! Also, whilst it regularly emphasises that the quality of the match is more important than winning or losing, it never seems to fully commit to this philosophy as it, along with its peers, seems to be terrified of acknowledging the fact that wrestling isn’t a truly competitive sport. Had Fire Pro had the courage to break kayfabe and task you with constructing matches around objectives/spots, performing your heel/face persona properly, etc it really could have revolutionised the genre!
And finally, whilst the game does offer an online mode, I was unable to actually find a match during my time so far so you’ll be reliant on playing friends or finding an online community so you can join their private competitions.
An incredibly steep early learning curve that will put off many but, if you take the time to learn (and research) the nuances of the incredibly deep mechanics, you’ll find an extremely enjoyable wrestling game with the best career mode I’ve played since Wrestlemania 2000!
A game that lacks the same self-confidence displayed by it’s Fighting Road protagonist, it doesn’t quite earn a spot in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom but it’d make a worthy IWGP Intercontinental Champion!
Overall Score – 8/10
Are you wrestling fan and picking up Fire Pro Wrestling World? Do you agree with Chris’s opinion? As always let us know your thoughts in the comments below