The debate in what makes a good wrestling game, in my opinion, falls into this simple question. Is it realistic or over the top? Does the game attempt to be a simulation of what it is like to be a professional wrestler, or does it throw all that out the window and does all that it can to be the most bombastic and unbelievable experience you can get? But a question that rarely gets asked, is can a game manage to do both? After playing Fire Pro Wrestling World, I believe that you can.
The first thing we needed to get acquainted with was the advertised NJPW tie-in that has been added to the game. Not only have the wrestlers been added, but voice clips, likenesses, and a story campaign are all included to give the closest representation to the New Japan product as possible. I have to say, the resemblance is uncanny. While in the Fire Pro aesthetic, they have managed to capture the look of each featured athlete convincingly well. Kenny Omega LOOKS like Kenny Omega, which is something you would hope for.
If there is anything that the Fire Pro series should be known for, it’s the creativity of its fan base. Since Fire Pro Wrestling World had initially been released via Steam Early Access, the game flourished as a haven for those that take the time to create any wrestler they can think of and let the player base download for themselves. Basically, if you have a favourite wrestler, they are more than likely to have been created by someone and you’re able to put them up against ANY wrestler in the world (if they are popular enough to get created of course). We’ve seen detailed recreations of real-life stars and even absurd designs like a bear that’s also a referee (or maybe a referee that’s also a bear? We’re don’t judge, I’m sure he’s qualified).
The creativity doesn’t stop there, you could make the weirdest and unfashionable monster in the entire history of pro wrestling and Fire Pro will have no problem with it. The only issue comes down to some clipping areas with the character model, some parts fit together better with others and sometimes if you don’t match them up properly when you will end up with gaps. Seeing the floor through your character can break the immersion and lead to frustration in fine-tuning your characters look. However, if you want to go for a bullet-riddled wrestler then be my guest and give it a go.
I mention immersion as you can get quite invested in the mechanics of the game. For example, I made a CPU battle between a created Daniel Bryan and Kota Ibushi thinking I’d get a decent ten-minute clash… then went on for forty-five minutes. This was fantastic, seeing the highs and lows of the match play out as if it was an actual match going on. The match came close to being a possibility in my head thanks to this game. The CPU is unimaginably smart when it comes to matches, every match you play feels different and will change depending on who you are playing as and who you are facing. This leads to so many opportunities for fun and unexpected matches to take place in the world of Fire Pro.
However, the biggest flaws of this game to keep it from being one of the greatest wrestling games. The first big hiccup would be with the striking. In most wrestling games if you are close enough to the opponent and you throw a punch, they would connect with the persons face ninety-nine percent of the time. Fire Pro is quite unusual as you believe to be in the right place to throw a strike but end up hitting nothing and looking foolish as both you and your enemy flail about a bit trying to attack each other. It can make encounters feel awkward which is why it’s better to stick with grapples when you want to inflict damage.
The last flaw is with regard to online capabilities. Do not get me wrong, Fire Pro is an amazing game to play in multiplayer… when it’s available. I tried multiple times to establish a connection with another player using the online mode but met countless messages telling me no match could be found. The two ways I’ve managed to play with another person was when I had someone pick up a second controller next to me, and when using SharePlay (Playstations way of letting you play split screen games over the internet). SharePlay has its own issues which I won’t dwell on right now, needless to say, it felt that it was an unnecessary obstacle to conquer.
Overall, the game stands out as a fantastic and unique wrestling game to play with a group of friends as you all sit on the sofa and try to be the best in the world (Yes, you can create Shane O’Mac too). Get creative, make the best or worst looking wrestler you can imagine have them take over the fire pro wrestling world. As long as you don’t have them be a striker or rely on them leaving the confines of the living room.