Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Preview/Gallery: Lucha Libre: Heroes Del Ring

Konami has a super high-flying, action-packed wrestling game coming your way and nope, it's not another Rumble Roses installment. Lucha Libre: Heroes Del Ring (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii) is shaping up to be a ridiculously fun mix of arcade-style gameplay and plenty colorful characters from the hugely popular Mexican wrestling circuit. At Konami's Gamer's Night NYC event last week, I got to see and play a bit of the PS3 version of game and found it not only immediately accessible, but both fun, challenging and surprisingly informative about the south of the border version of the sport.

As a kid in the 70's, I spent a few years watching Lucha Libre, which was so hardcore it came on AFTER the WWF's Championship Wrestling. At that time, famed Luchador Mil Mascaras had made the crossover to the WWF and his more dynamic, high flying style caught my eye. Well, that whole masked mystery man thing had something to do with it as well. I usually flipped the dial over to Chiller Theater after Wrestling, but one night, I didn't switch channels fast enough and BOOM, I ended up hooked on Lucha for a few years. Heroes Del Ring is set in the current era (you'll see ESPN 2 logos as well as other ads on some arenas), yet Bogata, Columbia-based developer Immersion Games has added some fun "retro" touches that give the game a cool visual style.

Pre-match screens and intros are presented with an interlace filter that makes it look like you're watching a Lucha match from the 70's (or on a relly old color TV). In-game, however, the graphics (and wrestlers) practically pop of the screen in their colorful costumes and masks. There's going to be a character edit function that will allow you to whip up almost any type of grappler you can think of. At the request of one journalist, an Immersion rep renamed a custom character "El Bobcat" and reworked his mask to indeed, look more cat-like. Amusingly enough, El Bobcat was wearing a padded costume that looked suspiciously like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but that made the character all the more fun to play.

Speaking of, gamneplay is a combo of different attacks, grabs, taunts and throws plus special moves for good measure. Simply beating down the CPU or a live opponent isn't all that needs to be done. Players will need to win over the crowd by taunting, pulling off specials, escaping holds or pulling off other cool moves. Some Luchadors are more technical, some more free form, so you're literally learning the ropes as you play. The initial opponent in the Story Mode demo was a super-easy masked rube in a spiffy black suit and tie, but later opponents were definitely tougher.

Visually, Immersion is doing some great work here. Wrestlers are very nicely detailed down to multiple tattoos and stitching on their masks. There was some clipping here and there, but animations were excellent and quick where it counts. Don't expect to see gallons of blood or any real "extreme" content as the developer is going for a game with the potential for a broader audience appeal. For the record, there were quite a few gals at the event who jumped into the game and had a blast, so this isn't just some "guys " title you'll only play when the GF or wide isn't around. With so many other Konami games blasting away in the background, I didn't notice the music much, but sounds were in place and well-done. As noted in my earlier (and briefer) hands-on, the choice of Spanish or English announcers adds that extra level of immersion (no pun intended) to the matches.

As for multiplayer, the game will support up to four players online and off, there will be "Hair vs. Mask" matches and in a great touch, you can bet your custom created mask against another player in a winner takes all situation. Winner gets the loser's mask, the loser gets unmasked (and yes, your mask is gone for good until you create another). Speaking of masks, if you pre-order he game at GameStop, you'll get your very own wrestling mask as a sweet bonus. I picked up one for trying the game out at the event and it's indeed a high-quality bit of swag. Four different masks will be available, but you'll want to hit the nearest GS and ask which ones they'll have in stock.

Overall, what's here is looking good and while Lucha fans should make this a must-buy title wherever it's sold, I'd suggest anyone interested in the squared circle give the game a whirl. If it takes off, Konami and Immersion just might have a game that can take on the WWE juggernaut and win a belt or two down the road.

Back with more Lucha Libre: Heroes Del Ring updates soon - stay tuned...

(Note: PS3/Xbox 360 screens below)

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