What if I told you that Wrestling Empire is the least graphically impressive wrestling game, but it has the biggest heart? It’s easily in my top three wrestling games of all time. Here’s why.
Let’s put that aside. MDickie’s Wrestling Empire is borderline 2000s graphics. I’m sure the graphics power is slightly above that. Without mercybut below Smackdown: Bring the Pain. The characters’ faces are perfect for the Dreamcast, the backgrounds look like ’70s doctor’s offices, and I suspect the female wrestler’s body parts are the same as the males.
None of that matters because behind a 286MB game with a plethora of content, charisma, and modes that puts most wrestling games to shame. The person/company behind this game, MDickie, really loves pro wrestling more than an office full of 2K programmers.
The game has more than 100 wrestlers who look like real wrestlers. They are divided into different promotions that look like actual wrestling companies. Rising Sun Puroresu, Maple Leaf Grappling, Super Lucha Libre, Weekend Warriors, Strong Style Wrestling, Hollywood, Federation Online, Wrestling Revolution, Wrestling School, All American and Legends. MDickie has created a whole universe and programmed stories into these promotions.
You have the wrestlers: Jay Enrico (Chris Jericho), Essa Carerra (Eddie Guerrero), Sucka G (Booker T), Machismo (Scott Hall), Petrol (Kevin Nash), Hank Slogan (Hulk Hogan), Brad Goodman (Bret Hart ), Phil Graves (The Undertaker), Slow Mo (Big Show), Cabal (Kane), Joanna Fight (Sasha Banks). There are also a few UFC fighters to boot. All of these wrestlers are faithful in their taunts and finishers.
Career mode is the *kiss of the boss* of the MDickie universe. You pick a wrestler and pitch him into the wrestling school promotion. As you win matches, other promotions offer you contracts. Some promoters will give lots of money, but no creative license to change your dress and change the decor. Other promoters will give you little money, but you’ll have to accept their offer because you can’t get stuck in wrestling school.
Blink and you’ll miss it, but seeing friends greeting each other from afar is a cool little detail that goes back to 3D: 👋 pic.twitter.com/eBFwiG5kOw
— MDickie (@MDickieDotcom) June 21, 2022
As you fight, your wrestler embarks on the most bizarre adventure in wrestling history. You may be intimidated by the promoter to do things you don’t want to do, you wrestle too long in a match and get sidelined for four weeks, or you may take bribes from other wrestlers for you help in the ring. . Then your story options get really crazy. You can do shoot interviews that are critical of the wrestling business, you can wrestle a match too long and the other wrestler can die, and you can retake storylines where your wrestler decides to come out of the closet. You can be a hitman for a stable of heels so other wrestlers get hurt. This only scratches the surface. Any match can be an iPod shuffle of madness. In one instance, I had Hank Slogan fighting Russel Haystacks (Paul Heyman) in an exhibition. Perry Class (Ric Flair) stopped the match and became the new referee.
Another Wrestling Empire swagger is that they just added a GTA-Esque street and studio that your wrestler can wander around between matches. You are responsible for networking with other wrestlers, making sure your wrestler goes to the bathroom so they don’t get wet (I’m not making this up), and getting a good night’s sleep. My wrestler didn’t make it to the bathroom on time and got wet. The other wrestlers in the locker room started humiliating me.
The wrestling gameplay falls somewhere between crisp controls and a bonkers AI. In any given match, your ring mates will start attacking the referee, lighting tables on fire, or attacking the announcing team. The ref will sometimes excuse himself to do a shooting star press across a table out of the blue. Some would argue that the AI being completely bananas makes the game unplayable, but that’s actually part of the culture of an MDickie game. If the computer AI doesn’t go wild, you don’t get the full mark.
The bottom line is that Wrestling Empire is a cross between a 40-car freeway wreck and a full orchestra of Julliard graduates. Game streamers love showcasing career mode because it’s unpredictable. The game may be cheesy as everyone is out and low budget, but the sheer madness behind this game makes me think MDickie is a walking genius.
Wrestling Empire will set you back $15 on Steam or Nintendo Switch, but you’ll never be bored.