The lights are on
As the only regular wrestling viewer in the office, I figured that today's Xbox Live Arcade release of Fire Pro Wrestling would fly under the radar if I didn't do something about it. Like most other gamers that saw the pre-release screenshots, I assumed the worst and totally forgot about it until today. Sometimes when you judge a book by its cover, you're right.
Gameplay is exactly what you'd expect out of a game that pits Xbox avatars against each other within the squared circle. Don't let the title of the game fool you, as this is a far cry from the long-running Japanese series of the same name. Taking down your opponent requires little more than tapping face buttons before they do, although the counter system is a bit different. To counter an opponent who's grappling you, you have to press the same face button as them during the grapple. Because of this, it simply comes down to a 25% chance of countering each grapple.
Outside of basic strikes and grapples, you can also perform top-rope maneuvers and taunt your opponent. It's about as bare-bones as a wrestling game can be, although there actually is a decent progression system for your wrestler. You earn money and XP as you take on other grapplers, and you can use these currencies to purchase new ring gear and level up your stats. As you win matches and upgrade your character, more-powerful moves (like the dreaded Tickle Tackle) become available.
Fire Pro Wrestling is confusing on a few levels. Keeping the FPW name feels like an attempt to draw interest from longtime wrestling game fans, but looking at a single screenshot proves it's not for the hardcore crowd. If it's not for big wrestling fans, then who is this targeted at? Plenty of other options exist for casual gamers who are tickled by the idea of their avatars being the star, and I can't imagine a simplistic wrestling title is near the top of their most-wanted list. It's an instantly-forgettable and ill-conceived game that proves to be exactly what you expect.