The old adage says that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. While Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is a sprite-based game with graphics that would only be impressive in the 16-bit era, you’d be wrong to think that the game’s depth is similarly lacking. Fire Pro Wrestling returns is the deepest and most fulfilling wrestling game available today. Getting the most out of the game is a formidable task, one that can easily involve countless hours of customization, editing and fiddling. But all the work will be worth it, because the sheer fun of Fire Pro pays back everything you put in.
Fire Pro Wrestling is a game about wrestling, and to a great extent mixed martial arts, which American audiences are rapidly embracing through the Ultimate Fighting Championship. To be more specific, Fire Pro is not necessarily about WWE style sports-entertainment, though there is a lot here for those fans. If you think wrestling games should be closer to fighting games, in terms of presentation and gameplay, then this is a dream come true.
It’s All in the Timing
The core mechanics behind Fire Pro‘s grappling system are timing-based, meaning that button mashers and those looking for something easy to pick up and play will end up frustrated and disappointed. But the system works very well once you get a handle on how the flow of a properly worked wrestling match should go. The wrestlers and martial artists in Fire Pro have a diverse move set that pretty closely simulates the moves that made them famous. The flow of a match in Fire Pro is particularly well handled, whether it’s the steady build up towards a spectacular finishing move in the squared circle to the flash knockouts and devastating submissions in a mixed martial arts cage fight.
The complexity of Fire Pro Wrestling Returns‘ gameplay extends beyond just the timing-based grappling system. Properly landing strikes, like your basic kicks and punches, require you to accurately judge the distance between your fighter and the opponent. A big looping left high kick by Mirko Cro Cop won’t land against an opponent that’s moved inside on you, but can be absolutely devastating if you can catch someone coming in. Shorter leg kicks and body blows are more effective up close, while well-honed grapplers will simply move in to initiate the grapple at the risk of catching an uppercut to the chin. Circling your opponent and playing to your fighter’s strengths is paramount.
Nick Stacy != Rickson Gracie
Mixed martial arts enthusiasts in particular will love the balance between traditional wrestling moves and those that are more at home in a cage fight. You’ve got mounted strikes, a sprawl to defend against takedown attempts, and a satisfying counter system to put over-aggressive opponents in their place. You can have fun bodyslamming opponents as the Quinton “Rampage” Jackson remake, for instance, or try for the chance to end any match in an instant when you’re using a submission expert like (the renamed models clearly based on) Kazushi Sakuraba or Rickson Gracie.
Depending on the match type, you’ll have to take other variables into account as well. Some examples of this include trying to finish off a battered and bloodied opponent before the landmines explode in some of the more over-the-top deathmatch types, and keeping up your fighter’s stamina by stopping for a breather during an epic thirty-minute battle. There’s no on-screen indicator for damage or how winded you are during a match, so you’ll want to watch for things like a fighter’s slumping shoulders when he or she is short of breath, or simply taking longer to get up after a knockdown.