The sport of lucha libre is one where the charm lies in the presentation. The luchadores are real showmen, always staying in character and cultivating quirky personalities. So with Slang’s Lucha Libre: Heroes del Ring, you expect an entertaining, polished experience. For the most part, you get it.
Immersion Games, developer of the 360 and PS3 versions, did a good job maintaining authenticity with the fighters and presentation. Each wrestler has his own moves, taunt animations and entrances, and the announcers have special things to say about all of them. There are various intros to modes that include authentic footage from real-life fights, and each player has a bio detailing his history and notable matches.
There are two campaigns in the game, one for “tecnico” wrestlers and one for “rudo” ones. This is basically your standard good guy-bad guy thing, but with more focus on whether you follow the rules. An important part of lucha is winning over the crowd, and the game implements this by including a bar that increases when the fans are happy and affects the potency of your moves. Different moves and tactics work better depending on your fighter’s alignment; for example, a rude fighter is benefited more for finding a chair outside the ring, bringing it in and using it to bash his opponent.
By far the coolest feature is the character editor. It’s not something that hasn’t been featured in games before, but the level of mask detail and move customization makes you really feel like you’re making the exact luchador you want.
All of this is wonderful at providing atmosphere, but there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned: the actual gameplay. It’s not horrendous, and it’s not broken. It feels like the old N64 wrestling games more than modern ones, but that’s not horrible either. The real problem here is with the pacing. Lucha is a fast-paced, action-filled sport, and the game is slow and full of drawn-out grapples and failed attempt after failed attempt to pin your opponent.
Still, there’s a lot here for people who want to keep playing. The game includes online modes, including the high-stakes “Mask vs. Hair” mode, where losing players have to win consecutive ranked matches to regain their headgear.
If you like lucha libre, this isn’t a horrible implementation. If there’s a sequel, though (and we hope there will be), the team should be able to work out the kinks in the system.