The Average Gamer

E3 2011 – Hulk Hogan’s Main Event Preview (Kinect)

Hulk Hogan’s Main Event was one of the surprise games at E3 for me. I wouldn’t describe myself as a wrestling fan but when the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) toured Singapore back in 1992-ish I did go along to see Hulk, Brett Hart and Tatanka playing out their “vendettas” on a live stage. Fabulous atmosphere, even though it was disappointingly easy to see the pulled punches and prepared throws.

This game is a Kinect title and a very active one at that. In Hulk Hogan’s Main Event, you play the part of Hulk’s protegé, being taught all his classic moves and poses. There’s a comprehensive customisation screen that allows you to choose your character’s size, build, and costume. From what I saw, you probably won’t be able to create Little Kato and definitely not a female wrestler but I’ve been assured that if you want to make a humongous Yokozuna-style character, you are free to do so. Even better, you don’t have to play ridiculous amounts of the game as a boring monochrome-clad amateur to unlock good costume options. Everything will be available from the start.

The training is simple and intuitive. Hulk pops up in the corner of your screen with a pose and you copy what he does. Master the old hand-to-the-ear pose or Hulk-Hogan-shirt-rip and you’re off to do battle.

Wrestling matches start out in finest WWE tradition with name calling and taunts. You can record your own taunts and have them played at your opponent, which might be good for some people. Personally, I can think of nothing less likely to instil fear in the heart of my opponent than my weedy high-pitched twang screaming “GerronoutofitYERBASTARD!” I did suggest a voice-changer option to producer John Black during the demo. He’d better credit me if it goes in ;)

When the taunts are done, you make your entrance. Don’t forget, this type of wrestling is about showmanship, so you’d better entertain that crowd. You’ll have your chosen music track to accompany you – pick this from the in-game library or use something from your own collection. Pull off your best poses as you approach the ring and the crowd will go wild for you. Screw up your entrance and they’ll throw chairs and fruit.

Get In The Ring

Once you get through the ropes, it all kicks off. The game will have more than 60 poses and stunt moves so you’d better rack those up to fill the Crowd Meter. The team at Panic Button LLC have worked hard at the user experience for this game, studying all the existing Kinect menu systems and putting in lots of effort to reduce the effect of lag. Happily, they’ve gone with a Dance Central-style interface on the menus, which is far and away the best use of Kinect I’ve seen to date. When it comes to the wrestling itself, it looks like they’ve taken the same care and attention.

There are 4 main game modes:

  • Campaign: Build your rep through great wrestling, battle through the story mode and work your way up to the big stadiums to avenge Hulk Hogan against his nemesis.
  • Tournament: Tag-team with a friend and take turns crushing your opponents.
  • Quick Stunt: Practice doing specific stunts until you’ve mastered them.
  • Hardcore: Wrestle opponents on the hardest difficulty setting.

All the classic moves you would expect are in the game. You can do the Leg Drop of Doom, clotheslines, hit wrestlers with chairs and plenty more. From what I saw at Black’s demonstration, the movement tracking looks very good. They’ve done what they can to mirror actual motions you would do while wrestling, within safety limits of course. For a piledriver you start off doing exactly what you’d expect; reach out to grab your opponent, lift him above your head and rotate your arms to turn him over. Where the game differs from reality is that you then jump forwards to drive your opponent’s head into the ground. As we all know, you SHOULDN’T leap forward onto your knees like a real piledriver because you’ll probably do yourself an injury. Black informed me during the demo that if you happen to do this – contrary to the explicit instructions of the game – your movement will still be recognised as a piledriver. So yeah, don’t do it kids. Honest… it’s dangerous.

Back breakers are similar. Grab your virtual opponent, raise him above your head, lift one knee and drive him into it with your hands. For Hulk’s leg drops; raise one leg to waist height while jumping. For god’s sake don’t land on your ass from a great height like the wrestlers do. It may be recognised by the game but given that you’re unlikely to have a spring-loaded floor installed in your living room, it would be very bad for your coccyx.

I must note that this was a demo led by Black. I saw the game responding to his movement but didn’t have the chance to test the motion tolerances for myself. Given my recent experiences with UFC Personal Trainer, I will reserve judgement until I have first-hand experience. Last year’s Fighters Uncaged was promising in theory but because your motions bore little resemblance to the actions you wanted to perform, playing it was just a confusing mess.

If all is as intuitive as they claim, Hulk Hogan’s Main Event could be bloody good fun.

Hulk Hogan’s Main Event is due for release on Xbox 360 in September 2011.

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