Like the Mexican wrestling tradition it's based on, Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring can't compete with the more polished WWE titles out there.
- A unique wrestling experience
- Fantastic character customization
- A unique focus on Mexican culture
- Bare-bones campaign
- Sluggish gameplay and flawed controls
- Ring announcer banter repeats way too often and unpolished animations
I really wanted to like this game more than I did. It’s not because I love Lucha Libre wrestling (although I’ve always enjoyed it). It’s because I love the idea of major video game developed in Mexico focusing on something that’s a major part of Mexican culture. I’ve long felt that more diversity was needed amongst those who make our games, who games are made for and what subjects they’re based on. I had high hopes for Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring. Unfortunately, my hope wasn’t quite justified.
Into the Ring
Lucha Libre wrestling has a lot of very different elements than what you see in WWE shows or games (although many Luchadores have made the crossover), and when you first fire up the game, everything seems promising. Like most wrestling games, your first stop should be the character creator, where you can tweak every aspect of your wrestler. Most important is, of course, the mask. Mask customization is insanely detailed – you can tweak every element individually, from the shape of the eyeholes to the color of the stitching. If you know anything at all about Lucha Libre, it’s hard not to get a kick out of the mask customization. Unfortunately, once you’re ready to wrestle, the problems begin.
High Risk Combat
My first match was plagued with the worst bugs I’ve seen this console generation. The entire HUD was replaced with blocky grey squares, and hitting the other wrestler made him temporarily turn into a giant white box. Fortunately, after resetting, the bugs went away, but the combat didn’t get much better.
Heroes Del Ring actually has a pretty well-designed combat mechanic. Each of the face buttons performs a different strike, and pulling one trigger or the other shifts each button into a different grapple. It’s simple and easy to remember. Sadly, it doesn’t work as well as it should. The first main offender is the countering mechanic – the window to tap the counter button is far too small, and you’re often asked to switch between rapidly slamming on a face button and the counter button. If you tap that face button after the counter icon comes up, you’ve missed your chance. Of course, higher-level AI enemies never have this problem.
The other major problem with the combat is the animation system, which is frankly just too slow and unpolished. There are no transitional animations for most counters, so one moment you’ll watch your character throw a punch, and in the next frame your opponent is slapping on a grapple. Coupled with the generally slow feel of the gameplay, these missing frames will make you feel like much of the combat against AI is predetermined, your enemies countering you the exact moment you attack.
Complaints aside, Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring isn’t a total loss. With a little more polish to the countering, animation and graphics and depth to the career mode, it would have been a pretty solid wrestling title. I love the fact that Spanish color commentary is an option, and it’s great to see some of the biggest names in Lucha Libre make an appearance.
If you’re a big Lucha Libre fan, I’d advise you not to write off Heroes Del Ring immediately. Go into it knowing that it’s a flawed game, and you should indeed have a good time. Even though I found it to be an ultimately flawed experience, I’d be happy to give this underdog another chance should it come back for a second round.