WrestleMania X8 is the first and only GameCube wrestling game to date, and it is so disappointing it will have GameCube owners going to their PS2-owning friends' houses to play SmackDown.
THQ claimed that X8 would be "back to basics", but the biggest difference between the Xbox's WWF Raw and X8 seems to be the games' rosters. There's no real "season" mode, and what there is lacks even a Street Fighter game's pre-match flair. Grappling and striking still work in the simplistic, puddle-deep way of every game since the classic Yuke's N64 grapplers, and while wrestling fans who just want to be The Rock will be pleased with this, people looking for more control and strategy (as in Crave's UFC games) will be sorely disappointed. It's time for wrestling games to grow beyond the our superstars will sell this' era and add some actual depth to the wrestling.
WrestleMania certainly looks great, with accurate wrestler models and excellent arenas, but all that beauty is wasted on the slack animation system that lacks the fluidity and realism of motion-captured animations in other games. X8 is good with scaling characters to their actual relative size, but the animation system doesn't respect the larger characters, so you get people's arms disappearing inside others' bodies during holds and other mutant effects. Also, for some reason, the female wrestlers look awful. Why the male wrestlers look great and the females look like bipedal goats is a mystery.
Yuke's has been making wrestling games for years, but the company can't seem to settle on a successful control scheme. The moves are simple and easy to perform, but other actions - such as picking up tables, climbing the corner ropes, and escaping a steel cage - are non-intuitive and annoying. You'll get friction burns trying to escape the cage as you have to jiggle the analogue stick and bang the A button to make your character sloooooowlyyyy lifffft hiiis armmmm overrrr the caaage. On the other hand, your opponent only has to run toward the cage wall to knock you down.
Last but not least, X8's sound is purely awful. The wrestlers' entrance tunes sound like they're muted through a blanket over the speaker, and the in-match elevator muzak tears away the WWE attitude the game tries so hard to invoke. It's as if Yuke's thought it was still working with the sound-unfriendly N64. Wrestling fans deserve a great wrestling game, but, unfortunately, this isn't it.