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The dust has finally settled as various game developers have fought over the prestigious license deals up for grabs in the two major wrestling federations. E.A sports grabbed the rights to use the WCW name and characters from THQ in a bid to stamp their usual seal of quality on a genre that is gaining more respect from the industry with every new release.
This is a 3D simulation of the hugely popular TV entertainment that is Wrestling.
Sound and Vision:
The introduction does exactly what it should and draws you into the game, raising the pulse a little and filling you with excitement at the thought of getting a piece of this action for yourself. It mixes real TV footage and computer generated visuals with a heavy rock backing track and will doubtless sell many copies by simply playing over and over again in stores all over the world.
The in-game graphics are a mixed bag. The actual wrestlers all look incredibly like their real-life counterparts. The skin and muscle textures used are great, however they are far more blocky than those seen in WWF Attitude and reminded me of the fighters used in the earlier versions of Tekken.
To keep the speed up, the number of frames of animation used in most of the faster moves seem to have been compromised. Several of the kicks and punches 'snap' into action rather than being performed fluidly. Movement of the fighters around the ring is also rather wooden and I was disappointed by the number of occasions when the fighters moves didn't seem to actually connect with the opponent, even though their reaction would state otherwise. On the up-side, most of the throws look very realistic and there are different moves to learn for each fighter.
As is the standard with these games, each of the key wrestlers has their own ring entrance routine and tune. These serve to disguise the awful graphics used in the arenas, which look terrible when viewed up close. The crowd is situated far from the ring, looking like paint splatters on a wall, while the camera angles make the ring look tiny and often obscures your view of the fighters when they climb out of the ring.
The commentary is possibly the best I have ever heard in a sports game. It's fluent, accurate and varied enough so that you don't get tired of hearing the same slogans repeated a few times during a match. There were a few occasions when it seemed to stutter a little during the 4 player matches, often screwing up the game completely - so bear this in mind and switch it off when playing in this mode.
The sounds have all being recorded in 'Dolby' surround and everything from the crowd screams to the bodies hitting the canvas have been brilliantly done, giving a whole new level of atmosphere to games of this type. The background tunes are more forgettable, but as these can be switched off, it's no great loss.
The one thing that this game has is plenty of options. There are a massive number of different combinations of matches that can be fought. Initially there are 38 fighters to choose from, with 18 more to unlock by progressing through various tournaments.
All your favorite WCW stars are included in the game and are split into seven different categories:
WCW (19 Fighters):
CRUISERWEIGHT (13 Fighters):
HARDCORE (8 Fighters):
HORSEMAN (5 Fighters):
NWO WOLFPACK (7 Fighters):
NWO BLACK and WHITE (4 Fighters):
Sure, there will be those of you who notice a few inaccuracies, such as Hogans recent defection from NWO and his use of 'Hulk' again, but it would be a little small minded of us to think that this would completely ruin your enjoyment of the game.
Fighting modes included are 'QUICK START' 2 player match-up, the 'QUEST FOR THE BEST' tournaments and 'SINGLE MATCH'.
The 'Single Match' mode hides a multitude of options. You can choose between playing Singles, 2 versus 1, Tag-team or 4 players in the ring at once. Up to 4 human players can partake in the action, or you can get the computer to take over as many of the wrestlers as you like. E.A have addressed the major problem with multi-player games by including a handicap system that allows you to even up the fighters based on the different abilities of you and your friends. Next you can choose any of the 15 different rings on offer, adjust the length of the match and tweak the rules to your liking.
If you are looking to start unlocking some new wrestlers then head for the 'Quest' option and work your way up through the rankings in the TV, Cruiserweight, Heavyweight and World titles. You will have to face the top five contenders in each tournament before being allowed to fight for the belt and the title. If you want to become the very top WCW superstar, you will have to hold onto the World Title for TEN defences against the best fighters in the game before being crowned as the QUEST champion. Playing this mode in MEDIUM setting unlocks new fighters on the road to the titles, while HARD gives you access to a former WCW manager, a 14 time world champion, an announcer, the head of security and other more unusual characters.
EA have included a few novel extras such as being able to take the fight outside of the arena, into the ticket area, car park, locker and boiler rooms. This extra is activated by using one of the special Pay-per-view codes that can be entered from the main options screen.
The difficulty levels are a bit of a joke in this game in that we managed to defeat other wrestlers quite quickly on both EASY and MEDIUM modes, while HARD just seemed to make the fights a little longer rather than more difficult. The computer AI definitely still needs some work.
The gameplay is very much more arcade oriented than WWF Attitude, making it far easier to win fights simply by pressing all of the buttons. This will certainly appeal to younger or inexperienced gamers who have found some of the other wrestling games a little too difficult to master.
Each button on the pad has three different actions depending on if used alone or in conjunction with the up and down directional buttons. The moves also change depending on if you or your opponent are grappling, standing or on the floor. Thankfully you can quickly check them all out at any time during the action by hitting the 'start' button to pause the game.
WCW Mayhem introduces a 'momentum meter' to the genre, which does away with health bars in favour of encouraging you both to let loose with a constant barrage of attacks - the longer they last, the more the momentum meter sways to your advantage. If you stand back for a few moments the meter swings back and you loose any gains you just built up. This makes for some TV style super-recoveries and much longer action packed bouts, while at the same time killing any simulation aspect to the game. If you can get the meter to max-out for a short time it will begin flashing, this is an indication to go for either a 'pin' or 'submission' from your opponent.
Objects that are found outside of the ring can also be used to inflict massive damage on your opponents. They range from chairs and tables to more deadly cattle-prods and baseball bats. Each weapon can be swung, stabbed or aimed at the head.
Its nice to see that they have squeezed in a 'create-a-player' mode, which although not nearly as flexible as 'Attitudes' allows you to edit the wrestler's shirt, pants, shoes, face, hair, kneepads and other accessories. Unfortunately you can't use the clothes from the featured wrestlers, nor can you change their colour, but it's still a welcome addition to the game.
This is a 1 disk game for 1 or 2 Players. Up to 4 players can play when a multi-tap is used. It is compatible with the standard (digital) joypad and the digital controls of the dual shock (analog) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1-3 blocks per save).
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