Where are the Nitro Girls?
When I was little, my favorite wrestler was Hulk Hogan. Granted, I didn't understand much about the 'quasi-sport' of pro wrestling back then. The media and the WWF dictated he was the hero, and I bought it. Someone once gave me an action figure of the Hulkster; later that day, I pitted Hulk against a giant clay monster. Let's just say that the Hulk action figure is still somewhere around, covered in gobs of green clay. Take that, Gumby!
Less then two decades later, wrestling has changed. New divisions, new alliances, and new stars all point to one thing - "Hollywood" Hogan needs some Rogaine, badly.
Okay, so Hogan's popularity and hairline have diminished since the 80's, and we're not talking about the WWF anymore - we're talking about the Ted Turner owned World Championship Wrestling league. One thing that hasn't changed is that gamers still want to play their wrestling games. WCW Mayhem is Electronic Art's attempt at the wrestling genre, though a feeble attempt at that.
WCW Mayhem lets you play as more than 50 wrestlers, including Goldberg, Sting, and yes, the Hulkster. The different arenas of the WCW are all here, from Thursday Thunder to Monday Night Nitro, and even the special events like Halloween Havoc.
Every player follows the same control scheme. Once you've mastered one wrestler, you basically know how to play as anyone. It's a very simplistic set of taps for different attacks depending on the situation (middle of a grapple, one player on the mat, etc.). Not nearly as interesting as other wrestling games, but certainly clean and adequate.
During the matches, wrestlers can leave the arena and go backstage to fight. Whether in the boiler rooms or the bathrooms, there's always an assortment of weapons back there for further maiming purposes. It's a fun feature, but somewhat gimmicky - run to the back like a coward, then grab the cattle prod and zap some gigawatts into your opponent for an easy win. If I had my way, this ability would be extended, and the fights would go on indefinitely...one guy chasing the other through lengths of unending parking lot ala Bushido Blade.
Speaking of weapons, they are automatically taken away after a set amount of hits. The player taking the beating doesn't even have to push anything. After being hit about 3-4 times, a wrestler will automatically perform the reversal to take the weapon out. While this does balance the use of weapons, something participatory, like the player having to knock the weapon out himself or just having the weapon automatically dropped, would have been better.
Rather than using a typical health or stamina meter, WCW Mayhem employs an 'Enthusiasm' meter. When a wrestler has more crowd support, he will be able to dish out stronger attacks. Truthfully, the Enthusiasm meter isn't an exact measure. You can have the complete support of the audience and a full meter, but still not be able to pin down your opponent. It's as if there's also an 'invisible' stamina meter secretly operating in the background. In most wrestling games, you have to tap the buttons as rapidly as you can to fight back a pin or submission. In Mayhem, you don't even have to hammer the buttons - getting up is also based on that damn invisible stamina meter.
The one-player mode of the game is far too easy. In "Quest for the Best," you pick one player and work your way up from the bottom. Rather than progressively increasing difficulty, the matches just take longer. That's pretty weak. And why not add more story elements? Wrestling is, after all, a soap opera with people getting beat up.
WCW Mayhem has a 'Create a Wrestler' option, but it's nothing more than a sad mirror of the complex creation feature found in WWF Attitude. There are very few options and customizable qualities. It is lacking the simple details, from facial features to tailored clothing. In Attitude, I was able to create Fat Albert and Linda Tripp, and then make 'em wrassle (why I did that, I do not know). In Mayhem, I was stuck using already created faces with set costume pieces. Boring.
Graphically, the wrestlers resemble their on-stage counterparts. But once you start playing, many, many problems start to pop up. The key word here is collision detection, or lack thereof. One wrestler can be lying on the same point as a chair, and you see the chair coming out of his ribs. Fists can be seen through the backs of other wrestlers. Confused body maps, crazy polygons, and choppy animations - these are not signs of a completely finished product. The N64 does have the smoother animation and better-looking characters in comparison to the Playstation version, but either way, you'll have lousy polygon problems in spades.
The glitches continue. The default configuration allows you to pin outside of the ring, but at certain times when you leave the arena and re-enter it, the pin count won't even be executed. I've counted a very slow 7-count pin that the game completely ignored. I've also seen an instance where the game froze briefly, leaving Goldberg stuck in the side of the ring. Is this a finished product?
The Nintendo version is rife with announcement problems. During the fight, there's only one announcer's voice, so you don't get that occasional back and forth arguing. Having only one voice makes the repeated statements much more noticeable and irritating.
This game has all the depth of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots - a back and forth volley of simple taps disguised as gameplay. Considering the glitches, the polygon leakage, and overall rushed execution, this is one wrestling game better left ringside. Or maybe it deserves to be taken backstage for a whupping...