A Tale of Two Wrestling Games.
Acclaim Headquarters. Sometime in 1997.
"Alright, guys, listen up!" the head programmer addresses his minions, "We got the license to put out a WWF game."
Cheers erupt throughout the meeting room. Even programmers know that professional wrestling is the hottest thing to hit the video game market since a little Italian guy got famous fighting a giant gorilla.
Vince McMahon enters the room, looking like the pimp that he is. "I just want to make perfectly sure you understand the task at hand," he says. "Right now, the WWF is like Avis Car Rental."
Everyone around the room exchanges puzzled looks.
"We try harder." McMahon quips. "We can't afford to lose anymore wrestlers or viewers to the WCW so you guys need to put out the best damn wrestling game there is."
"No problem." the head programmer says smugly. Heads all around the meeting room nod in approval.
"Oh yeah, there's one more thing," McMahon says cautiously.
"What's that?" the head programmer inquires.
"Stone Cold Steve Austin will be your new game tester. He will personally guarantee the quality of the product." McMahon informs them, an evil grin spreading across his face.
"A...and if he doesn't approve?" the head programmer stammers.
"You heard of the Stone Cold Stunner?"
Acclaim Headquarters. June, 1998.
"Yeeeeeehaw!" erupts an obviously impressed Stone Cold as he finishes off yet another opponent for the title belt.
"Uh...so you like it, Mr. Cold?" the head programmer inquires cautiously.
"Hit the nail right on the head, son." Stone Cold says, never taking his eyes off the game, "This game's ready to ship."
"Um...we were thinking of improving the..."
"What?!" Stone Cold interrupts, getting up and flexing his biceps. "Did you hear what I said?! This game's ready to ship! 'Cause Stone Cold said so. Now get movin' before I break out a can of whoop ass and give you the ass whuppin' of your life, son."
"Uh..y..y..yessir, Mr. Cold!"
So are the origins of WWF War Zone, and Stone Cold saw that it was good.
THQ Headquarters. Sometime last year.
The Head-Honcho of THQ addresses his development staff, "Alright, guys, we're supposed to put out a new WCW/nWo game."
"Again? I thought WCW vs. nWo would last us for a while." The programmer says, puzzled.
"Yeah, but ever since that WWF game came out our sales for WCW vs. nWo have dropped off 75%!"
"Alright, alright, we'll get to work." The programmers disband, grumbling.
Head-Honcho's secretary bursts into the room. "I just got off the phone with Hollywood Hogan!"
"Yeah? What'd he say?"
"He said, and I quote, 'I better have the biggest arms in all of video games, brotha.'"
"Yeah, yeah, he sounds like a broken record. Maybe he should change that to the biggest head ..." Head Honcho says disgustedly. "Just tell the programmers to modify the WCW vs. nWo engine and see what happens."
"What should I tell Hogan?" the secretary asks.
"Just tell him to wait and find out." Head Honcho retreats into his office.
And so WCW/nWo Revenge was born.
Two top-notch wrestling games vying for console bragging rights. A veritable clash of the titans not seen since PSX vs. N64 or Madden vs. Gameday or even paper vs. plastic.
Revenge is an excellent game in its own right and quite different from War Zone. It all depends on what you expect from a wrestling game. Revenge is geared towards the hardcore wrestling fan who catches every Monday Nitro and shells out for every pay-per-view event, and the game captures each venue beautifully. War Zone is more accessible to the everyday gamer and familiarizes you with the world of professional wrestling. This is evidenced through War Zone's full wrestler bios, in-game commentary, and crowd noise like you've never encountered in a video game before.
Revenge features over 60 wrestlers, each with multiple outfits to choose from (caveat emptor: Not all 60 characters are full-fledged WCW wrestlers. Looks like the programmers took a page out of War Zone and included some of their own custom creations.) The characters' bodies look a little disjointed and not as smooth as those in War Zone. It looks as if someone animated those little wrestling action figures you can get in toy stores. There's very little body-size differentiation and almost all the wrestlers have huge world-class bodybuilder physiques (yes, Hogan got the biggest arms in all of video games, but so did everyone else in his weight class).
Veterans of WCW vs. nWo will pick this game up intuitively, but for the rest of you, the controls take a little getting used to. Instead of complex D-pad and button combinations, most of Revenge's moves come from short or long presses of the A-button followed by another button combination. For example, to do a vertical suplex, you would press and hold the A-Button to get your opponent in a 'strong' grapple, then press down and B to do the move. All the wrestlers work off the same button combinations, but they'll do different moves.If the above example is Wrestler A's move for a suplex, Wrestler B might do a power bomb instead with the same combination. So you can see the move variety is little more limited than War Zone as well as being more random.
Life is measured by a "spirit" meter which depicts "a wrestler's mental state and adrenaline." Pulling off lots of moves without getting pummeled will cause the meter to gradually turn red. The redder the color of your meter, the more powerful you are and the closer you are to pulling off a special move. At the other end of the spectrum, if your meter starts turning blue, you're in trouble and dangerously close to getting pinned. I found the whole spirit meter thing to be wholly subjective according to the game's wishes. Several times I've thrashed an opponent in the first 1:30 of the match, with his meter reading "danger" and mine at max, but the computer wouldn't let me pin him until the match went to 4:00 or more. The life, pain, and hold meters in War Zone are a lot more intuitive and objective.
Realism factor: Ahh....this is where Revenge really shines. All the wrestling venues are accurately reproduced and look absolutely fantastic. Fog and multi-colored lights surround each wrestler as they make their grand entrance into the ring, followed by the necessary and wondrously colorful pyrotechnics. Wow, THQ really did their homework on this one. It's as if you're actually watching the event live. The crowds still look like a bunch of cardboard cutouts, but that's nit-picking. War Zone graphics pale in comparison.
Also gone are the tedious "Grudge Matches" that were all over War Zone. Instead, if you're kicking the computer's butt badly, a random run-in will occur. Some characters such as Sting make an awesome entrance (he glides down majestically from the ceiling, baseball bat in hand) while others merely run into the ring. If you're not careful, the two computer-controlled opponents will team up on you for some BIG moves. Makes single-player games a bit more fun and a lot less tedious than War Zone.
Revenge's detailed motion-captures look fantastic, although the characters move a little slower than in War Zone. The biggest offender is the vertical suplex move, where your character will hold his opponent in the vertical position for a full five seconds before slamming him to the mat. It's great for show-boating and dramatic effect, but it sucks when you pull off the move by accident and you only have three seconds left before a ring-out DQ. You'll find yourself mashing buttons and screaming "Just drop that mofo already!" ... but to no avail. The smaller graphical details also enhance the authenticity of the game, with unconscious players twitching on the mat and with "hurt" opponents grabbing the small of their back in mock pain.
Computer AI may not be the best in the biz, but offers some great variation that War Zonelacks. Computer opponents sometimes "play 'possum", lying on the mat as if they were unconscious. So you jump off the top rope to finish him off and just before your elbow smash connects, he kicks up his feet and all of a sudden the punisher becomes the punished. Too sweet. Great for catching your friends off guard and turning the momentum in your favor during multiplay.
One of the best parts of War Zone is the sound - the crowd gets to be the 12th man (for lack of a better term) and the in-game commentary is great. No one would ever mistake the sounds in Revenge, however, for a real wrestling match. The music really makes playing the game tedious. How bad is it? Try this experiment. Invite one of your guitar-playing friends over while you play your all-time favorite game with the sound off. Then tell your friend to start mashing out heavy metal glam-rock chords. We'll see if that remains your favorite game or not. The music drowns out almost every other sound in the game and makes what would otherwise be pleasure into a chore. I didn't know Motley Crue was the official band of the WCW!? Luckily, the music can be turned off in the options menu and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do so.
Options abound in Revenge. Compete for any one of five authentic WCW belts including U.S. Heavyweight, Cruiserweight, Tag Team, World Heavyweight, and TV title in any one of six regular TV and pay-per-view venues. Modes include Exhibition, where you can practice your one-on-one or tag-team tactics; Special Match which includes a 4-40(!!!) man Battle Royal as well as two-on-one Handicap matches; and a Costume Change where you can change outfits for all the wrestlers, making custom color creations and also edit the names. However, this last option feels like a last-minute, half-assed attempt by the developers to come up with something like War Zone's fabulous Create Player mode.
As expected, the true power of Revenge lies in multiplayer, brotha. Just as fun as War Zone, but with all the kinks worked out. Changing partners in tag-team action is as easy as facing your partner and pressing C-Up, much easier than in War Zone. Also, the C-Right button allows you to target different opponents in multiple-wrestler matches. The computer in War Zone is extremely stubborn in which opponents you could fight in the Royal Rumble. Now, you're free to decide for yourself.
Revenge is a simpler game than War Zone. When I won my first title belt, I did nothing but mash buttons as fast as I could and hoped for the best. Trying the same tactic on War Zone will only succeed in getting you booed out of the ring. The better of the two games really depends on the type of gamer you are. If you want to recreate every wrestling event and you also like some serious button-mashing, pick up Revenge. You two are a match made in heaven. However, if you're into a little more finesse and methodical gameplay as well as an all-encompassing experience (top-notch graphics and sound), you can't go wrong with War Zone. As for my personal pick, I'd have to say that Revenge will probably be sitting around my room collecting dust until I get tired of War Zone.
Special thanks to Roberto Alvarado, Pro Wrestling Consultant/Guru.
Apologies to Charles Dickens.