Smell what THQ's been cookin'...
If you care nothing about wrestling games, never eat meat, adored the show Dallas and think that Barney the Dinosaur was a "good" influence, then you will stop reading this review right now.
Since you're still here, I'll assume you're a meat-eating, Barney bashing roughneck...and a wrestling fan to boot. And boy, does THQ have a surprise for you. It seems that THQ has taken last year's hit, WWF Wrestlemania 2000, opened its mouth wide and packed in a couple fresh cans of whup-ass for your playing enjoyement. While not a hugely better game than Wrestlemania, No Mercy does address many of that game's problems while bringing with it several refreshing features, giving a violent new spin to this otherwise familiar game.
For the most part, No Mercy is to Wrestlemania 2000 what George "Dubbuya" Bush is to his old man. While they both look alike and do essentially the same (evil) things, No Mercy is much fresher and a lot more polished.
The control and gameplay are identical to Wrestlemania's. You still have the basic attack and grapple buttons, and everything is still executed in exactly the same fashion as it was before. While there are scores of new "moves," they all require the same old button combinations and don't seem to affect your enemies differently than the old moves. They're basically aesthetic enhancements, and have no solid impact on the game.
The new fighting environments are well done, but not that exciting. Maybe it's the fact that Smackdown had them first. Having said that, some of them flat out rock. My personal favorite is the Acolyte pool hall, just because you get to smash people through a pool table. If only there were four or five of 'em...sigh.
Which brings me to the weapons and other props of physical destruction. Most of the weapons are exactly the same as they were in Wrestlemania 2000. At first glance it seems as though there are a lot of new weapons. However, it would be more accurate to say that there are a bunch of new weapon skins, since practically every weapon in the game is used in the exact same fashion and does the same amount of damage.
While the effort to make the weapons seem varied is a nice gesture, I wish they could have actually programmed in some tangible differences as opposed to copping out. The fact that smashing somebody with the portable stairs yields the same result as hitting them with a chair seems silly. It completely cheapens the stairs and the gameplay itself.
Speaking of cheap, you now have the ability to throw weapons. At first it seems really cool and fun. "Wow, hey, I threw it and it bonked him on the head! Ooh! Hey, look I can do it again and again and again and there's nothing he'll ever be able to do about it, muahahahahaha." Yup, the ability to throw weapons is about as fair as using a Mack truck.
As far as I can tell, there is no defense against a thrown weapon. Computer opponents who blocked every punch and kick, countered every grapple and reversed every Irish whip were soundly smote by the flinging of my trusty chair.
Also new is the ladder match, which brings with it some cool gameplay possibilities, like climbing the ladder and diving out of the ring, then bashing into some poor, mulleted fool, who is more than likely already unconscious. I say more than likely because you can only do half of the cool stuff with the ladder if your opponent is already thoroughly battered.
Now, do you remember the horrible attempts Wrestlemania 2000 made at a story line? Well, apparently THQ has fired the kindergartners they had writing for them and hired some big kids. I think some of the new writers might even be twelve. Yeah. "Wow," was what I said, too.
I feel bad telling you the story blows and the writing sucks, because it is the best yet. However, it does manage to gives significance to the matches beyond the usual 'win the fight and get the belt' crap. Given Wrestlemania's awful attempt at a plotline, the story is even sort of impressive. But it's not even close to being as good as WWF writing (gag). Better send in the 8th graders.
The graphics are pretty similar (if not a little better than) those in Wrestlemania 2000. The characters, like last time, are superbly animated, and the violence is oddly more convincing than the actual wrestling on TV. The sound is pretty murky, but every N64 owner should be used to that by now.
WWF: No Mercy is a really good wrestling game. However, its superiority over Wrestlemania 2000 is marginalized due to technical limitations. Wrestlemania 2000 used nearly all of the N64's potential, leaving No Mercy little room to exceed its predecessor. It's really more of an upgrade than anything else...but a damn good one.