Well well well...
The WWF needs to be ashamed of itself. That's what I thought the first time I saw an Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) broadcast on TNN. Sure, the WWF has expensive sets, huge superstars, and gripping storylines, but ECW makes them look like sissies. ECW doesn't have Vince McMahon's gazillion dollar budget. In fact, a typical ECW show looks like it costs about a buck and a half to produce. Holding events in the high school gyms and local auditoriums across the east coast, ECW is certainly a far cry from the arena filling WWF. Pre-determined outcome or not, these guys look like they're trying to win.
Acclaim's ECW Anarchy Rulz is the fourth title to use the WWF Warzone engine. When Acclaim released Warzone, fans complained about the horrible control and poor collision detection. Acclaim responded to the critics by releasing WWF Attitude, the sequel to Warzone, with a modified engine. If by "modify" they mean "make it extra glitchy" they certainly succeeded. Acclaim slapped this overused engine on their newest licensee ECW, thereby enraging hardcore wrestling fans as well. Not being content with their choice spot in hell, Acclaim gives us Anarchy Rulz, cementing their position at Satan's right hand.
Apparently, the programmers tried to make the game more spectacular than the actual live events. In ECW, the performers simply walk from backstage to the ring, accompanied by their theme music, without explosions, special lighting or smoke effects. This is a result of ECW's miniscule budget and greatly adds to the whole back-alley brawl sensibility (or lack thereof).
But in the game, we have pyrotechnic effects galore. It just seems like left-over WWF Attiude programming. Shame, shame Acclaim...serves you right for trying to cut corners.
Another difference between the show and the game is the varying match types and stipulations. The game has regular Singles matches, Tag-team matches, Weapons matches, Death match, Three way and Four way dances, and the dreaded "I Hate You" match. On the surface this may seem like a good idea, but in reality its just more crap. In actual ECW matches, disqualification is a rarity. The only ways to finish a match are by pinning your opponent, or forcing him to submit. Every match has the potential to become a "weapons" or "hardcore" match, so the match options in the game are really unnecessary.
It seems Acclaim tried to stay faithful to the actual show by adding gratuitous amounts of blood into the mix. Nice try, but rarely on the show do people bleed from the small of the back after being punched in the nose like in this game.
The graphics in this game are a disappointment. The most impressive visuals appear in the opening, and this is just grainy footage of ECW live events. Press Start, and things just get worse. Every character appears to have been palette swapped from Acclaim's old WWF games. They look and move exactly the same. Not a good thing, as those other games are dated. The wrestler entrances seem to be lifted pixel by pixel from Attitude, with ECW faces pasted on WWF characters, but somehow missing the charm.
The collision detection is absolutely horrible. Characters pass through the ropes, the ring floor, and one another. I can't describe the frustration one feels at finally managing to pull off a clothesline, only to have your arm pass through your opponent's neck with no damage.
This time out, Acclaim tried to get a little funky with the camera. In their previous wrestling titles, the camera was in a fixed position, zooming in and out depending on the characters' proximity to one another. Now you can get a view from the corners as well. The view transition only occurs when someone is whipped into the turnbuckle, and the transition is so abrupt and jerky it feels as if someone turned the channel in the middle of the game. It's disorienting at best.
I expected more from the sound effects in this game, though I don't know why. I mean it's all impact related right? All punches and kicks sound the same when they connect, and the sounds of bodies hitting the mat are uniform as well, regardless of the intensity of the impact. The crowd sounds as bored as the poor gamer who has to sit through this travesty. The inclusion of the announce team of Joey Styles and "The Quintessential Stud-muffin" Joel (insert dirty limerick here) Gertner may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but like everything else in this game; it is poorly executed.
Some of the comments are funny, but they repeat too often, and are always four or five moves behind the actual action. Quotes such as " Who booked this crap?" " What kind of pansy move was that?", and my personal favorite, "I feel sorry for the poor sap at home who had to watch this garbage!" coincide with graphical errors, and seem to be comments on the game play. It's also disturbing to hear your ECW superstar and his opponent being referred to as "player one" and "player two" when they have perfectly good names that one can easily see at the top of the screen.
The game play is exactly like the previous Acclaim titles in this genre. Sure the copy on the booklet states "All New Control System!" but it feels the same to me. It's the same system that was used in games like "Mortal Kombat". Y'know, tap down, left, punch, tap back, back, kick etc. It feels counter intuitive, and ultimately doesn't seem to work. If the controller doesn't respond to your commands, all strategy is rendered useless, and button mashing is what you end up doing. I was able to improve my record by playing while wearing oven mitts. Oven mitts for christ sake!!
Other reviewers might recommend this game only for hardcore ECW fans, but I believe that is a disservice to the fan. If anyone should avoid this game like the IRS it should be the hardcore ECW fan as they will be the most outraged. Anarchy Rulz just does not capture the feel of EC-dub. As a fan of wrestling, and a serious gamer, I find myself offended on two fronts. With the improvement in graphic quality and gameplay in this, what may be the final generation of Playstation I games; there is no excuse for slapping this outdated engine on game after game. Hell, even Capcom updates the Street Fighter engine every once in a while.
Bottom line, if you already own Attitude, don't bother with this. Just load up Attitude, go to the custom character mode, and create your own ECW roster. I did this last year with my copy of Attitude, and I honestly believe my guys look better than those from Anarchy Rulz. Shame Shame Acclaim!