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WCW Mayhem (PSOne)
MSRP: $19.99
Number of Players: 1-4
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Rating:
***
out of
*****

WCW has lost a lot of momentum in the war with the WWF. This is true in terms of TV ratings as well as the videogame representations of each organization. While the WWF has had two successful back-to-back videogames with WWF Warzone and WWF Attitude, the WCW has languished with WCW Nitro, WCW/NWO Thunder and WCW/NWO Revenge. The N64-only Revenge was the only title of any merit, being a translated version of a Japanese developed wrestling game, while Nitro and Thunder were American creations.

After Thunder's release earlier this year, the WCW license was taken over by Electronic Arts. WCW fans rejoiced at the possibilities that a quality development team could bring to a WCW videogame. Without a doubt, WCW Mayhem is head and shoulders above any previous WCW game. However, it falls a bit short of the WWF games.

The game begins with a somewhat rushed looking CGI video sequence that depicts the assembly of Goldberg via the game's create-a-wrestler option. It could have been done a bit better, but it sets the mood of the game nicely. The theme music packs a good wallop and got me ready for some wrestling action.

The game's menu, which appears immediately following the intro, allows you to quick start a match, play a main event, create-a-wrestler, launch into a "quest for the best" mode or tinker with the options. The "quick start" simply allows you to pick two wrestlers to match up. "Main Event" allows you to stage a match similar to something seen on Monday Nitro or Thursday Thunder. "Quest for the Best" is a career mode, which allows you to work your way up the ranks to win the TV belt and then the U.S. Heavyweight Belt, facing some of the game's hidden wrestlers in the process. The "create-a-wrestler" and options selections are pretty obvious.

The "Quest for the Best" mode is the main attraction for a single player. Unfortunately, it is nowhere near as interesting or complete as WWF Attitude's career mode. Instead of giving you a series of shows and matches to work through, you're simply asked to wrestle five contenders and then the TV champion. Win the TV belt and it's on to the Heavyweight belt and the next five contenders. Win the Heavyweight title and you'll defend it from the top five contenders. It's not as interesting as wrestling house shows in an attempt to work your way up to a Saturday night TV spot and eventually a shot on the Monday night program, nor do you face any different challenges, like tag-team matches or lumberjack matches. Each match in the quest mode is a one-on-one match. That's it.

The matches themselves are a lot of fun. Actually, the control is the best I've played in a wrestling game so far. It's very easy to pull off some incredible moves in WCW Mayhem without it becoming a mash-fest like WCW Nitro or WCW Thunder. The controls are actually fairly logical in that certain situations allow for a different set of moves. Once you master a few basic moves, you'll be able to put together some fine looking wrestling action.

If you want to take that action outside the ring, you can. Apart from merely going just outside the ring, you can battle up the ramp and into the backstage area, including locker rooms, storage rooms and even the arena bathroom. Each of these areas provides a unique set of weapons to use on your opponent, like chairs, boxes, pipes, etc.

I can't fault the game's selection of wrestlers, even though some of them are either in different factions now or, as in the case of Raven, no longer with the company. It's nice to see wrestlers like Eddy Guerrero, Kidman and La Parka included with the obligatory Hollywood Hogan, Scott Steiner and Sting. Unlocking wrestlers makes even more interesting selections available, including Sonny Onoo and Sarge, from the WCW training facility, the Power Plant. All of the wrestlers look pretty good, although they actually looked better in WCW/NWO Thunder, which is a shame.

One thing that this game lacks is a good atmosphere. WCW/NWO Thunder lacked in almost every way, except for the really good atmosphere it tried to create. WCW Mayhem, even with commentary by Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan, all the Pay-Per-View locales and animated ring entrances, complete with appropriate intro music, simply fails to create a convincing wrestling show atmosphere. The arenas all look the same, save for the decorations depicting the event taking place. The "crowd" texture map is pretty poor. There are never any animated crowd scenes at all. The entrances, while including the correct and well-done versions of the intro music, are fairly poor. The game's wrestlers approximate what the real wrestlers do when they arrive for a match, but they're not very convincing.

The create-a-wrestler option, which was so addicting in WWF Attitude, falls short in WCW Mayhem. While you are given a fair amount of leeway as to what you can make a wrestler look like, there is simple no comparison between the amount of options available in Mayhem to the immense number of customizable qualities in WWF Attitude. Mayhem doesn't even allow you to create female wrestlers and there are female wrestlers in WCW. Just ask Madusa or Miss Madness.

Overall, WCW Mayhem is a good, solid wrestling game that you may want to rent before you buy. By no means is it a bad game at all. It's just that it's already been outdone by WWF Attitude.

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