|In the mid-80's, I used to watch the WWF. After Hulk
Hogan re-energized the wrestling world and made it basically impossible to
turn anywhere without
seeing his face on some sort of merchandise, I quit watching the sport altogether.
That is, until this past summer when I was at a friend's house and he put on
WCW Monday Nitro. After seeing that wrestling had "grown up" a bit
since I quit watching, I got hooked again. So, when I heard THQ was releasing
WCW Nitro for the PC, I had to check it out.
Nitro allows you to wrestle as one of the current roster
of WCW grapplers, including Goldberg, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Perry Saturn.
As you make your
choice, you can opt to view a video "rant" from each available wrestler.
Most of the rants are the standard "I'm the best and no one can beat me" material
that you can see every week on TV. Some of the rants, however, are kind of
unique, like Kevin Nash's, for example. As is the case with all video clips,
you're not going to watch them very often after the first few times you play.
You have the choice of playing either by yourself in the one player exhibition,
tournament or tag team matches or with a friend in the two player VS or tag
team VS modes. Or, you can participate in a Battle Royal, which can contain
up to four wrestlers -- under human or computer control -- in the ring at once.
At first glance, the game looks like pretty much the same type of game that
is available on the PlayStation or Nintendo 64. How much different could it
be? You pick a wrestler and choose an opponent and have it at, right? However,
once you start playing, you'll quickly realize that looks can be deceiving.
First of all, I ran into some problems assuming the game would
play like a console wrestling game. As soon as the options menu was available,
my gamepad to control the action. Having done that, I found that even with
a four button gamepad, I couldn't make my wrestler do everything without having
to use the keyboard for some moves. Although the box claims that gamepads are
supported, they're not supported very well. "No problem," I thought, "I'll
just use the keyboard." Well, the keyboard isn't exactly the best way
to control a game like this, especially when you're used to console fighting
games, but I got used to it. Prepare to lose a lot of matches before you get
the gist of how to use the keyboard to move around the ring and defend yourself.
once the game started, I was disappointed to see that there were no wrestler
intros or walk-ins. The matches immediately begin with the wrestlers
in the ring, usually with the computer controlled opponent pounding on your
wrestler before the bell sounds. On a 3D-accelerated machine, the action looks
pretty good. The wrestlers are polygonal with texture mapped faces that give
each wrestler their appropriate look. The ring looks nice enough (How could
they mess that up?) and the execution of the moves makes each instantly recognizable.
When someone's getting a vertical suplex put on them, you can see that that's
what's going on without any trouble. However, that's how things look on a 3D-accelerated
machine. The box states that a 3D accelerator is recommended, but not required.
I'll put it this way, the game will install and run without a 3D accelerator,
but it will look nothing like the screenshot you see here.
In terms of gameplay, WCW
Nitro is a little suspect. While
the game definitely looks like a professional wrestling match, the action
certainly doesn't flow
like one. Basically, each player executes a move on the other (or slaps and
kicks the other, if you can't get the moves down) repeatedly until one player's
energy is low enough to apply a pin for the 3 count. Beat up a wrestler too
fast and he'll call for help, which will bring a "surprise attack" character
to the ring. This character (and your original opponent) will the proceed to
kick the crap out of you until you can either pin your opponent or you stick
it out until the helping wrestler leaves (or is defeated.) There's an option
to turn the run-ins off, but it's kind of fun to see who'll run out next since
the game allows you to play only 16 different wrestlers at first. The surprise
attack characters can be any of the "hidden" characters that can
be unlocked by beating the game in tournament mode. Some of the hidden wrestlers
include Roddy Piper, Kanyon, and Booker T.
The sound effects are not exactly going to be confused with
a real wrestling match either. Basically, each wrestler grunts when attempting
a move or is
on the receiving end of a move. Each wrestler has a taunt option, which allows
each wrestler to work the crowd a bit, as well as regain some energy. (For
example, Diamond Dallas Page says "Bang!" and jumps around. Macho
Man says "Oh, yeah!" and jumps around. That's about it for all of
the wrestlers really.) After a taunt is executed, the crowd will usually become
a little louder. Commentary is provided by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
and Tony Schiavone, but amounts to little more than a mention of what move
is currently being applied to a wrestler. Hearing comments like "It's
the Frankensteiner!" or "He kicked out!" over and over gets
Nitro is a game with a lot of unfulfilled potential. A slightly more intuitive
control system would have helped a bit, as would a notice on the box that a
3D accelerator isn't a recommendation, but a requirement to play the game as
it was meant to be played. Instead of being the best PC wrestling game in a
relatively uncrowded market, WCW Nitro must settle for being a game that could
have been something better...a lot better. Wrestling, so far, is one genre
of games that the consoles still have a stranglehold on.
WCW Nitro requires a Pentium 166, 16 MB RAM, Super VGA video card, 4X CD-ROM,
150 MB Hard Drive space and Windows 95. Recommended: Pentium 200 or faster,
32MB RAM, 4MB or better video card and 3D accelerator card.
It was reviewed on a Intel Pentium II 233, 32 MB RAM, 32X CD-ROM, Best Data
Arcade FXII Voodoo 2 accelerator, AW35 PnP Soundcard, Saitek X6-32M gamepad,
and Windows 98.