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WCW Nitro (PC)
MSRP: $49.99
Number of Players: 1-2
Developer: THQ, Inc.
Publisher: THQ, Inc.

Rating:
**
out of
*****

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.

WCW 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, I configured 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.

Anyway, 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 old fast.

WCW 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.

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