As I write this review, I am in the middle of watching the World Wrestling Federation’s Summerslam pay-per-view. In typical WWF fashion, the production is top-notch, with nary a hitch. Their rival, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) has taken a major fall from grace, and their last pay-per-view, New Blood Rising, is a perfect example.
WWF and WCW video games seem to follow the same story. While I was impressed with both WWF Wrestlemania 2000 on the N64 and Smackdown! on the PlayStation, I did not like WCW Mayhem for either N64 or PlayStation.
When I heard that THQ (who made the other WWF titles) would make a Dreamcast grappler, I looked forward to it. I even heard it would implement the Smackdown! Engine that made the PlayStation game a success. I even had a hands-on look at E3 and was impressed, but wanted to see more than what was on display.
Unfortunately my wish didn’t come true, because WWF Royal Rumble fails to deliver what previous WWF titles have in the past.
Royal Rumble was originally designed as an arcade game, with only two modes. Exhibition mode has you controlling a WWF superstar and a corner partner through ten stages to defeat the team of Vince and Shane McMahon and win the WWF title. The other mode, obviously called the Royal Rumble, puts you against 30 superstars (9 on screen at one time) to be the only one left in the ring.
As an arcade game this is passable, but not for a Dreamcast game. Where is the title reigns? Where are the hardcore matches? Where are the Hell in the Cells? Almost everything I loved in Smackdown is GONE!
The character roster is minimal as well. Only 21 characters are available: Al Snow, the Big Show, Chris Jericho, D’Lo Brown, Edge, Godfather (or should I say, Goodfather), Matt and Jeff Hardy, Kane, Kurt Angle (it’s true, it’s true), Mankind (not Mick Foley), Rikishi, Road Dogg, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Tazz, The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker, X-Pac, and yes, Vince and Shane McMahon. These days, 21 characters are just not enough. Where are the Dudley Boyz, or the APA. And while we’re at it, why include Steve Austin if he’s been inactive for over a year?
Smackdown’s smooth control has also been butchered, probably for arcade-like reasons. You can now grapple anyone at anytime (instead of being directed to one character at a time), but now it is hard to grab anyone, and at times, I ended up grabbing nothing but air. 2-button presses are also used for partner attacks, but even they turned out to be a challenge to execute.
The game even looks like it was ported to the PlayStation, as each character, despite being high res, look blocky, and have no muscle definition as well (take a look at Ultimate Fighting Championship to see what real definition looks like). The background settings look nice tough, especially the lighting near the entrance ramp.
But still, that doesn’t do much to improve on this title. The only thing that could improve this game is to add more modes and go back to the original Smackdown formula. As it stands now, Royal Rumble has more a feel of the crappier WCW games out on the market, and not the high quality the WWF is known for. As a result, it gets only 2 Gems and I sentence THQ/Yukes to constant views of WCW New Blood Rising until they get the next game done right.