As I am writing this review, I am currently watching an ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) pay-per-view, and with watching this, I can see how professional wrestling has become more hardcore, more aggressive, and best of all, more entertaining.
Likewise, wrestling video games have been definitely getting better over the course of the last few years. I still remember playing the original Pro Wrestling on my Nintendo Entertainment System, and remembered how enjoyable it was. Unfortunately, with the later pro wrestling releases, they have averaged from pretty good (as in WCW vs. nWo: World Tour) to average (WWF Wrestlemania) to just plain awful (WCW Nitro).
Over the last few years, there has been talk about Acclaim making their last WWF-licensed game before the WWF name is acquired by THQ (who will soon lose their WCW license to EA later this year), and considering Acclaim’s tendency for mediocre software, I had a real bad feeling about the last WWF release. However, after playing WWF Warzone for the PlayStation, I am not afraid to eat my words, because I found that Warzone is one of the most engrossing, most involving wrestling games that I have played in God knows how long.
Warzone pits at least fifteen of the hottest WWF (and some former WWF) Superstars in one ring: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Mankind, Faarooq, "The Rock", Owen Hart, The Undertaker, Kane, The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust, Ahmed Johnson, British Bulldog, Bret Hart, and both Headbangers. Even better, this is only the starting wrestlers.
Gameplay consists of tons of modes. There’s your typical Vs. mode and Challenge mode (a run for the Championship title), but there is also a tag team mode, cage match, War match (last one standing wins), Tornado match (a team version of a War match), and my personal favorite, the Weapons match, which is a no-countout, no-disqualification match under ECW rules (falls count anywhere and of course, weapons are legal!).
Control is what concerned me the most when I prepared for this game, because when I read the previews, I read that it controlled exactly like WCW Nitro, and for anyone who knows the pain I went through when I played Nitro, it shouldn’t be necessary to say that it had the worst control scheme in wrestling game histroy. But this too turned out to be a hoax, as Warzone controls more like a hybrid of a fighting game and WCW vs. nWo, and works like a charm. Punches and kicks can be dished out easily, and special throws/holds can either be executed while moving around or in a tie up. It will take some time to master the more advanced moves, as well as finishers such as the "Stone Cold Stunner", but fortunately, Warzone comes equipped with a more than adequate training mode which appears to have been pulled from some of the better fighting games.
And guess what, not only does it play great, but it looks and sounds as great, almost as if watching a real WWF pay per view. Acclaim and their developers, Iguana West, incorporated a new "soft-skinned" rendering technique for their engine, making the characters look less like plastic-coated polygons and more like living, breathing, WWF superstars! And unlike Nitro with its laughable robot walking animations, Warzone’s fluidity makes me want to yell out a Joey Styles-esque "Oh my God!" as up to four characters are animated at a very brisk 30 frames per second.
The sound is also amazing, starting off with the superior commentary of Vince (Mr.) McMahon and Jim (J.R.) Ross. From there is goes to the impressive crowd reactions which seem to have been recorded from actual WWF events and concludes with each wrestlers REAL theme music. No MIDI, no remakes, this is the real deal. I was shocked when I checked out Shawn Michael’s stats page, and the actual theme for D-Generation X came on. Now that is how a wrestling game should be executed!
But most importantly, how could I review this game without the amazing Create a Player mode? Sure, we’ve seen player creation modes before, but none this deep. The possibilities that can be done with this mode are endless, with different facial textures, hair styles, outfits, moves, themes, even the opportunity to decide if the player will be a face (good guy) or heel (bad guy) can all be decided, and since up to 30 characters can be saved on one memory block, it can be possible to create the whole remaining roster from the WWF, as well as WCW and yes, even ECW wrestlers!
Warzone is a long time coming, and is sure was worth it! All the traumas of past wrestling games (aside from WCW vs. nWo) are now a thing of the past. Warzone is now available for the Sony PlayStation, and a Nintendo 64 version will be released on August 11th, so look for it.