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WCW vs. NWO World Tour Review

Publisher - THQ
Developer - Asmik/Aki Co.
Platform - N64
Type - Sports
Score - 6/10

I don't understand professional wrestling. Really. I just don't get it. Before playing and reviewing this game, I watched an episode of WCW Nitro on Turner Network Television. I sat through the whole thing and I didn't get the gist of it. My first problem was trying to categorize the wrestling game. Was it a sports game? A fighting game? Was it both?

My first attempt was to treat this game as a sports game. That just didn't work. A sport is a rules framework in which two people or teams can compete with each other. WCW vs. NWO, and professional wrestling in general, does not provide a coherent set of rules. You can do just about whatever you'd like, when ever you'd like. I know that the game of wrestling has rules, but in the episode I watched on TV, the rules were not enforced. People walk in and out of the ring like it was a revolving door. Fighting inside the ring seemed optional. Hitting the referee went unsanctioned. This is not a sport.

Next I tried to come at this game from a fighting angle. That was even worse then trying to call it a sports game. If you've read any of my fighting game reviews, you'd notice that I rant like a madman about the game's fighting engine. Good or bad, a fighting engine allows you to kill, incapacitate, or otherwise defeat your opponent. Each fighter has a finite measurement of heath or stamina, and you use various attacks to deplete your opponent. WCW vs. NWO seems to actively subvert that notion. It seems like WCW vs. NWO's combat engine wants a match to last forever. I refuse to believe that players heath decreases in a simple, linear digression. At times, the game will automatically stop one player from pinning another. The losing player doesn't even have to press a button, the game just won't let the match end. Basically, as a fighting game WCW vs. NWO doesn't cut the mustard. You can pummel your opponent for minutes and see no real progress.

I thought back to what I saw on television. A large portion of the program was devoted to dancers, violent speeches in the third person, and really overdone entrances. The actual "combat" was hard to take seriously, but the crowd was going nuts. From the second the show started to the instant the program stopped, the crowd hooted and hollered as though they were watching Thor wield his hammer at Ragnarok. The whole menagerie had a larger-than-life attitude. The wrestlers were huge and the moves were exaggerated. It was theater in high form .The only difference between myself and the crowd was that they were in on the script. This was the perspective I needed to understand WCW vs. NWO World Tour.

In that respect, WCW vs. NWO makes a lot more sense. The wrestlers, while not convincing models, moved the way they did on TV. The special maneuvers they executed mimicked those of the real thing. It looked and felt like a wrestling match. They even managed to imbue each wrestler with the same style and attitude of their real world counterparts. You can sit on top of your prone opponent and bash his head, you can throw him out of the ring, and you can ricochet off the ropes and slam the other guy. Maybe this isn't a fighting game, but it's definitely a wresting game.

Now that I had the right angle on this game, I could begin to appreciate it. There are lots of different types of matches, but the best mode is when you get to beat up your friends. WCW vs. NWO will let you beat up 3 of your friends in a four player match. You can also do a two on two tag team (and a three on one match), which lets teams of friends crush each other.

Almost everything about the presentation of this game is weak. The music is really bad 80's metal. It's appalling and it doesn't help the game in the least. The graphics on the other hand are a mixed blessing. The 3D models for the wrestlers are more or less believable, and the textures are ok. The faces could use a little more detail, but for all but close up views, the models look like the wrestlers. Their walking motion is pathetic. Their legs are out of sync with their speed and the result looks like two elephants walking in molasses (now that's an image, huh?). There are more problems when two wrestlers come in contact. They just don't look like they're touching each other. The wrestlers also suffer from cracking between polygons (something you don't see in other N64 games), and depth buffer problems. At times, one wrestler will put his hand through another. The ring is drawn and animated well, but the crowd is unpleasing and unrealistic.

It is true that there are a lot of bugs in the wrestlers, but the animations and movements comprising the attacks and maneuvers make up for that. When one wrestler picks up another and throws him to the ground, it looks like it does on TV. It also looks right when someone falls out of the ring and when they jump off one of the posts. That's what makes this game a winner for a wrestling fan. This game, while not perfect, gives you the feel of a wrestling match.

So, if you're a wrestling fan, I think this is a game for you. There are over 40 wrestlers (once you unlock them all), and your WCW and NWO faves are in there. If you don't like wrestling, don't even consider this game, 'cause you won't get into it. Let's get ready to... well, you know the rest.