For all you wrestling fans out there, Electronic Arts (EA) has released its first wrestling game. EA has dominated the sports video game section in toy stores for a long time now. Now they are finally bringing you Mayhem. WCW Mayhem features almost 60 wrestlers from Goldberg and Sting to Rey Mysterio and Raven -- even going the length to create a character for "Mean" Gene Okerlund.
If you watch wrestling, you know that the business is very unpredictable. It's sometimes hard to keep up with who is who and where they stand. So naturally this video game is going to suffer from that unpredictability. But with the right combination of gameplay and other cool gimmicks, EA will have you coming back for more. It seems that EA has found the right solution.
When I first powered-up this game, I couldn't wait to give the belt to Goldberg. In order to do so, I would first have to start from the bottom and work my way up, while at the same time quickly learn the controls. It takes maybe a dozen matches or so to get the hang of things, but once you get the controls down, there will be no stopping you. Matches take place on Monday Nitro, Thursday Thunder, Saturday Night, and 12 different Pay-Per-View events including Mayhem (of course). EA also allows you to fight backstage in places like bathrooms, locker rooms, garages, and many others.
I started on easy mode, but that was just was too easy. I saw Goldberg's infamous spear and jackhammer about a million times. The computer didn't have a chance. After changing the difficulty, the computer opponent did get tougher. However, on the hardest level of difficulty the computer is almost impossible to beat even while fighting the lowest ranked wrestlers. I found it kind of hard to believe that Goldberg had a difficult time beating the easiest of foes. But hey, this is wrestling right?
After going through the game with Goldberg a few times, I decided to try out the other wrestlers. I found that EA did a tremendous job recreating the moves in video game format. They did a great job with all the finishing moves and taunts for all the characters. They even seemed to get Wrath's Meltdown correct. It's better to start off using big name wrestlers instead of the smaller cruiser weights because most of the cruiser weight moves are submission and pin moves, not the bigger and more flashy moves like Macho's Elbow and Total Package's torturous Rack.
The best part of the whole game is fighting backstage. Forget the traditional ring matches, go fight in the bathrooms or a media room. With plenty of weapons offering different degrees of damage, you are sure to have a great time beating up just about anybody. It's a good idea to take your opponent back there, especially as you work your way up to the harder levels because your opponents will get increasingly harder. It's a fabulous new feature that should set another standard to be included with all wrestling games. You can still use all the basic moves backstage, but why would you want to do that with so many weapons available for your usage. Only a weenie would opt not to use the foreign objects given to you for the soul purpose of whoopin' some, well, you know. But don't get too carried away, the computer learns fast and will reverse the beating, giving a good effort to stop you dead in your tracks.
Another twist on the gameplay is that every once in a while a run-in will occur. If you are beating up on an opponent too badly, a member of the same affiliation will run in and try to save the cause. On a few rare occasions a random character will run in to help you out and deal out some pain on your opponent. It's fun to see who the computer will pick to team-up with you.
EA included a Pay-Per-View Password Mode. It lets you enter a password given to you during each WCW PPV Wrestling event and play four matches off the card during that PPV event. For example, if Buff Bagwell is to fight Brett Hart on the next Starrcade, all you have to do is enter in the code and the computer will set up the Arena and the four matches for you. Just a little bit more realism added by EA to this game.
There are not very many drawbacks to this game. I did notice that the gameplay would sometimes glitch and really strange things would happen. I know it occurs in all games, but it seemed to happen a lot. They are not really major glitches, but they do get annoying at times. Another drawback is that EA did not include a way to change the default outfit for the wrestlers. With wrestlers changing their outfits and affiliations all the time, you are stuck with the outfit EA gave each of the wrestlers. There are some alternate uniforms, but you will have to unlock them by completing certain tasks. You can create a custom character, but with limited memory in the game you have limited options for your wrestler.
Graphics & Audio
The quality of the sound is important when determining an average game from an outstanding game. As usual, Tony Schiavone is going crazy and sometimes seems like he is going to pee his pants all throughout the game, almost as if we were live on TV. Always talking trash, getting overexcited, and running his mouth off just at the right times. He and "Mean" Gene provide you with commentary from start to finish of each match. Gene provides the introductions, specific rules to the match, and the winner(s). Tony fills in everything in between.
The wrestlers move smoothly around the arena. Sometimes the wrestlers look a little weird when standing still, but EA included over 900 motion-captured scenes that give you just about all the moves in WCW, which made me look right through the strange renditions of each character. It's just a video game and not the real thing. From throwing your opponent into the ropes to sliding back into the ring, each character moves very fluidly once they start wrestling.
Mayhem has the best announcing I have ever heard in a wrestling game. The game seems to get me through the days when there isn't any wrestling on TV. Tony and Gene make me feel as if I was actually watching the match. I loved the idea of including the backstage rooms and arsenal of weapons available in them. I don't even play in the ring that much anymore because it's too much fun to throw my opponent around in the various backstage settings. The gameplay controls are just as bad as any other wrestling game, but it would have helped if all the companies making the wrestling games would set the buttons the same so learning the buttons would be a lot easier. You'll get used to it, eventually. WCW Mayhem has great multiplayer replay value, but the single player mode gets pretty boring after awhile because of the less than average create-a-player section. It pretty much makes you play the same characters over and over again. Nevertheless, WCW Mayhem is a great game to play with your buddies and will keep you going all through the night.
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In the same way that a fight between two six-packed wrestlers might be interrupted by a third fighter scampering into the ring, EA have leapt into a gaming arena that's previously been reserved for 'rasslin stalwarts Acclaim and THQ. Thankfully, WCW Mayhem is good enough to avoid EA ending up lying in a pool of blood and bones on the floor.
There's plenty that we don't like about Mayhem. The 60+ wrestlers are squat, swollen-headed dwarfs, who slide around the ring like they're on rollerskates. The number of options is extremely limited - aside from changing rope break and submission rules, the volume of the crowd is just about the only customisable feature. And there's an unforgiveable loading delay before each match, where the screen goes completely black except for a 'Please Wait' message. Shocking.
But where EA's game scores is with its unrivalled speed. It's astonishingly fast, to the point where punches, throws and holds occur at the kind of eye-jittering pace that real-life wrestling reaches, helping Mayhem feel'much more like a traditional beat-'em-up. With every move coming with its own gruesomely over-the-top crunching or slapping noise, and the camera moving in to get a good look at the most painful moves, Mayhem has much more in common with games like Fighters Destiny than its 'rasslin stablemates, and offers some superbly exciting fighting as a result.
The number of moves is disappointing compared to Attitude or Revenge, but Mayhem concentrates on quality rather than quantity, with only the most useful reversals, turnbuckle throws and spine- snapping submissions included. They're not always easy to pull off - especially if your opponent won't lie still and take what's coming to him - but they look all the more painful for their sheer speed. We had to look away from the screen every time Booker-T performed his patented 'I'm Going To Somersault Onto Your Stomach' manoeuvre.
As a one-player game, Mayhem is short-lived. Matches are over too quickly, the stamina/energy bars seem stacked in your favour, and repeating one move is guaranteed to topple any fighter - we won the first 'Hard' belt on our first go within 15 minutes. But it's a worthy multiplayer game, and although it's not as comprehensive, attractive or lasting as this month's Wrestlemania, its fast play makes it an enjoyable wrestler in its own right.