by Alex Knapp
Systems: PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast
Developer: Iguana Entertainment
As the 1990s approached an end, the WWF was back in the saddle again. Rocked by the steroid trials of the early 1990s, struggling with a stagnant product that failed to capture fans’ interest in the middle of the decade, and then faced with fierce competition from WCW, Vince McMahon’s empire was in jeopardy, and for a while, there was legitimate concern that the WWF was on its deathbed.
But a combination of daring decisions, hard work, and plain old good luck brought the WWF back from the brink. They reinvented themselves with the new brand they called “Attitude,” tapping into the adult culture of the 1990s with a raunchy, unpredictable, eventful new style. Soon, they were back in the black ink and then some, WCW was in their rearview mirror, and top superstars like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, The Undertaker and D-Generation X were known far and wide in the mainstream.
It’s only fitting, therefore, that their next video game outing would bear the name of the new brand that had fueled their return to dominance. Following up on WWF War Zone, which had received somewhat mixed reviews, Acclaim, to their credit, doubled their efforts to improve on the issues with their previous outing and capture the feel of the new WWF. And whether you love or hate the Acclaim wrestling games, it certainly can’t be denied that they certainly went all the way in this one, and that they put in a strong effort.
WWF Attitude opens up with a nice dedication to the late Owen Hart, whose tragic death at Kemper Arena occurred just before the game’s release, and who is featured here in his last licensed wrestling game appearance. He is accompanied by an impressive roster of the Attitude Era’s main eventers and midcarders, each of whom have full ring entrances with their real theme music playing. No problems with an outdated roster here, as there was with War Zone; everyone you’d expect from that time period is available.
But before you see them, you see the match options. And my lord, did Acclaim throw in everything but the kitchen sink. The game possesses a significantly greater variety of match types than War Zone, or for that matter, any wrestling game at the time. Cage matches, hardcore, handicap, last man standing, iron man, triple threat, I quit, Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, King of the Ring, and hell, even a stable match, a four-way tag team match between teams of four wrestlers! Featured for the first time in this game is also the pay-per-view option, where you get to design your own wrestling card, complete with designing the arena and arranging the match types and participants. Create A Wrestler returns from War Zone, and is more extensive.
The game’s campaign features a Career Mode, a much larger experience than War Zone’s Challenge Mode. This campaign has you starting from the very bottom of the barrel of the WWF roster, working solely on house shows until you rack up enough wins to make it onto TV on Shotgun Saturday Night, Sunday Night Heat and eventually be featured on Raw. As you climb the ladder, you’ll make it to the European title ranks, the Intercontinental title ranks, and if you keep your momentum up, you’ll be main eventing pay-per-views for the WWF title. Playing through a career is, as you would expect, the way to unlock the game’s hidden wrestlers. It can be a little repetitive, but the game tries to add some variety to it by having every couple of matches be a certain type of special match, which helps keep it a little more interesting.
So, in many ways, the game has a lot going for it. It retained and improved on the things War Zone did right. In-game commentary (this time by Shane McMahon and Jerry Lawler) sounds pretty good. The game has even more personality through full ring entrances, spot-on theme music, and wrestler voiceovers. It’s easier to execute signature moves and finishers, since Acclaim corrected the mistake they made last time and made them visible on the in-game move list. And there are so many options and varieties of matches, you can spend hours experimenting with different experiences.
However, Attitude also retains a lot of the things that turned people off of War Zone. The graphics may look good when you’re looking at a still picture of them, but animations continue to be slow, stiff and awkward. The experience of seeing Steve Austin’s entrance in a game kind of gets ruined when Stone Cold is shambling to the ring with his arms at his side, looking like a college freshman stumbling back home from a kegger to his dark dorm room, trying desperately to find a toilet to puke in. The voiceovers may sound impressive sometimes, but also can come across as over-used and gratuitous. I don’t need to begin every match with The Rock asking, “WHO is this roody poo?” And I can also do without the recordings of inebriated sounding fans bellowing out catchphrases. And at the end of the day, you’re still doing button combos to execute moves, and your gameplay will still be interrupted by having to repeatedly pause and look up the move lists so you can remember how to have an exciting match.
The engine for WWF Attitude really is something which you either like or you don’t. Some gamers may have the patience to get used to the button combos, and don’t mind that the moves don’t look as nicely executed as they would in WWF WrestleMania 2000. Others, though, will just not be able to get into it, and won’t be impressed by Attitude’s strong focus on atmosphere either.
And yet, I have to admit that I honestly ended up liking Attitude more than I expected I would. Lots of devoted wrestling gamers today hold up the THQ/AKI
wrestling engine as the best, and look down on Acclaim’s comparatively clunky and less accessible system as dated. And there’s a lot of truth to this. However, replaying Attitude, I actually feel like this game and WrestleMania 2000 are more evenly matched than I had originally considered them to be. They each have their respective strengths and weaknesses. WrestleMania 2000 has much more fluid animations, a greater selection of impressive moves, a more logical and accessible control system and a more fulfilling in-ring experience. On the other hand, Attitude has amazing customizability, an unbelievable variety of match options, an atmospheric presentation that does a better job of capturing the feel of the WWF product and more pizzazz to it. Yet the advantages they have over one another are not gaping, and in terms of overall quality, they’re closer to each other than one may think.
It really is up to you to decide which game suits your individual tastes better. For me, I can see the merits in both. While at the end of the day, I may have to choose WrestleMania 2000 by a hair, WWF Attitude can also be a fun, engaging wrestling experience and a worthy final entry in the long relationship between Acclaim and the WWF.
Rating: 4 stars
Photo 1: en.wikipedia.org
Photo 2: mobygames.com
Photo 3: game-rave.com
Categories: Wrestling Reviews