Game Review - by Jeremiah Pratt
Last year, THQ released WCW Nitro. Although a mediocre game, millions still flocked to the stores mindlessly in order to purchase the newest product from World Championship Wrestling, only to find that the game fell far short from the ideal wrestling game. Featuring dancing clowns, lame programmers, fake rings, weak hidden characters, and horrible play control, Nitro was just another in a long list of wrestling games that didn't make the grade. Now, a year has passed and Thunder makes is release, but in the words of WCW's own Kevin Nash, "Can you say Deja Vu?"
Fortunately this is THQ's last WCW game for the PlayStation, they have purchased the WWF license to make up for their loss, a move which should depress WWF fans worldwide. Starting the game off you are immediately graced with about three minutes of FMV highlight footage from previous WCW events. Skipping that it is easy to see that at least one mistake has been taken care of since Nitro: There are now many more options. Cage matches, matches for the other titles, and a battle royal mode have all been added (battle royals are usually n64 exclusives unfortunately). Moreover, the game features Dual Shock compatibility (which wasn't even present in the reigning king of the wrestling game genre, WWF WARzone), and the full use of weapons. Going on to the select screen, 32 wrestlers are initially selectable, and the ever-so-common sub-boss system is also present, with each wrestler unlocking a new wrestler upon the game's completion. However, one noticeable fact is that the rants and characters although quite entertaining (especially Raven's), are all taken from the PC and PSX versions of WCW Nitro. In fact this game runs on the exact same engine, which is not necessarily a good thing. However, some extra options have been added to set it apart slightly, and to make the game more interesting.
However, there is definitely a problem, the gameplay still is horribly bad, just like last year's Nitro, and in fact it has gotten even worse. Despite the fact that the slowdown is no longer an issue (any run-ins executed while playing Nitro would slow the whole game down insanely). The game still suffers from characters with only three special moves, simplistic attacks, wrestlers over 50 years of age being able to do hurracanranas, and the like. Plus, one more cheap move has been added, the test of strength. This move allows the player with the faster buttons to mash on them to regain his energy while rapidly draining his opponent. Two successful strength tests in succession will put an opponent in red. Also, as always, there is no way to escape from submission, and the ropes cannot save you either. This is really foolish, as it turns what should be a wrestling game into nothing more than another title in an endless list of fighting games. When you complete the game you get to view even more FMV, which seems to be what Inland's wrestling games center upon. Sadly it is the same footage every time you beat the game, giving you no reason to beat it with everyone except for getting the other wrestlers. All in all, WCW/NWO Thunder is a step in the right direction for Inland Productions, and is still enjoyable for the serious WCW fans (all eight of them). However, it still reeks of "rehash" and unless you are a die-hard WCW fan, or have not purchased Nitro yet, I can't really suggest picking the title up. However, at the very least it is worth renting.
The actual game features a lot of detail in both the wrestlers and the background. The crowd is very much alive and the ring setting for Thunder is close to exact. More or less the animations are ok. Although there aren't that many moves to see. They are depicted correctly and are in form. The worst thing that Nitro did was get lazy on the finishing moves. The same may be true here, but more wrestlers have their actual finishers there. More on the player detail, which looks very chalky. That's the best way I can put it. Then, you get four chalky beasts in the same ring. Oh man look out talk about framerate dip.
The music sounds very much like those on TV when the Nitro girls dance and the other backgrounds are basically redone rings from Nitro, but all in all it's a great improvement. Too bad that all the wrestlers still have the same grunts and groans, because Miss Elizabeth still sounds like a guy and it would be funny to hear Hogan's "Ashawww!" every time he hits somebody. Commentary is called by Tony Schiavone and Bobby the Brain (despite the fact that the box says "Mike Tenay," which is an apparent misprint). Also, a concept I really liked was the addition of FMV ring entrances for the wrestlers with their entrance themes. Although relatively short, is a whole lot better than not having anything at all, and they add to the game (although for some reason, Chris Jericho lacks his entrance theme).
WWF Warzone still remains king of the hill, but unlike the hurried job of last year, Inland actually put some work into Thunder, and it may just be worth taking a close look at. On the plus side the moves are easy to pull off. The negatives hit all over place, graphically, features, and gameplay. They almost pulled off a good job on the ring intros. Until two or more wrestlers had the same opening music. Or worse yet the same music as the title intro. The most fun arrives from getting secret wrestlers and then finding out what their moves are haha.