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WCW Mayhem Package Art
  Electronic Arts

WCW Mayhem

Fake-fighting fans rejoice! EA Sports breaks out onto the wrestling scene and lays the smack down with WCW Mayhem. This game features all the WCW characters and factions and brings them to life with well-executed motion-capturing and realistic textures. It does have a few minor shortcomings, but above all else, it never fails to provide a solid game of body-slammin' fun. Mayhem makes an excellent addition to the N64's library of ass-whopin' wrestling games and easily holds it's own against the already established title WWF Attitude.

Anytime a developer tries to implement motion-capture, it's usually a good sign that they actually care about graphic quality and are somewhat concerned with creating a good-looking game. Such is the case with Mayhem and I'm pleased to report that EA seems to have the motion-capture thing down pat. All the characters look terrific and their motion is fluid and convincing. The physics engine seems to be well constructed and clipping is kept to an absolute minimum.


There is only one thing lacking in the graphics engine and that's support for a high-res mode. The RAM Pak has been out for a long while now and as far as I'm concerned there's no excuse for developers not to use it. Especially in a wrestling game, which really doesn't have that many polygons compared to a typical N64 title. I'd flame them a lot more if WWF Attitude had a high-res mode, but that game didn't bother with it either. Maybe there's some unknown technological barrier to a creating a high-res wrestling game of which I am unaware. Until someone proves me wrong, I'll go out on a limb and blame it on lazy programmers who are more concerned with cross-platform compatibility than they are with getting the most performance they can out of a system. Shame on them.

All audio samples in the game, from the music to the cheering of the crowd, are very high fidelity. At the beginning of a match, each wrestler will make his way to the ring amidst their faithfully reproduced theme song as well as the roaring of thousands of pumped up fans. Once the fighting starts, you'll hear realistic grunts and bone crushing booms as wrestlers are slammed against the canvas with brutal force. Just about everything sounds absolutely spectacular with no hint of nasty compression static whatsoever.

My only beef in the sound department are the pesky announcers. My only beef in the sound department are the pesky announcers. My only beef… As with just about any video game featuring "live" commentary the limited vocabulary of the announcers gets very repetitive very quickly. That's not to say that it's not accurate, in fact, just about every comment made reflects exactly what's going on inside or outside of the ring. However, hearing "Oh my GOD! What is he going to do next!?" every single time you climb the turnbuckle can get more than a little annoying. I realize that it's difficult for developers to make enough commentaries so that they won't seem repetitive and that it would be even more difficult to fit the hundreds of necessary sentences onto a cartridge. But my feeling on in-game commentaries has always been either do it right or don't to do it at all. Having the same thing said every 30 seconds is just not how it should be done. Maybe we'll see this type of feature work on a next generation console where memory is less of an issue.

For their first wrestler outing, EA sure didn't skimp on the gameplay one bit. It's simply fantastic. This game moves faster than other wrestling titles, which serves to raise the intensity a notch and increase the pace of the action. It goes a long way in helping to eliminate the "sluggish" feeling that has plagued many wrestling games in the past. Wrestlers are controlled with the directional pad rather than the analogue stick, which makes it much easier to accurately choose the desired move. All the holds and techniques have been intelligently assigned simple button combinations and after only a few games, it becomes relatively easy to make use of every wrestler's many moves. There is one small exception though. Somebody at EA's interface design team really dropped the ball by forgetting to tell anybody where the pin button is. This tends to make the games excruciatingly long, especially if you're on the receiving end of a Scorpion Deathlock onslaught. Pinning is not listed on the in-game controls menu, nor can it be found anywhere in the instruction booklet! A quick call to Nintendo's gameplay counselors, however, quickly reveals that you can pin an opponent when they're down by pressing the L button (conveniently labeled in the game and in the instruction booklet as "block".) Aside from this minor oversight, the game plays extremely well in both the single and multi-player modes, without a hint of slowdown.

A big part of Mayhem's unique appeal is it's resolve to take the fighting out of the ring and into other areas of the stadium. To push this unique ability, the game's default rules make it so that there is no count out and pins count anywhere. This means that you can lure an opponent into a locker room, smash him in the head a few times with an iron bar and pin him on the spot! The game also features a wide array of weapons including chairs, cattle prods and kitchen sinks. I hate using cliches, so I'm not going to touch the well-known kitchen sink cliché with a ten foot… damn it.

There's also a nifty little create-a-wrestler feature which, although it doesn't have quite as many options as Attitude's, is certainly more than adequate, allowing you to create literally hundreds of unique new characters, including the ever-elusive invisible man.

Another noteworthy feature is the neat way in which the camera angles keep changing and panning around during the matches. The camera does an effective job of accentuating the best parts of a match, like circling around players when they're locked in a submission hold. Yet the angles never blindside you while you're in the middle of a skirmish or hinder gameplay in the least.

As with most wrestling titles, this game is an absolute hoot with 2 or 3 friends. There's just something about endlessly pounding the daylights out of each other that somehow sooths the soul. Maybe it's the showmanship, maybe it's the athleticism, maybe it's because I still haven't forgiven my brother for the time he broke my bike and pile-driving people into the hard concrete is a form of releasing years of bottled up aggressions. Either way, it's a hell of a good way to kill a couple of hours.

Although it doesn't quite live up to the standard set by Attitude in every category, such as creating wrestlers and sheer number of moves, it's certainly on par with most every other element. WCW even raises the bar a bit with it's speedy action and freedom of movement outside the ring. Considering that this is EA's first generation wrestling title, I think we've got a lot to look forward two in the follow up. More than just another wrestling game, Mayhem represents a minor evolutionary step in beating the crap out of people!

final score 8.3/10

Staff Avatar Dean Cavanaugh
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"Love is all you need. But guns sure do come in handy every now and then..."

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