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WWF War Zone (Nintendo 64) artwork

WWF War Zone (Nintendo 64) review


"The World Wrestling Federation was undergoing a major facelift as the late 1990's came around. Ridding itself of the stale, 'family friendly' legacy from the decade before, it stood up to growing competition from both WCW and ECW and began offering a far more cut-throat, near-the-knuckle product. The Federation's last video game release, In Your House in 1996, couldn't have been further removed from this. It was time for developer Acclaim to redeem itself..."



The World Wrestling Federation was undergoing a major facelift as the late 1990's came around. Ridding itself of the stale, 'family friendly' legacy from the decade before, it stood up to growing competition from both WCW and ECW and began offering a far more cut-throat, near-the-knuckle product. The Federation's last video game release, In Your House in 1996, couldn't have been further removed from this. It was time for developer Acclaim to redeem itself and have a crack at some proper, up to date sports entertainment simulation.

War Zone is Acclaim's first 3D grappler. It allows you to take control of up to 16 of the WWF's superstars. Due to the roster being pretty concise, this means you're only getting the biggest characters - 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, Mankind and Goldust are just some of the distinctive performers in the game. A new feature also allows you to create several of your own wrestlers from a wide selection of custom parts, though you're limited to selecting a moveset of one of the superstars already in the game.

Before reaching the gameplay stage, you might jump to the premature conclusion that Acclaim have taken quite a bit of care on the game. There's more flashy video sequences than the previous arcade games, and infinitely more options to tweak. The game also offers a range of match types, some of which making their debut in WWF gaming - most notably the Hardcore match. There's also a Training Mode, which allows you to practice some moves on a motionless opponent (aptly titled 'The Trainer').

The prominence and importance of this feature soon becomes clear when starting up a match. While performing various punches and kicks is simple enough, pressing Start and opening up the move lists reveals the horrible truth. While there are an impressive amount of superstar-specific moves on offer to the player, far more than any WWF game previously, it once again harks back to the gloomy days of Acclaim's efforts from before. For some superstars, it can take up to a four-button sequence to perform a simple suplex, let alone some of the more powerful moves in their arsenal.

As if this wasn't irritating enough, perhaps the most shocking element is the fact that, while every superstar comes equipped with an ultra-powerful finishing move - only those of Bret Hart and Steve Austin are supplied to you! As the instruction manual reads, 'the rest you will have to discover for yourself!' Given that both Hart's and Austin's sequences are five buttons long, the chance of you actually discovering how to pull off the other 14 superstars' signature moves has to be pretty low. This is completely mind-boggling - if this was intended to be some sort of incentive to put yourself through endless sequences of matches, I doubt it paid off.

Other than that, the match engine is probably superior of any WWF game that came before it - its animation is crisp and relatively fluid. In the sound department, each superstar has supplied their own grunts, along with several 'smack talk' phrases. It's pleasing that Acclaim decided to carry on with the commentary which was only used sparingly in its previous carnations - this time Vince McMahon and 'JR' Jim Ross call the action - this is quite effective, with lots more instances, regarding each individual superstar, and the moves they execute, meaning that repetition is far less frequent than before - consequently they mirror their real-life roles quite well. They'll even begin to get quite impatient, particularly if you don't do much; JR will angrily state that he's 'leaving for the Chess Club', yet this soon emerges to be an empty statement as he appears to carry on announcing the bout.

The crowd also has an impact, as performing the same moves over and over again will mean you are rowdily booed - this will mean your moves have less impact, and, in turn, your opponent's attacks will take more out of you. Similarly, superstars can also 'taunt' and spout smack talk by hitting the punch and kick button together in an attempt to get the fans on your side.

There's expansion on the typical energy bars too - with submission holds and pinfall effectiveness being determined by a button-mashing 'fill the bar' exercise, which is easier or harder depending on your spirit level. This is quite effective, adding more psychology to the game - there will be some times when it's impossible to kick out but this isn't exactly a travesty.

War Zone's performance begins to really be tested when the maximum four superstars are on the screen - particularly in the Royal Rumble match. Teething problems with navigating the 3D graphics mean that sometimes, particularly when a new superstar enters the Rumble, the frame rate can dip considerably. The engine also makes it a chore to focus on the desired adversary, and often means wasting valuable seconds switching between the other contenders which means you're likely to throw the match away.

Aside from the exhibition modes, there's also 'Challenge', only available to one player - this allows you to take on every superstar in the game in an attempt to become WWF Champion. Fairly hollow, and, aside from the occasional grudge match chucked in, there's nothing really new here in terms of gameplay. Some rewards beckon however, including unlocking Cactus Jack and Dude Love - indeed, the alter-egos of a superstar already in the game - some alternate ring attires for various superstars, and a number of wacky 'cheats': Big Head mode and Belching Mode are some of the more outrageous extra features hidden within the game - an awful 'reward' for suffering the Challenge Mode on harder difficulty levels, adding absolutely zero gameplay value and reminiscent of the goofy mannerisms we thought had been banished from In Your House, detracting from the image of the new WWF completely.

While this game knocks the previous Acclaim efforts out of the water, due to the fact that they've clearly tried to go for a largely faithful representation of the WWF here, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Due to the control sequences, matches will quickly begin to feel very samey, with you resorting to moves which have the least painful button combination, and some will begin to drag as you and your opponent simply block every hold. It falls far short of THQ's parallel efforts with the WCW franchise, which offered just about everything this game has at a more enjoyable level, bar the graphics.

War Zone just doesn't quite live up to the pace and excitement of the World Wrestling Federation product of what is known as 'The Attitude Era' - it made the all too common error of focusing more on the visual and less on the gameplay around it.

Rating: 5/10

Louisutton's avatar
Community review by Louisutton (March 28, 2011)

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Feedback

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Leroux posted March 29, 2011:

You know your wrestling games, my friend. Still really digging these looks back at them.

I never understood why secrets like big head mode and belching mode were cool in the N64 days. There was an alarming number of games with goofy stuff like that.
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Halon posted March 30, 2011:

It was cool to me, but I was a kid when that was common. I remember NBA Hangtime or some basketball game having the players turn into aliens or something.

So maybe kids like me were their demographic. ;)
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overdrive posted March 30, 2011:

And let's not forget NBA Jam and all the secret codes you could punch in to get celebrity players.

"Yeah, screw you Clyde Drexler!!! Bill Clinton just DUNKED on your ass!!!!"
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JoeTheDestroyer posted March 30, 2011:

I loved this game when it came out, but the years have not been kind to it. As soon as I picked up the first Smackdown, I never even dreamed of touching Warzone. Nowadays, I don't even play Smackdown anymore...

EDIT:

Beans Mode was hilarious when I was 16. Now it's just pointless. They could have used that space to add more poignant features.
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honestgamer posted March 30, 2011:

Beans Mode sounds an awful lot like something that I would enjoy even now. I'm sure the actual amount of space used was minimal.
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True posted March 30, 2011:

I wouldn't mind seeing you do the new one...

What is it WWE Legends?

It comes across as a mix of old school and new wave, which you seem to be very good at.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted March 31, 2011:

I think it's WWE All Stars, True. Yeah, I second that. I'd like to see Sutton's take on that one.
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Louisutton posted March 31, 2011:

Firstly, many thanks for the feedback and comments, much appreciated. Hopefully some more reviews coming up soon.

A review of All Stars is doubtful however, as I haven't been into wrestling for many years now actually - I bought Legends of WrestleMania recently out of curiosity but, bar that, haven't played a new wrestling game since SmackDown vs Raw 06. All Stars doesn't really look that appealing to me, I must say.

Sorry :(
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JoeTheDestroyer posted March 31, 2011:

Eh, it's okay. I'm in the same boat. Apart from some Fire Pro games, I haven't been much into wrestling, though All Stars and Legends of Wrestlemania both looked interesting.
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Leroux posted March 31, 2011:

I think All-Stars looks like the most interesting release in a while (then again, the only guys I recognize are the legends). THQ at the helm again should give some reason for optimism.
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True posted March 31, 2011:

It was, Joe. Thanks.

And I agree, Leroux. I haven't really shown any interest in the last three Smackdown Vs. Raw releases, but this one seems to come across more as a fighting game than it does your prototypical wresting title. Might not be a bad one to check out.

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