I wasn’t planning to do this feature so soon after I’d finished the saga of articles on the N64 wrestling games from AKI/THQ, as I felt we would be close to reaching grapple overkill if we didn’t have a bit of a break, so I bought this game with the intention of looking at it a few weeks down the line. However, I stuck the game in about a week ago just to make sure it was both working and in good order, and I ended up getting hooked on it and playing it for the rest of the week!
It’s strange really, because the game is hardly a classic or anything and suffers from quite a number of flaws that really dampen the overall playing experience, but it still has a certain charm to it that encouraged me to keep coming back to it despite the flaws. I’d stop short of calling WCW Vs The World a particularly good wrestling game, but it’s certainly an interesting one that raises some particular questions.
For instance, considering this game had a lot in common with the N64 games, why did THQ end up going down such a different route for the remainder of the fifth generation when it came to wrestling games on the PlayStation? With the thoroughly awful Nitro and Thunder games, and the thankfully much better SmackDown games, THQ decided instead to go in a different direction when it came to the control systems used in the PlayStation wrestling games.
It’s even more confusing because World Tour actually came out after Vs The World, so THQ clearly saw something they liked in the PlayStation game but for whatever reason didn’t bother perfecting it on the console it originally appeared on.
In some ways WCW Vs The World is an interesting prototype version of what a game like World Tour or Revenge would look on Sony’s revolutionary grey slab of wires and plastic, but it seems like any attempt at converting the revolutionary gameplay from the N64 series to the PlayStation was chucked out with the bath water, and THQ went back to the drawing board, leading them to go on to make some truly horrendous wrestling games that even a crashing zeppelin like WCW didn’t deserve to its name.
Certain things are similar such as the move animations, and the fact every wrestler in the game has a spirit meter that gradually turns white as they control the bout. Once a wrestler has been in control long enough and delivered a chain of successful attacks, the meter will eventually start flashing, at which point they will become temporarily invulnerable and will also be able to splat their rival wrestler with a devastating “finishing” manoeuvre.
Like in the N64 games, each wrestler can deliver quick strikes to momentarily halt their opponent’s progress and can also deliver slower, more powerful strikes with a press of the “R2” button, which will do more damage but also take longer to perform, thus giving the opposing wrestler more time to dodge or counter. Strikes can either be blocked by pressing the square button once, dodged by pressing the square button twice, or countered by pressing square and the “X” button just as the strike is due to hit.
Tapping the circle button twice and moving the D-pad in a certain direction will allow you to send your opponent in that direction with an Irish Whip, which will then open up more attacking possibilities depending on which part of the ring you send your rival careening in the direction of. For example, if you send your opponent into the corner, you can then look at delivering a running attack or a throw from the top of the turnbuckles. This does mean that you can whip an opponent into the corner as Keiji Mutoh, deliver a running handspring elbow, pick your opponent up, and (providing he doesn’t recover quickly enough) then hit him with a face crusher just as the sequence plays in real life.
The game has a core selection of WCW wrestlers from 1996 including all the heavy hitters aside from The Outsiders, who must have just missed the cut due to the timing of the game. The roster is then made up with Japanese wrestlers from the time frame such as Mitsuharu Misawa, Shinya Hashimoto, and Jushin Liger, although their names are changed for copyright reasons. Hashimoto, for instance, is called “Dojo”, and Stan Hansen is hilariously called “The Count”, and his feared Western Lariat appears in the game as The Dracula Lariat. Having the tobacco chewing Texan Cowboy showing up instead as Vampiric Romanian Landed Gentry is a humorous touch.
Grappling is where the game differs from its Nintendo cousins, in that you can’t actually grab your opponent and hold onto them. In the N64 games, by tapping or holding the “A” button, you will lock up with your opponent and hang onto them. This gives you a few brief moments to decide what move you’d like to do before you press “A” or “B” and a direction on the D-pad to deliver a move. It’s one of the core reasons that makes the gameplay so enjoyable, but sadly it is not present in Vs The World.
In the PlayStation game you press the circle button to initiate a grapple attack, but if your wrestler connects with the opponent, then they will go straight into the move animation and don’t get a chance to hold them briefly in the lock up first. This really makes the game feel completely different and not for the better. The gameplay just feels all together less fluid and more awkward in execution.
You have three types of grapple attacks, weak grapples which you perform by tapping circle when you’re at arms distance from your opponent, medium grapples which you perform by tapping circle when you’re up close to your opponent, and strong grapples which you perform by holding the circle button down for a longer period of time. You also perform your finishing move by holding the button down when your spirit meter is flashing, but this can take a few seconds, so it’s best to have your opponent stunned first.
Not only does this control scheme lack the fluidity of the N64 equivalent, the controls themselves are sluggish and unresponsive in a lot of ways, making matches frustrating and stuttered affairs where you always get the feeling that your wrestler is always a step behind you. This is not a problem you come across in the N64 games, which feel much more natural and responsive when it comes to controlling your wrestler.
It is disappointing, because I can’t help but think that if THQ had stuck with this control system and ironed out the kinks, they might have been able to get somewhat on par with what the games on the N64 eventually went on to achieve, instead of going and doing whatever the hell they were trying to do with Nitro.
Control system aside, there are also some other flaws that hold Vs The World back from getting any higher up the wrestling game league table. For instance, there are no tag matches with only singles matches on offer. You can brawl outside the ring, but you can’t turn the 20 Count off, nor can you grab weapons out of the crowd to demolish your opponents like you can in the N64 wrestling games.
There is also no blood to be found in the game, and there’s no option to edit existing wrestlers or create your own. It must be said as well that the wrestler models look particularly ugly in this game. Yes, it was early on in the PlayStation’s life when this game was originally released, but the graphics are pretty rough even for the time period, with wrestlers’ abdomens sometimes disconnecting from their waists and floating in thin air.
Positives are that the music is excellent, and you can create your own title belts to fight over. The game has a very Japanese feel to it, even down to the referee’s count being in a Japanese accent, which will no doubt appeal if you’re a Japanophile like myself. Most of the wrestlers come complete with their existing movesets of the time period, with the move animations themselves looking very nice, even if the models performing them aren’t quite as pleasant.
So, there are definite positives to go along with the negatives. WCW Vs The World is a reasonably ambitious game that just misses the medal podium but showed glimpses of promise that were sadly not achieved. I ended up paying £10 for a fully boxed version of the game complete with a manual. It might cost less if you’re not bothered about getting it boxed, but I wouldn’t pay any more than what I did for it. Enjoyable enough, but it’s not what I’d call a good game, merely a game with some good ideas that can’t quite stick the landing.
As always, I’ll post some game footage below.
As for next week, I’m not sure what I’ll be playing beforehand. I have some eBay auctions working their way to a close, so I may have some big news on a new series in the coming weeks, but right now next week’s article is currently up in the air. What will I write about next week? You’ll have to TUNE INTO NITRO TO FIND OUT!!!
Thanks for reading
Until next time;
Come On You Blues!!!
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