"WCW Mayhem" is a professional wrestling video game. It was first released for the Nintendo 64 in 1999 by EA Sports. In the United States, the game received a guidance rating of "T" which deemed it appropriate for ages 13 and above.
Suffering from the constraints of a rushed development to meet a very hyped release date in the United States, WCW Mayhem was the first "WCW" licensed pro wrestling attempt by EA Sports. Its developers implemented many unique features at the time of release which include events such as venturing into the backstage area where wrestlers are allowed to pummel one another with foreign objects. Unfortunately, this aspect of the video game is very primitive and suffers from repetitive backstage imagery and object placement despite including customizable wrestling rings and arenas to reflect WCW's pay per view and weekly broadcasts. This also forces the gaming experience into a "hardcore" style of play by default where falls count anywhere and no disqualifications are observed. This may appeal to those seeking a more fast and furious arcade style video game, though there are very few examples of this in the wrestling genre and as a player I found the sudden change of pace to be rather out of place.
As with all professional wrestling video games, the objective is to pound one's opponent into defeat either by a 3 count pinfall or successful submission hold. This is accomplished by accessing one of three gameplay modes which include the "quick start" exhibition mode, the "main event" mode, and the "quest for the best" mode. The first two modes are identical with the only difference being additional match functions such as tag team bouts and battle royals being made available for the "main event". The latter option is similar to a career mode of play as the player selects one wrestler and competes in a series of matches to rank at the top of a competitive ladder. Successful completion of this mode also unlocks hidden characters which are then usable in the exhibition and main event modes. In actuality, each of the 54 active wrestlers suffer from a similar move list which is in itself restricted to three maneuvers for each of the four action buttons. I also noted the computer opponents to be very unresponsive. Even on the most difficult of settings, several opponents would willingly allow me to strike and throw them around the wrestling ring with little by the way of a reaction. This makes for a very easy gameplay experience and didn't engage my mind all that much.
The graphics are presented from an overhead isometric perspective, though will dynamically pan during powerful holds and maneuvers. Simple yet effective could best describe the visuals in this video game. The wrestlers appear similar to their on screen real life counterparts, though some of the more muscular men sport a jagged "blockiness" to their physiques which does them no justice. The animations are smooth and I didn't notice any obvious slowdown when playing. The soundtrack is likewise good. Mayhem is accompanied by commentary outbursts from play by play specialist Tony Schiavone, though his fragmented speech is often repetitive and sometimes makes direct references to Bobby Heenan who was not included in the soundtrack. Gene Okerlund is also present as a voice actor in the game though his presence is limited to ring introductions which overlay the looping, short winded theme tunes.
WCW Mayhem is perhaps a title which may appeal to more involved professional wrestling fans. It is a fast and frantic experience which turns away from the more methodical and strategic games which a lot of players may be used to. It is something I enjoy every so often, and thus is not a title I would recommend for regular play.
Electronic Arts has long been the master of the sports simulation, and with WCW Mayhem has applied all its state-of-the-art techniques to the hilariously larger-than-life art of wrestling. An amazing 900 motion-captured moves are utilised to bring the fights to life, with over 50 WCW favourites battling it out, including Hollywood Hogan, each with their won theme music and trademark ways of heralding their arrival. The dedication to recreating that 'watching wrestling on TV' experience even goes to far as to include all the familiar venues from regular and pay-per-view shows, with a whole bunch of backstage areas to indulge in less mannered fights. Three modes of play include a quick start exhibition, the main event, or a 'quest to be the best'. Main event includes all the familiar show styles, and modes of fighting (including tag team and battle royal), while the quest mode challenges gamers to work through the ranking ladder right to the top. Only then will a whole set of extra hidden wrestlers become available. It's even possible to enter passwords obtained from the game's website to configure games to match current real-life bouts! he result is the most atmospheric, bone crunching, laugh-out loud sports sim on th N64.
General/Summary: Attempting to cash in on the wrestling craze, EA released its first crack at the wrestling industry with WCW Mayhem. What does it bring to the table? Let’s see…we have a huge roster, a new gameplay system, authentic commentary, a create-a-wrestler mode, and an innovative action-out-of-the-ring feature. With all this, can it be a failure? Unfortunately, yes, and in many ways. On both platforms, WCW comes together as a sloppy project. I guess buying this title comes down to your priorities. If you love the WCW atmosphere, posing, and backstage fighting, then you may want to give this game a test run. However, if you consider yourself a wrestling purist, you’ll bore yourself in doing the same maneuvers with many different characters. Do you just own a PSX? Then I suggest checking out import titles like Super Fire Pro G, where you can play many of the same characters featured in this game. If you’re limited to domestic release, bite the bullet and get Attitude, despite its flaws. However, if you own an N64, don’t even consider this title and wait a month for WWF 2000. From what I’ve seen thus far, that title will disappoint very few, if any at all. It’s too bad WCW Mayhem can’t say the same for itself. Ric Flair does the Flatliner??? Sorry, I still can’t get over that… Gameplay: Although I must give EA props for trying to create a new wrestling system, it ultimately falls apart. The new “momentum meter” is a novel idea, but instead, it destroys the flow of the match. IMPORTANT NOTE: it takes you about 8 uninterrupted moves in a row to get your momentum meter full. When this happens, you can do your special move! Too bad your opponent will keep coming back at you after you hit 4 special moves in a row. Not only this, but the specials are rarely accurate. The Evenflow is just a regular DDT animation, and Ric Flair’s special move is the Flatliner! If one of your favorite
wrestlers happens to be a mid-carder, be prepared for very little accuracy. A really sloppy result in the gameplay department. Graphics: Concerning graphics, it’s pretty nice on both versions (better on N64 of course). The strange thing is that the wrestlers aren’t properly proportioned. Is that Chris Benoit, or is it Willow? You make the call. The animations are pretty nice (much better than WWF Attitude’s); it’s nice to see maneuvers convey a sense of impact. For instance, after a big vertical suplex, the ropes shake emphatically. Even though the animations are nice, it’s a real shame how few there are. It seems every luchadore has the Hurricanrana as his finisher, and everyone has only clothesline while running! We’re lacking in the variety department, bigtime. Sound: One of the few departments Mayhem shines in is sound. Although not nearly as many entrance themes as Attitude, Mayhem holds its own with some token entrances. Concerning announcing, there’s good news and bad news. Good news: Heenan and Chavone sound exactly like they do in real life! Bad News: ditto. Even though this dynamic duo seem to have something new to say every time you play, it gets really tiresome, really quick. “Did you see that move?” “I saw it, but don’t believe it!” “I can’t believe I saw that!” Pretty monotonous, ain’t it? Even worse, only Chavone is in the N64 version. Poor Tony doesn’t know the names to half the moves (just like real life!). Example: he refers to the bow and arrow submission as a backbreaker.