Remember WCW (World Championship Wrestling)? I do. I grew up with them. I watched for two years as they gave the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) a major run for their money during the now-famous Monday Night Wars (September 4th 1995 to March 26th 2001). Although WCW would ultimately lose the war, they still had a lot of outstanding talent and left me personally with very fond memories (I even went to a WCW House Show in June 1999, very fun!).
Even in video games, WCW was kicking WWF's butt, thanks to the legendary N64 wrestling engine developed by AKI and utilized for WCW VS. nWo World Tour, and its sequel WCW/nWo Revenge (still one of the greatest wrestling games ever!). Unfortunately, shortly after the release of Revenge, WCW switched over to EA Games for their future game titles, allowing publisher THQ (and developer AKI) to jump ship to the WWF. One of the many bad decisions WCW made that lead to their death (for those that don't know, WWF bought WCW, which was the end of the Monday Night Wars).
WCW Nitro (named after WCW's flagship Monday night TV show) was originally made for the Sony PlayStation back in 1997. It was ported to the PC (as well as the Nintendo 64) in early 1999 with an updated roster--which is actually the same roster from WCW/nWo Thunder (named after WCW's Thursday night TV show), the sequel to the PlayStation version. Believe it or not, this is one of only THREE wrestling games THQ EVER made for PC (the other two being WWE RAW and the free-to-play WWF With Authority). Now that all my rambling on about WCW is done, let's see if this game is good or bad.
This is a wrestling game, but the way it's played, it feels more like a fighting game. When you get into a match, the camera keeps both wrestlers on the left and right of each other like a 2D fighter (even though the game is 3D). The controls look simple, but like in a typical fighting game, are very hard to master. You have to do certain key combinations in order to do traditional wrestling moves. Each wrestler also has two special moves only he can use, and one finisher (i.e. Hogan's Leg Drop or Bret Hart's Sharpshooter). Not every wrestler's move set is authentic to his real-life counterpart. A lot of wrestlers in the game can do moves they'd never do in real life, and some wrestlers even have move sets copied from others.
Like ordinary fighting games, each wrestler has a health bar that depletes when he takes damage (but replenishes slowly, or faster when he taunts). When the wrestler's health bar is flashing red, that's the signal for the opponent to perform his finisher. Movement during matches is extremely stiff: you can move in different directions while running, but the arena you fight in is so cramped that there isn't much room to run. There are no weapons in this game (they were added to Thunder), however you can call in someone to help you gang up on your opponent (it's the HELP button in the Control Setup).
There are five game modes in WCW Nitro: 1-on-1 Exhibition (which I just explained); 1P Tournament, where you go through 10 random opponents to win the World Heavyweight Title; Tag Team; Battle Royal; and Network. Yes, this game actually lets you play against other people over the network, although I never had the chance to try it. Battle Royal plays like a Royal Rumble, where you throw people over the top rope and someone immediately runs in replacing the eliminated wrestler. (Actually in a Battle Royal, all participants--whether there are 20 or 40--start in the ring at the same time, and keep getting thrown out until only one is left. If you like that, try to find a WCW World War 3 Battle Royal on VHS or YouTube, where there are 60 wrestlers wrestling simultaneously on three connected rings!) What's interesting about the Battle Royal in this game though, is that you're allowed to leave the ring and fight outside at any time, which is allowed in a real Royal Rumble as long as a wrestler doesn't exit over the top rope. There aren't many wrestling games that allow you to do that.
The roster for WCW Nitro (PC) is based on WCW in the year 1998. This means you have undefeated Goldberg, two nWo factions (B&W Hollywood and Red Wolfpac), Bret Hart, and anyone else who even showed his or her face on the show during that year (even people who were staff, managers, or valets are in the roster). A unique feature of this game is that on the player selection screen you can press the R key while highlighting a wrestler to watch the actual wrestler explain to you WHY you should play as him! There are a lot of wrestlers that need to be unlocked, but there's a code you can enter at the title screen that immediately unlocks every hidden wrestler. All in all, there are 48 wrestlers in the game.
There are options that can be set, such as match time, ring-out time, interference, arenas (based on real WCW arenas, but there are secret "silly" arenas unlocked by a code), volume, controls, and graphics (please don't play this game with hardware acceleration turned off!) There's also a credits video, which is actually worth watching because of all the clips from WCW programming (which are also seen in the game's intro, and when you win or lose the 1P tournament).
Lastly, graphics and sound. The only thing I can say about them is that they're OK, given that they were made for a 32-bit gaming console. The graphics and sound for WCW-nWo Revenge weren't good either, but it was the gameplay featured in the aforementioned AKI engine that really made Revenge shine. Unfortunately, Nitro can't use this excuse because of its terrible 2D-fighter-esque gameplay. Once again, I strongly recommend you DO NOT play the game with hardware acceleration turned off. Not only will the game look really ugly, but it will run much slower than intended.
So in conclusion, as much as I love WCW, I have to agree with everyone else who's played this game, and I have no choice but to give it a 2 out of 5. I won't force you to play or avoid the game. Whatever you do is up to you, but for this game, it mostly depends on whether you're a die-hard WCW fan, or even a wrestling fan in general...
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