Mike Reviews WCW Vs The World
By Michael Fitzgerald on 18th October 2023
Happy Wednesday Everyone!
We’ve spent the last month looking at the THQ/AKI games for the N64, but there was also a game for the PS1 that was kind of like those ones, so we’ll complete the set and review WCW Vs The World today. If you’d like more Video Game discussion, including non-Wrestling related ones, then feel free to head on over to Gaming Respawn.
WCW Vs The World is a game that I remember playing back in the day when I rented it from the Video Shop (ask your parents about what those were kids) and, though I liked it for the most part, I didn’t especially love it either. However, when I came back to it many years later on, I really enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down. It’s strange really, because the game is hardly a classic or anything and it suffers from quite a number of flaws that really dampen the overall playing experience. Despite that though, WCW Vs The World still has a certain charm to it that encouraged me to keep coming back for more despite those flaws. I’d stop short of calling WCW Vs The World a particularly good wrestling game, but it’s certainly an interesting one that brings one to consider certain things.
For instance, considering WCW Vs The World 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? When it came to the thoroughly awful Nitro and Thunder games (and the thankfully much better SmackDown games) THQ decided to instead go in a different direction when it came to the control schemes it used for the PlayStation wrestling games.
It’s even more confusing because WCW Vs nWo World Tour actually came out on the N64 after WCW Vs The World had already hit the PlayStation, so Vs The World technically got there first. In some ways WCW Vs The World is an interesting prototype version of how 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 great 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 shared between World Tour and Vs The World, such as the move animations, and the fact every wrestler in the game has a spirit meter that gradually changes colour 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, which isn’t quite how the sequence plays out in real life, but it’s close enough for the PS1.
The game has a core selection of WCW wrestlers from 1996 including almost all the heavy hitters from the time period. Sadly Kevin Nash and Scott Hall are missing though, as they may have just missed the cut due to the timing of the game’s release. Like World Tour on the N64, WCW Vs The World beefs up it’s roster 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 a tobacco chewing Texan Cowboy like Hansen showing up instead as a Vampiric Romanian Aristocrat is a humorous touch I must say.
Grappling is where WCW Vs The World differs from its Nintendo cousins, in that you can’t actually grab your opponent and hold onto them. In the N64 games, you could tap or hold the “A” button to lock up with your opponent and hang onto them. This gave you a few brief moments to decide what move you’d like to do before you pressed “A” or “B” and a direction on the D-pad to deliver that move. It’s one of the core reasons that the gameplay so enjoyable in that game, but sadly it is not present in WCW 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 won’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 due to the removal of the ability to lock up with the opposition.
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 before you attempt it.
Not only does this control scheme of WCW Vs The World lack the fluidity of the N64 games, the controls themselves are sluggish and unresponsive in a lot of ways. This can end up making matches feel likefrustrating and stuttered affairs where you get the sense that your wrestler is always a step behind your inputs. 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 the awful Nitro game.
Control system aside, there are also some other flaws that hold WCW 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 it was was originally released, but the graphics in WCW Vs The World are pretty rough even by the standards of 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 it shows glimpses of promise that were sadly not built upon in later PlayStation releases. 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. WCW Vs The World is enjoyable enough for what it is, 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. If you can find it reasonably priced though then you might have some fun with it if you’re a big fan of WCW and Japanese Wrestling of the mid-90’s.