WWF WrestleMania 2000While licensed video games have been known to suck pretty much since all those copies of E.T. filled that mythical landfill, the video games based off of the WWE have actually been pretty solid for the last decade and a half way back when WWE partnered up with THQ and hit the ground running with WWF/E Wrestlemania 2000. While not as revered nowadays as its immediate follow up, 2000 proved that THQ knew what it was doing and by the end of the millennium if you owned a Nintendo 64 and had three other friends coming over trying to decide between Wrestlemania 2000 and Super Smash Bros could be an epic internal conflict ripe for poetic expression (not by me though, we got a schedule here).
2000 works so well for numerous reasons. The first and most important is obviously the gameplay. Having played WWE 12 recently I can honestly say that the older game just feels better to play, there’s actually a sense of momentum and the matches more closely resemble what you’d see on TV. In the newer game if you turn the difficulty up, the game compensates by simply making the opponent counter more often which leads to a very predictable pattern where you hit the opponent with a move or two, then they counter, then you get beat up on until you reverse, rinse and repeat. It’s past the point of boring and is just plain tedious. Once you learn the timing of the moves it becomes all too easy. So how does a 14 year old game manage to outdo a modern title in terms of gameplay you ask?
Easy, 2000 makes reversing strikes and reversing grapple moves two different buttons. This minor difference makes all the difference in the world as it forces players to keep on their toes and stay alert. The difference between weak grapples and strong grapples is also more noticeable in Wrestlemania 2000. Strong grapples can be done at any time and obviously deal out more damage, but they’re easier to block and/or parry than weaker grapples and the same applies to strikes. This means that the player must combine all four in order to throw their opponent off their game and wear them down over time, and the more you’re able to wear them down the harder it will be for them to pull off reversals.
Then there’s the attitude meter which must also be taken into consideration. Even if you’ve been laying the proverbial Smackdown on your opponents candy ass, if they are able to put a good string of moves together then it’s possible for them to regain momentum and control of the match.
With 16 basic grapple moves, combined with strikes, leaps off the top rope, corner grapples, irish whip rebounds, double teams, and more, players will always have a variety of ways to dish out the punishment. Subtle elements such as the ability to ram your opponents head into the ring post and being able to set up a wrestler on your shoulders for your teammate to attack will make you wonder why these mechanics have yet to be implemented in any modern titles.
Then there are all the little things which help to set Wrestlemania 2000 apart like the way wrestlers who receive a big move twitch as they lay on the ground, or how superstars react to being busted open differently. 2000 also has one advantage over its more famous brother as full entrances are included and believe me back in 1999 watching the blocky virtual little reprensentation of Xpac do his crotch chops to signal the signature DX fireworks was enough to send chills down your spine.
But the most important part of Wrestlemania 2000 is it’s create a wrestler mode which revolutionized the genre and is still the basic template for wrestling games made today. It offered players a previously unprecedented amount of control in creating a superstar, whether it was one sprung entirely from the players own imagination or a superstars from rival promotions. Everything from what color elbow pads your guy had to the taunt he did was in your hands and the amount of control the player had simply dwarfed any similar offerings at the time.
Graphically the game is a mixed bag. As mentioned character models are blocky with the likeness of the the superstars literally just plastered onto the heads. If you and your friends have every played this then I’m sure you already have your own set of jokes about the Rocks eternally raised eyebrow. There is also clipping as fists go through groins and climbing the turnbuckle in a cage match produces a comical effect. Yet the games strength lies in the animation. Moves are captured perfectly down to all the little subtle differences so you’ll have no problem telling the difference between a suplex and a brain buster. In some ways the animations even outdoes what you’ll see in a more modern title like WWE 12, where the illusion is often broken by an odd roll out of the way of a leg drop, or a frog splash which lands clean even though you came in at the wrong angle.
While 2000 is certainly no graphical marvel it’s rare to encounter a visual hiccup so severe that it takes you out of the experience.
On the audio front the game is solid if unremarkable. Brief snippets of the superstars and divas theme songs play during their entrances but they sound as if they were recorded inside of a phone booth and aside from that the game only has three other tracks to my knowledge; the main menu screen, the rock songs that play during matches, and the song that plays while you’re in the create a wrestler mode. The first two are alright but they leave your head as soon as they’re done playing. The song that plays in the background of the CAW screen however is pretty damn awesome. It’s a funky little tune that’s catchy as hell which is a good thing considering all the time you can waste away fine tweaking your creations.
Overall No Mercy is a game that suffers more from what it lacks then what it actually does wrong. Featuring only a handful of match types and a merely serviceable career mode, there’s not whole lot of glitz and glamour to compliment the experience. But what it lacks in flair it more than makes up for in just good old fashioned playability and the game becomes even more impressive when you know what came after. Even with wrestling titles being released every year, Wrestlemania 2000 still manages to hold its own and is still a great way to kill some a few hours with some friends. And that's the bottom line.