If you think wrestling is just a bunch of almost-naked big sweaty men groping each other. If you think wrestling is just a show with a storyline worse than your average soap opera. If you think wrestling shouldn’t be associated with the word “sport” at all, seeing as how it’s just a ballet. If all this applies to you, I have one thing to say to you.
Do not waste your time reading this review. Go send some staff members questions for our emailbag. Go check out Penny Arcade. Why? Because I am reviewing WWF No Mercy, and I am a wrestling mark. I watch WWF RAW, Smackdown, Heat, Metal, Jakked, all of em. I visit numerous wrestling sites. I am a human lexicon when it comes to wrestling terms. When I watch a match like the one that took place last Monday between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and “The Canadian Crippler” Chris Benoit, I mark out, shouting and yelling when a piece of wrestling mastery, fluid with pacing, excitement, and psychology is presented.
So if you go as far to call wrestling, and people who watch wrestling “gay,” then please hit the back button on your browser and check out the news. Okay. Now that only wrestling purists and casual fans alike of wrestling and/or their games are reading, lets get down to the nitty gritty, so I can allow myself to explain to you why No Mercy is the best wrestling game I have ever played.
The sound effects are improved since THQ’s last effort, as powerbombing someone onto a chair will give you chills, as the sound of the unlucky guy’s shoulders hitting the steel is very realistic. Piledrive someone onto a ladder, and the move will be accompanied with a clear “rattling” sound. Make sure you hit someone with the ring bell sometime, as the “clang” is near perfect.
The first is a booking table, which allows you to select, “Exhibition, Royal Rumble, Pay Per View, King of the Ring, Guest Referee, Ladder Match, Ironman Match." The exhibition mode is exactly the same as WM2K, as it allows you to choose the type of match, number of people, who will control whom, the arena (which has been vastly improved- more on that later), the rules, and finally whether or not the match will be for one of the numerous belts. Say you want to go for the Hardcore Belt in a single 1 on 1 match, and Steve Blackman currently holds it. You will be prompted to only select your character, and then you will fight. If you beat Blackman with, say, Steven Richards, then the next time you elect to fight for the hardcore belt, a picture of Stevie with the words “Champion” sprawled along the bottom will accommodate the match. No matter who wins or loses, there will always be a champion for you to choose, unlike in WM2K, where a title match meant nothing after it was over.
The Royal Rumble mode is identical to the previous incarnation, minus the aforementioned title belt rule that now accommodates No Mercy’s matches.
The Pay Per View mode is equally similar, except it is now more polished. At the beginning and end of your shows, it will say where the event is taking place, you’re able to choose the number of matches and so on. Title fights now have their appropriate before match graphic. For a hardcore match, the camera will pan across the crowd, as the word “Hardcore” crashes down on “Championship,” just as it does at real life shows.
King of the Ring is a fun tool you can use when you’re playing with a bunch of friends. Basically, you pick anywhere from 4-32 matches, be it cage or otherwise, and fight other pairs of wrestlers up to the top. It’s a simple tournament, which offers a “Congratulations” graphic with you and your partner being cheered on by the crowd.
Let’s get to the good stuff! First, the Guest Referee. This mode allows you, or one of your friends/soon-to-be-enemies to assume control of a referee in either a single, triple threat, or handicap match. The player who assumes the title of referee chooses a wrestler to use just like anyone else. Most wrestlers in the game have a referee uniform, and trust me: I have no complaints about Stephanie wearing a black and white striped tube top, and none of you should have any either! When the match starts you have the choice to either attack one of the wrestlers, or stay impartial. As the referee, you can drop down by pressing Left-C, and then counting to three by pressing Left-C again, three times. If you want to be a jerk, then you can count a fast 2, leaving your arm in the air, waiting to hit the mat to end the match… and just wait until there’s a kick out. Or, you can refuse to count altogether. If you have TKOs and submissions turned on, then you can call the match after someone is knocked out, or let it continue. The same code applies with submissions. Guest Referee matches can be incredibly fun and suspenseful or an utterly frustrating experience. If you have a friend who just gangs up against you the entire match, and then counts to three quickly, it’s not much fun. But if you use it fairly, then the matches can be very interesting. If you took the role of the referee you could decide to equally gang up. Say, for the first five minutes you would help Rikishi by any means possible. Throwing him weapons, double teaming with him, etc. Then, at the 5:01 mark, you’d turn on him and help The Rock. The mode is really fun, especially when you have 2-3 friends over, just don’t be surprised if there’s more blood on the player controlling the referee than the referee itself.
Ladder Match. Allow me to be the very first person in the history of mankind to paraphrase a wrestler, by saying, “Oh, hell yeah!” Aside from the Storyline mode, this has easily been the most played match since i’ve picked up the great, black cart. First, the basics. The match starts with the ladder outside the ring, and a briefcase/belt suspended in the middle of the ring. You can pick up or take the ladder at any time, whether it’s lying on the ground or propped upright. Like any other weapon, you can do a sharp blow or massive swing to cream your enemies. The real fun comes in attacking from the ladder, or attacking the person on the ladder. You can (and I have) set up a ladder next to the announcer’s table, and execute a flawless head butt from the top of the ladder onto your unconscious prey, collapsing the table in the process. The real fun comes in hitting people off the ladder. There are multiple ways to block someone from grabbing the prize, and hilarity ensues almost every time. If the person isn’t high up on the ladder, you can grab them and pull them down (a la Cage matches), or hit/kick them off. If, however, they are at the top, and reaching for the object, then you can hit the ladder over by doing a strong punch/kick. You can also throw a weapon at the ladder (even from outside the ring), and cause it to knock over. Trust me, nothing is funnier than seeing Eddie Guerrero with his arm still reaching up, gradually turn horizontal, as the ladder topples.
Finally, the Ironman match, another new addition to the WWF N64 THQ AAG* series. If you haven’t heard of an Ironman match, or have never seen one (blasphemy!), it is basically the same as a normal match, except pinfalls, TKOs, and submits don’t end the match. Rather, the match goes on for a set amount of time. Once the time expires, the man with the most pinfalls and all wins.
On to the second section. By moving over to the right, you are greeted with 2 modes, each only used for single play. Championship and Survival. Survival is basically Royal Rumble, except with 100 Superstars (I hate calling the Big Bossman and the Goodfather Superstars) that you have to go through. If you do go through all 100, you get a very “big” surprise.
The Championship mode, on the other hand, can be called the biggest edition in the THQ wrestling franchise. In WM2K, Vince might’ve come out and taken your title away from you, and something else minor could’ve happened, but storyline wise, nothing big. This has changed. Once you select the mode, you are asked to choose what belt you want to go for, be it the anything from the Hardcore to the Women’s Belt, to even the Light Heavyweight Belt (yeah, remember that thing?)! From there are you start at the top of a pyramid. Say you choose to go after the Light Heavyweight belt. You will be greeted with Dean Malenko coming out and issuing a challenge for his belt. From there you will have to fight 3 other wrestlers ranging from the likes of TAKA to Scotty 2 Hotty. Here is where the replay value presents itself. If you happen to win the bout, you will go down the pyramid to the left. From there you will go on to fight Malenko. If you lose, however, then you go down the pyramid to the right, most likely challenging one of the people you lost to. So out of every division there are roughly 25 different paths you could choose, each with varying storylines.
The storylines themselves are definitely not your basic “I hate you, let's fight.” They’re obviously not Shakespeare, but while fighting Dean-O for the belt; Eddie G interfered, and teamed up with Malenko. Obviously my skill prevailed (and it was set on “Easy”), and I went on to defeat the champ! Right after the match, Howard Finkel (Hell yeah! Screw you, Lilian!) came out and reversed the decision, citing interference as the reason! Blasphemy! You then go on a rampage, attacking Eddy in a bar, setting up a hardcore match! It really is cool, guys, and you’ll have a fun time with it. And if you’re just renting the title, I beg you to do one thing. Pick one of the toughest guys in the game (Tazz, Rikishi, etc) and have them go after the women’s title. You have not seen funny until you see Tazz in a two piece.
As you progress down your road to the championship, you earn money. The money varies on how well you do, and what path you’re on. What does the money do? Smackdown Mall.
The final area, dubbed “Commissioner”, contains the bars “Smackdown Mall” and “Options.” Inside Smackdown Mall, you can go to “Superstar Options,” “Shop” (women can get into the game too!), and “Data.” The Superstar Options allows you to edit, create, and clone superstars, plus changing and naming stables. While you’re still not given full control to edit some aspects of the WWF wrestlers, like their moves or fighting style, you are now given the option to edit their appearance and profile. This really comes in handy, as you can now convert the fun loving Godfather, wearing his pimp clothes, to the strict Goodfather, wearing a white buttoned down shirt with black tie. While it would be nice to edit their moves, and especially their ally/enemy list, what we’re given is better than WM2K.
The create-a-wrestler mode is almost exactly the same as the old one with a few notable exceptions. First, you are now allowed to put women’s clothing on men (and how many games can claim to being completely accessable to Marv Albert and Dennis Rodman?). There are even MORE new moves that you can give your wrestler! Anything from the “Insider Edge” (hey, chico. Can I have a job, Mr. Heyman? ::throws toothpick::) to my personal favorite, the “Russian Neck Drop.” While almost all of the awesome moves have to be purchased, there are still some cool new basic ones. Editing stables and their names work exactly the same as WM2K. No big changes here at all.
Choosing to shop (sorry, no shoes ladies) allows you to buy from three different stores. “Costume,” which is self explanatory holds such clothing as Mankind’s old attire to Serpent Masks. While the prices are more expensive than Versace’s finest, I would rather wear the Undertaker’s old black vest and white mask any day. The next store, titled “Moves” will get all of your money first. Such moves as “Poison Mist” and the “Ultimate Arm bar” can be bought, and some of them are just flat out awesome. For some reason dropping someone, who won’t stop squirming around, on his neck never gets old. Finally, we come to “ETC.” I guess THQ just got tired of writing. Crazy fools! This area allows you to buy WWF secret characters such as Shawn “HBK” Michaels and Earl Hebner! As almost all of them are pricey (0,000 for one of the Godfather’s Prostitutes?! I pay half that!) it is suggested to unlock them in Championship mode, instead of wasting your money here. This section also includes weapons, ranging from Chyna’s bazooka to… a giant block of cheese. Oh, this game was developed in Japan, by the way.
Finally, we have the Data section of Smackdown Mall. If you’ve played WM2K, this is basically the same. Swapping created or original wrestlers from the game to your Controller Pak, and vice versa is its main function.
The “Options” section contains the usual suspects. Difficulty, Sound type, BGM volume, control configuration and the likes. No outstanding options here. If you didn’t understand something I’ve mentioned above, all you have to do is press Z, and a instructions will pop up, explaining what the particular section means. YES! On to the gameplay!
WWF No Mercy does not stray far at all from its predecessor’s gameplay. Easy to pick up and play, difficult to master. If you have played Ultimate Fighting Championship (highly recommended), you’ll understand. Basically, A is used to grapple, B is used to punch/kick, Down-C is used to run or throw someone, Left-C to pick up weapons, Up-C to leave the ring or throw someone out. R is block and L is evade. While it may take you 10 minutes or so to figure everything out, the raw gameplay is fairly accessible. What you must learn is strategy. First, you must understand the mechanics. If you tap A, you’ll do a weak grapple, which leads to weak moves, such as a “European Uppercut”. If you hold A, you will have access to stronger moves, such as powerbombs and chokeslams. The trick comes in what you choose to do and when. But there is one secret little button that, thanks to almost every other N64 game, no one uses. It can, and (after reading this review) will be your secret weapon. The “L” Button.
Do you kick or do you grapple? If someone attempts to attack you (tapping B allows light punches/kicks, whereas holding it down, while taking a split second to execute, releases more powerful attacks), pressing R will either block the attack, or reverse it. So if you see your opponent’s arm move back, quickly tap and hold R. Whether you reverse it or not, the momentum, for another split second, will be on your side. Do you attack or grab or neither? This is where the strategy lies.
If it is early in the match, it is advised to start with light punches and light grapples, as heavy ones are easily susceptible to being reversed. While most wrestling games give you an amount of health, No Mercy has an “Attitude Meter.” Basically, both wrestler’s meters start off at green, which is basically normal. If you’re losing the match, and you opponent is constantly taking you down, your attitude will slowly diminish to shades of blue, then purple. If you’re still being taken to school, a “Danger” sign will start flashing in your meter. This is when you are open to being pinned. While having a very low health definitely does not guarantee a loss, it is not good. On the other hand, if you’re dominating, your meter will display colors going from yellow to orange to red to “Special.” When your meter is a deep red, and the rim is flashing white, it’s time to unleash hell! By tapping the control stick (the D-Pad is used for movement in the game), your wrestler will get his special move available to him for a short amount of time, usually 15 seconds. If you strong grapple your opponent, and then tap the stick once again, your move will be performed. The Rock will hit his Rock Bottom, Austin will give his unlucky opponent the Stunner, and Essa Rios will… do something, I’m sure. Special moves can also be performed from other positions, such as back grapples and turnbuckle grapples.
The problem is getting your attitude up that high. As previously mentioned, start with light grapples and attacks. Taunting also raises your ‘tude (press the control stick up, down, left, or right to perform various taunts), but you must choose them at the correct time, as canceling a taunt before it’s finished does not raise your health at all. If your opponent is outside of the ring on the ground, then a long taunt is recommended, but if he’s feet away, then a quick middle finger salute is all Austin should show. Taunting is a great tool when playing against the computer. A surefire way to up your chances of winning, is to throw your opponent out, taunt, and repeat. Before you know it, he’ll be borderline-dead, and you’ll be ready to apply the Tazzmission in no time. In Handicap Matches, a great way to win is to throw one enemy out, then focus on the other as if it were a singles match. Beating the APA with Y2J was one of the most exciting victories in the history of gaming. I was literally hitting the floor as the counts were made when I pinned Farooq.
So how does the secret L button come in handy? Two ways. First, when someone is running at you, whether they intend on attack or performing a running grapple (new to THQ’s wrestling franchise), if you run toward them and press L, you will evade, and end up behind your opponent. Whether your opponent is CPU or human, their wrestler will automatically look around in confusement for an important 2 seconds. During this time, he is open to anything, attacks grapples, chair shots, you name it. As almost no one uses L, this comes in handy a lot, especially when the match starts off. Your friend will most likely charge at you off the bat, and performing this trick gives you the crucial upper hand.
L also breaks up grapple attempts. Yet again, none of my friends or siblings have ever tried using this. Many people are ready to either press R to block an attack, or move away if a grapple is attempted. Unfortunately for them, nine times out of ten, just trying to shuffle away from the grapple doesn’t work, and they are stuck trying to reverse the upcoming move by mashing the R button. By pressing L when your opponent is trying to grab you, your wrestler moves back quickly, or snaps your opponent’s arms away, allowing you to attack or grab him. When two wrestlers are at a stand off, there are three main options, grab, attack, or wait. With the help of Mr. L, you should now hopefully be able to show your friends who wears the pants in this game.
WWF No Mercy now allows you to fight backstage. Aside from the various ramps, which are identical to their real life counterparts (I love the Smackdown one, personally), you can now take your opponent into the back, which presents a narrow hallway with four opened doors. Through those doorways you can enter the boiler room, the booking room, a bar, and the loading area. Each room is very interactive, with accompanying weapons. The bar has a breakable pool table and pool cues, where as the booking room has two tables, which break in half and chairs. The loading dock has a truck that you can fight in, and throw your opponent out of, along with stop signs littering the floor, and the boiler room has, well, boilers and fire extinguishers.
There are tons more weapons in No Mercy, which are now handled better. Should you choose to taunt while holding a weapon, you will not drop it, and it will not float into the ground. Want to gain momentum for a vicious chair shot by dropping into the ropes? You can do it. On the off change that you do drop your weapon, it will never float into the ground. You can even pick them up. This is much preferred to WM2K. Weapons can now be thrown as well. Projectiles offer new strategy in the game. Say you’ve been knocked out of the ring, and your opponent is climbing the ladder? All you have to do is grab the ring steps, chuck them in the ring, and down he goes like a sack of potatoes. There are only two problems this new system brings. First, you can only take out a set amount of weapons, usually eight if you include the ring steps. If you have your hopes set on grabbing a ring bell, and it doesn’t come out of the weapon ridded audience, the only thing you can do is throw your opponent up the ramp and then come back. The weapons will be gone, the table will be unbroken, and your weapon selection will once again be fresh. The other problem of having eight weapons lying around, especially when there’s a tag ladder match, is the slowdown.
*AAG = Acronyms Are Good.