Written By: Mark Armstrong
Developer: AKI Corporation and Asmik Ace Entertainment
Released: November 17 2000 (US) and December 15 2000 (UK)
Certificate: 15+ (Nowadays 16)
WWF No Mercy, the successor to WrestleMania 2000, was released in late 2000, on a console which didn’t allow for character models with polygons greater than 64-bit and which didn’t possess any level of video streaming. The roster has greatly changed and even the company name has been different for nearly 15 years. Plus, HD gaming was a long way off, and the feature set was basic compared to modern titles. So how is it that No Mercy remains so revered as possibly the greatest wrestling game ever? Well, I shall explain.
Firstly, its two main single-player modes were excellent for different reasons. Championship saw you pursue any one of seven titles as literally anybody on the game, and follow various story paths and lifelike plotlines (some of which directly mirrored reality, from the APA protecting you to a replica of the WWF Championship storyline heading into WrestleMania 2000). Crucially, whilst there were some matches that required you to win in order to continue, many offered alternate paths based on specific results. And to complete the mode in its entirety, you would have to lose matches in order to unlock these various endings. Sure, there were no voiceovers, but it was phenomenally entertaining and the use of on-screen text actually explained the mode’s flexibility. It was a standard-bearer for such modes with literally tons of replay value.
The other main mode, Survival, was more simple but no less entertaining. It was basically one long Royal Rumble with everybody on the game entering, and with your goal being to stand tall as the winner. Even if you didn’t win, you would be rewarded (as I will explain shortly), but it was a great feeling when you did manage to win the whole thing. Surprisingly simple yet incredibly addictive (and occasionally very frustrating too, to be fair), it’s a wonder that no other game has included Survival since. These two modes alone would have made No Mercy a cracking game, but we’re only just getting started.
The roster was a vintage collection of Attitude Era stars, which included all the top names (except Big Show), loads of newcomers (such as Kurt Angle) and almost every non-wrestling personality in the WWF at the time; even one of The Godfather’s Hos was a playable character. It also had the first use of Legends in the form of Andre The Giant, and parts were available to create some faces not on the roster, like Gangrel and Mideon. With the largest roster to date in a wrestling game, and featuring almost everybody who could have been included at the time, the roster was a who’s who of Attitude Era characters.
There were several new match types that its predecessor WM 2000 didn’t boast, such as Special Referee, Iron Man and Ladder. Meanwhile, this was the first game to include full arenas for the B-level PPVs (No Mercy, Backlash and Armageddon), which with SmackDown! also being a new inclusion gave us ten full arenas in total. And it was the first WWF game on Nintendo 64 to include backstage brawling, with five simple yet very effective areas, all of which boasted room-specific props such as a pool table in the bar and the 18-wheeler truck in the parking lot.
The improvements didn’t end there. A new SmackDown Mall shop option gave way to hundreds of unlockables (you earned cash for the shop in Championship and Survival, with you earning more money based on your performances in those modes). There were now 18 slots for Create A Wrestler, but as you could totally customise up to four attires, it essentially meant a whopping 72 characters to potentially make (plus you could assign different entrance themes to each attire, which you couldn’t do in WM 2000). You could now put opponents through an announcer’s table at ringside, even if the commentators themselves weren’t present at ringside (although Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole were all unlockable characters to use during matches). There were new weapons, including a bazooka, a huge slab of cheese and Mick Foley’s first book. The graphics looked cooler and darker, giving a real mood to areas like the bar which had some LED features. Create A Wrestler was more in-depth, and items were named to make them easier to find. Wrestler faces looked more lifelike, even if some (such as Triple H) were a bit iffy. All titles which were claimed in Championship mode could now be defended in Exhibition once a story had been completed. There were new post-match celebration scenes, such as Rikishi dancing with Too Cool. And whilst the gameplay didn’t really change, it was tweaked slightly to make it a little more realistic than in the previous game; but since it was already outstanding, the wrestling engine completed one amazing videogame package.
There were some flaws, though. The promise of blood being included came true, but blood effects were then removed (presumably by mistake) when fixing a data error, meaning that wrestlers would react as if they were bleeding even though they weren’t. There were more new matches in its friendly rival SmackDown! 2 Know Your Role such as Hell In A Cell, Table and TLC. The small-scale Create A Championship option was quietly removed, whilst Create A PPV remained but was not improved in any significant way. And entrances would inexplicably end when a wrestler went past the stage, despite initial screenshots suggesting that the game would have full entrances (so, for example, Steve Austin would use what he describes as the “BMF” walk when coming out, but we wouldn’t see his turnbuckle poses), which wasn’t helped by the entrance videos being more pixelated than they were in WM 2000. (Also, although it didn’t affect the N64 title, a planned Game Boy Color port of the game was eventually cancelled prior to its scheduled release.) As you may have guessed, though, the downsides were absolutely overwhelmed by the positive aspects of the game.
The superb single-player modes, the incredible gameplay and fighting engine, the big-name roster and the other new features and improvements all created one fantastic wrestling game, one that has arguably only been reached or surpassed on one or two occasions by any game since, purely from the standpoint of a fun, exciting and entertaining title. Future wrestling games would offer larger rosters, greater feature sets and even more options from an in-ring standpoint, such as more strategic submission grappling and crowd brawls, but in terms of an overall package, WWF No Mercy remains an all-time classic title. It wasn’t quite flawless, but it was as close to perfection as one would expect; if the modern WWE 2K titles were as good as No Mercy, no fans would ever be complaining. A phenomenal wrestling game that all diehard fans should play.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10 – Classic