Game Review: WWF Attitude

Image Source: GameXchange

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Publisher: Acclaim Sports
Developer: Iguana West
Genre: Wrestling
Series: N/A
Released: July 31 1999 (US) and September 3 1999 (UK)
Certificate: 15+ (Nowadays 16)
Consoles: N64, PS1, Dreamcast and GBC

The sequel to the best-selling WWF War Zone game, WWF Attitude looked to improve upon virtually everything that was memorable in War Zone, as well as adding several new features. At the time, it received a lot of praise, and coming at the very peak of the iconic Attitude Era, it remains fondly remembered by fans who bought the game at the time. But does Attitude still hold up today, more than 17 years later?

Let’s begin with the roster: with more than 30 characters when including hidden wrestlers, Attitude was the first WWF game to feature enough talent for a full-on, 30-man Royal Rumble. Along with the top WWF names like Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker, Kane, Mankind, Triple H and others, the game provided the console debuts for many classic Attitude names such as The New Age Outlaws, X-Pac, Chyna, Sable, Edge, Christian, Val Venis, Faarooq, Bradshaw and more. Interesting characters included The Big Boss Man, Dr. Death (who had left the WWF long before Attitude was released) and Vince McMahon, who was hidden on the game. Since this was during the era when gamers relied on cheats sections in magazines to discover how to unlock content, and since said magazines at the time weren’t averse to throwing in all sorts of potential unlockables regardless of whether or not they were actually true, there were several rumoured unlockable characters which ended up being red herrings, most notably Test and even Big Show, who was never scheduled to be on the game having arrived in the WWF too late to join the party, so to speak. So, although the game was released in the latter half of 1999, the roster was a fairer reflection of the (incredibly popular) crew of late 1998.

Create A Wrestler was back and more in-depth than ever, although it had a flaw that I will explain later when covering another aspect of the game. More notable was the debut of Create A PPV, whereby you could create a card of up to eight matches featuring those on the roster in a series of bouts similar to real-life supershows such as WrestleMania and SummerSlam. It might sound basic now, but this was innovative back in 1999. Even better was the unofficial Create An Arena option, a superb feature which allowed you to customise basic parts of an arena, using a limited yet relevant collection of logos for major WWF PPV events and television shows. It’s amazing that no other WWF/WWE game would include the feature until WWE ’12, more than a decade later, and that the mode has arguably only began reaching its true potential in the last few years, considering that it first made it onto a WWF/WWE title nearly two decades ago.

The game provided the debut for many match types, such as Last Man Standing, First Blood, I Quit (which was more like a Submission bout, admittedly), Finisher, Two Out Of Three Falls and format variations such as a huge four-way tag consisting of four teams. Even though four characters remained on-screen at one time, Attitude was able to include match types that haven’t been seen even in modern titles, such as 4-on-4 Survivor Series bouts. It’s strange in hindsight that nobody questioned how the likes of Hell In A Cell and Ladder matches weren’t included, although Acclaim’s decision to use actual video footage of the WWF stars, which was modified using computer technology to end up as a playable videogame, likely made such match types almost an impossibility to include in the game, at least at that point. Alongside Raw, there were arenas for House Show and a “PPV” venue, even though all were three were similar and, whilst realistic, didn’t quite resemble their actual incarnations.

The game revamped its single-player mode as Career, which saw you climb the WWF ranks and win the top titles on PPV events, whilst unlocking wrestlers and arena parts, as well as War Zone-style “bonuses”, along the way. Overall, it was an improvement on Challenge mode in War Zone, featuring more matches and generally being a stronger experience (you competed on House Shows to begin with, then Heat, then Raw, and finally PPV events). However, some matches were ridiculously hard; in particular, three-on-one Falls Count Anywhere Handicap matches, with you as the lone wolf for lack of a better term, was basically a way for you to lose, so difficult was it to pull out a win in these situations.

Other notes: commentary was provided by Shane McMahon and Jerry Lawler; Shane filled in for Jim Ross, who was recovering from Bell’s Palsy at the time, although it’s interesting that JR’s actual temporary replacement Michael Cole wasn’t drafted in for the task (Shane’s commentary was limited to Heat). The Nintendo 64 game had proper entrance themes for the first time, which was a vast improvement on the (admittedly funky) midi versions on the N64 version of War Zone. Wrestlers had full entrances for the first time, and Triple H even did his full pre-match promo which included calling out “that fat-ass sitting on the couch”, referencing the player. Wrestlers had pre-match comments mostly consisting of catch phrases, many involving swearing or innuendo (Goldust’s line of “On your knees, bitch!” and “Kiss my golden ass!” probably wouldn’t be included in a modern-day WWE 2K game). An Everyone/Teen option allowed you to toggle between a family-friendly and an adult-orientated experience, which was a nice touch. All of the genuine characters had up to four attires, but they were much easier to access on the PS1 version (actually, they were almost impossible to access on the N64 version, now that I think about it).

Finally, the game was dedicated to Owen Hart, who sadly died a few months before Attitude was released, but after his character had been locked down for the game. Despite this dedication, Owen has never returned to a WWF/WWE game since, for understandable reasons. It’s debatable as to whether we’ll see Owen back in a game someday, but until then, Attitude marked the videogame farewell for Owen, and we get a nice reminder as to how much he meant to so many with his dedication as the game loads.

On the downside, the control scheme hadn’t been changed to make it more user-friendly; if anything, it was less user-friendly this time around, and at a time when the WWF product consisted of many crazy bumps and big-time finishers, with a major reduction on the focus of actual wrestling, it was annoying to see two out of every three exchanges begin with a hammerlock or something similar which was hardly seen on Raw throughout the entire year, never mind a few times per match. Blood was in the game but was used almost comically, as characters would receive some amusingly deep cuts in strange areas such as their hands or their knees, despite wearing long tights. Career mode, as stated, could be pretty frustrating for a variety of reasons, most notably the difficulty of multiplayer bouts and the occasional bug whereby save data would be removed, after completing a lengthy and exhausting single-player mode. The memory of the game also hindered Create A Wrestler (I said I’d come back to it!), since the game took up so much data that you could barely save a handful of characters, despite there being a decent number of slots available. Weapons were difficult to handle, and despite some references to backstage brawling when the game was being hyped up, this ended up being a fantasy as backstage areas were nowhere to be seen, allowing WCW Mayhem to become the first game to offer this feature later in the year.

Perhaps the biggest flaw was the aforementioned lack of improvement with the control scheme, mostly due to the success of the wrestling engine in WCW/nWo Revenge. Revenge and its predecessor World Tour, produced for WCW by THQ, both provided a simple, logical and addictive gameplay experience, which included one- or two-button controls for virtually everything. It’s understandable that War Zone would be outclassed in this area, because World Tour was only moderately successful upon its 1997 release and Revenge came out after War Zone did, but for Attitude not to adjust its approach to the in-ring product, almost a year after everyone was raving about the gameplay on Revenge, is pretty strange. This probably explains why the WWF chose not to renew its licence with Acclaim after Attitude was released, and chose to partner with none other than THQ. The change would be massively successful for the WWF and THQ, with WrestleMania 2000 and SmackDown! kicking off an incredible era which continues, albeit to less praise, to this very day. Acclaim, which had been producing WWF games for a decade prior to Attitude, would enter into an agreement with ECW and produce two games for that organisation, and they would provide three Legends Of Wrestling games in the early 2000s before the company would ultimately fold.

Still, despite the negatives, on the whole Attitude gave fans a strong end to the Acclaim era. Ignoring the (already) outdated control scheme, Attitude improved upon War Zone in almost every way possible, and don’t forget the general sludge that WWF fans had to bear in the years before War Zone. Therefore, Attitude still seemed like the best wrestling game yet upon its release, even though it didn’t meet many fans’ expectations. Had the THQ era not begun immediately afterwards with WrestleMania 2000, Attitude might be remembered more fondly, but at the time it was treated like a true main eventer, and although it hasn’t aged well, Attitude remains a milestone in the history of wrestling videogames, and a good climax to the final era before the THQ era for WWF/WWE videogames.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good