The World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now known as the WWE) was going through some big changes back in late 1997. The so called ‘Monday Night Wars’, where WWE and WCW fought head-to-head in the ratings, was reaching it’s prime. This was arguably the hottest period in professional wrestling, as both companies pulled out all the stops to make sure they beat the other.
Also taking off in a big way was video gaming. Brands like Playstation and the popular Nintendo 64 were making gaming more and more mainstream, just like wrestling. So naturally, the WWE needed a new video game to reflect this change in culture, and their new found ‘attitude’.
Acclaim Sports were brought in to publish the game, with a relatively unknown Utah based company called Iguana West handling the development. While Acclaim had published games for the WWE in the past, these were mostly lacklustre, 2D sprite based games that didn’t do a very good job at the wrestling or the game side of things.
With War Zone, a brand new approach to wrestling games was devised, thanks in no small part to the much more powerful hardware afforded by the Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64. Gone were the 2D sprites in favour of 3D models, and a brand new grappling engine was devised which made the wrestlers, well, wrestle.
The roster of the game features all of your expected favourites from the time, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and HHH (D-Generation X). Also included was Ahmed Johnson, Ken Shamrock, Goldust, Farooq & The Rock (The Nation of Domination) and The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart, Owen Hart and The British Bulldog).
But it didn’t end there, you see. Because WWF War Zone was the first game to feature the now standard Create-a-Wrestler feature. For all the retrospective faults of War Zone, this one feature defined the very landscape of wrestling games, and every wrestling game sincehas featured it.
You could customise your wrestlers name, entrance music, weight, height, skin tone, apparel, everything. A lot of clever people used this system to create approximations of wrestlers not in the game or even from rival companies. The only problem in WarZone was that you had to use a pre-defined move-set from one of the built in wrestlers, no custom moves here.
The main gameplay mode involves wrestling your way to the top of the WWF in a tournament style. A pyramid of monitors shows the levels of wrestlers you need to work you way through to get to the top. Occasionally a former opponent will challenge you to a ‘grudge match’ – normally a steel cage or hardcore match.
- Versus (1v1 Match)
- Tag Team Match
- Steel Cage Match
- Hardcore (no rules) Match
- Tornado Tag Match (where all participants are in the ring at the same time)
- Battle Royal (3 or 4 players at the same time, first one to score a pinfall or submission wins)
The match types are very limited, although the N64 version did have a few extra modes including a basic Royal Rumble matchup.
So we’re off to a good start. But more could be done to make this game better, and around a year later, a follow-up based on this game, WWF Attitude, was released……maybe one for next time….
Danny’s Retro Rating: