wzlogoThe following Retro Review, scheduled for one game, is for the World Wrestling Federation’s WWF WarZone!

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.

406521-wwf-war-zone-playstation-screenshot-rostersThe 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.

406538-wwf-war-zone-playstation-screenshot-tag-team-modesThere’s also a very serviceable multiplayer mode, with various match types;

  • 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:

home_2in1I won’t wobble on too long about personal stuff because, who gives a shit anyway, right?

But I just wanted to let my small army of followers know that things will be changing a little bit going forward. Without going into names or details, this past Friday was my last day at my full time day job. It was a great 7 year run, but it was time for a change, and this will mean a few changes to the way I do things going forward. I will be working in a new job, out of hours, which will only be for 3 nights of the week for the most part. This means that I’ll have more time to move forward with my web design work, my web hosting business, and hopefully, this YouTube channel!

So, in the coming weeks, I’ll be moving to a minimum of two videos a week. These videos will also be released mid-week as opposed to at weekends. I’m hoping to be able to re-start collaboration with Sheepeep on various videos, as well as come up with more unique gaming related content going into the future. I’m hoping to expand the beta review series in a big way, looking at obscure and interesting beta software that nobody else is covering. I think these videos are by far the most potentially interesting thing I do, even if they’re not the most watched right now.

There’s going to be a bit of a break in unboxing / review videos, likely until around the end of February. I know a lot of my subscribers love those videos, and they’re by far some of the most popular videos I do, so I’m sorry to those of you who I know will read this with passing indifference and unsub. But I’m hoping you stick around. The reason is purely because transitioning from my old job to my new one, with the various different financial juggling that is involved there, means it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to go throwing money away on stupid gadgets. But once everything settles down, I should have more money to spend on these useless things, so, those videos will pick up again big time. So please stick around for those.

Anyway, in conclusion, Washing Machines live Longer with Calgon.

This post was in no way sponsored by Calgon.

Sponsored by Calgon.

TOCA_Touring_Cars_Championship_logoMy impromptu and frankly shockingly produced episode of Bald Plays featuring Overboard! has set me off on a bit of a PS1 nostalgia trip. So, as a nostalgia junkie, it’s time once again to rev up the engine, oil up the pistons, and get fired up for bad introductions to rubbish articles, it’s time for the Retro Review!

Yes, there is a reason I started using bad car analogies there, as today we’re looking at TOCA Touring Car Championship for the Playstation 1 (PSX).

First, a little background. Back in the mid-1990’s, Touring Cars, a form of motorsport involving modified saloon cars, was becoming big in the United Kingdom. F1 was starting to become a little stale, and the British Touring Car Championship was the hot new thing. On the back of this success, a video game tie-in was inevitable.

11905-toca-touring-car-championship-windows-screenshot-renault-meganeThere was also hunger for a decent racing game for the PlayStation. Gran Turismo was in the works but still a spec on the horizon. We needed a stop-gap, a decent racing game to really show off what the PSX was capable off.

Enter Codemasters. TOCA Touring Car Championship used officially licensed cars and tracks from the 1997 British Touring Car season. Voice over was provided by racing legend and Top Gear presenter Tiff Needell. It looked and sounded spectacular (for the time, of course) – and it included many innovative new features for the racing genre.

The gameplay was split across four main modes, Single Race, where you choose a track and race as many laps as you specify, the main Championship Mode, a Time Trial mode complete with ghost car feature if I recall, and, for the special amongst us who had two PS1’s and a datalink cable, you could even play a multiplayer link-up game! Sadly there was no split-screen multiplayer in this and, of course, online play wasn’t really a thing at the time unless you had a PC or a Sega Mega Modem….. for some reason….

The main bread and butter of this of course is the Championship Mode. As you race a full season of Touring Cars, which takes place in the United Kingdom, there isn’t a great deal of variation in the setting. Although the tracks themselves are wildly different, some are full of curves, some are bumpy and hilly, and so on; visually, you’re in the middle of a field in Yorkshire pretty much every time. This is compounded somewhat by the fact that you may end up racing the same track multiple times in a typical Touring Car season. There is a wide verity of weather modes, however, which allow you to mix things up a bit, and the rain and thunderstorm effects are particularly impressive.

The physics and handling in this game are great, though. Each car has it’s own handling style based on the real cars themselves. There’s no tweaking of things like tires or suspension, but personally, I never bother with those things anyway. There’s also a very realistic and somewhat awesome damage system, allowing you to crumple and damage every body panel and window, although unfortunately the damage is purely cosmetic and does not hinder the handling of the car in any way.

11916-toca-touring-car-championship-windows-screenshot-cheat-codesThere was some fun elements to this game too, though. The cheat codes provided some hilarious modes, including the ability to race a tank that actually fired, and even a pink Cadillac!

Gran Turismo took it’s rightful spot as the number one racing game when it came out a few months later, and this game never really took off in other markets due to it’s very British nature. But in the United Kingdom, for a period of time, this was the best selling racing game of all time, and still held it’s own against Gran Turismo. It also spawned not just a great sequel, but an entire franchise which is still going on today under the Race Driver GRID branding.

All in all this is a fantastic racing game for the PSX and the source of many happy childhood memories.

Danny’s Retro Rating:

vglFinally, after many years of waiting, Video Games Live has come to Manchester. Obviously, I had to go. So I did. This is some sort of ramble about how it went and what I thought.

Just to get my moaning out of the way, the one thing that annoyed me, and this is more the venue (The o2 Apollo) than Video Games Live directly, is the fact that the tickets said doors at 6.30pm. They didn’t actually open until closer to 7.30. Either the clocks going back confused somebody or something got delayed but, I really hate standing around for over an hour in the freezing cold. Also, the completely pointless priority line for customers of o2, which was completely unmonitored and didn’t actually do anything at all since the doors were opened for both lines simultaneously.

Anyway, enough of that. Once we were in the venue started to fill up nicely. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a complete sell out. The Apollo is a smaller venue which seats around 3,500, and we were in “The Circle” which is basically the upper tier. It’s a nice small venue so even right at the back you feel nice and close. The acoustics are fantastic in there too. The benefit of this was there was a bunch of empty seats further forward which meant we got a better view than we paid for plus got to spread out a bit. Big big bonus for captain long legs here. I don’t think this mattered too much as all the lower tiers and standing areas were fully packed. It’s a shame though because they deserve a sell-out. I’m surprised they didn’t get a bigger turnout considering how popular gaming is in Manchester.

First to come out is Tommy Tallarico, a legendary video game composer and creator of Video Games Live. Tommy then introduces us to the orchestra for the evening, the Hungarian Virtuosi Orchestra. Tommy is a great MC, as well as lead guitar in many songs, and his passion for the show is self-evident. The fact he’s been doing this for so long and still clearly loves being out there every time is a testament to this.

So, time for the music. I’m only going to cover the songs that I really connected with, as there were a few games in there I’d never played or know anything about, so I’ll be skipping those. But we start off on a strong note, as we’re introduced to a video package from Konami legend Hideo Kojima.

Metal Gear Solid was fantastic, and Tommy pretending to be Snake in the box was hilarious. We’re in for a great night, folks.

Another personal favourite next, and one of the major highlights of my evening, as Yuji Naka takes to the big screen to introduce us to Sonic The Hedgehog. The orchestra played a medley of songs from the first game, Sonic The Hedgehog 1, based loosely on the end credits Medley.

A little bit of a surprising rendition next, as Tommy tells us that for every single show, he polls people on Facebook as to what they would like to see. Inexplicably, the people of Manchester love The Secret Of Monkey Island, which is an old LucasArts game for the Sega CD, MacOS, DOS, Amiga and I think a few more properly obscure platforms. It’s a bit of an odd point and click adventure type effort.

We’re then later introduced to video game tribute band, Random Ecounter. They appear a couple of times that night, playing largely Zelda songs. We’re treated to a Medley from The Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time. This band is really really good, so, props to them for apparently flying out to the UK at their own expense to play for us.

Throughout the evening we’re treated to little comedy shorts between songs, such as Sonic vs. Pacman, where Sonic just spindashes through the level and clears it in 3 seconds, or Contra vs. Duck Hunt, which, well, you can imagine how that ended. They were all created by a great guy named Dane Boe, and you can find his YouTube channel and watch the shorts at http://youtube.com/daneboe

Next Up is Earthworm Jim, a fantastic Mega Drive game, the soundtrack to which was composed by non other than Tommy Tallarico himself. A great soundtrack and an hilarious video package to go along with it.

After a 20 minute intermission, it’s time for Act II, and as expected, the big guns are now brought out. We start with Mass Effect, one of the most successful video game franchises of the last decade.

After that, one of my personal highlights of the evening, yes, it’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’ve been playing this game for years and still haven’t seen and done everything there is to do. I think it’s a work of video game art, and the theme music is wonderfully done here. One of the best things about the night for sure, and I’m really glad at this point. All the games I really hoped to see have now been represented, so, fantastic. Everything after this is a bonus.

And oh boy, what a bonus. We take it back old school a little bit as we’re treated to a rendition of Street Fighter from the Sega Mega Drive. Wonderfully performed and really topped things off.

At the end of the show, we’re greeted with a continue screen prompting the audience for an Encore, which was already desperately being pleaded for by the fantastic crowd, and we’re treated to some bonus songs, including a sing along of the Mario theme!

But the grand finale, and one of my personal all time favourites, singer Riva Taylor (who had appeared earlier that night for a game I don’t recall or care much about) and Tommy lead us in a rendition of Still Alive, the classic ending theme from Portal.

So there we go, a great night, absolutely loved it from start to finish. Tommy and the musicians went out to the lobby to do a meet and greet with everybody, something that you’ll seldom find most performers doing, and it’s just another testament to his dedication and love for the music and the fans. We go out into the cold November evening and scramble for the nearest bus out of there.

Video Games Live is a brilliant, epic, fantastic, so many words I can’t even being to fathom level of awesome show, and I really heartily recommend that you go if you ever get the chance. We’re really hoping that Video Games Live is back in Manchester soon.