(Look at Hogan's face in the bottom right corner. Even he's horrified of this game. Was there really no better image of him to put in the cover. NONE?!)
For the uninitiated, WCW/nWo Thunder was a PlayStation 1 game released on New Year's Eve in 1998 by THQ. It is the follow-up game to their Nitro game that was released a year earlier and Thunder features a larger roster than it's predecessor. It was made as a way to cash in on the "success" of WCW's Thursday night show in the late 1990's. The game's roster is mostly comprised of the biggest names of the nWo faction and non-nWo wrestlers but it also contains members of smaller factions like the Four Horsemen and Raven's Flock. But how does the game stack up almost 17 years after its initial release? Does it stack up against other wrestling games?
The game opens up with a full motion of video showing highlights from the Thunder TV show that made Thunder appear to be better than the atrocity it ultimately ended up being known for.
The roster contains 32 wrestlers to start off with, including Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Sting, The Giant, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Bret Hart, and many more.
What's cool about this game (and a few other games at the time) was that you could actually listen to a little rant/promo from each of these 32 wrestlers and I have to admit, they're pretty fun to listen to.
The music in this game is, lackluster to say the least. the soundtrack is extremely limited and you get tired of it very fast. Before a match, you're introduced to a small cut-scene of each wrestler with either any of the nWo themes, the Four Horsemen theme, Raven's theme, or the Thunder theme. The commentary during matches is bland and just there. You occasionally hear Tony Schiavone call out a move and that's about it. It adds nothing to the game. Even WWE 2K Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler is better than this, and that's saying something. Overall, it's pretty bad.
The graphics also do not help things either, but I do give the game developers a bit of a break because designing human characters in sports games at the time was tough and a lot of the time, they would come out as pretty bad and low-resolution. At the very least, the motions and the wrestling moves come out as fluid as they could and looked pretty decent at the time of release. Don't get me wrong. It still looks bad, but not downright terrible.
The game's controls are complicated and downright terrible. Pulling off combinations and finishers are pretty hard to do, especially when there were times that I had to deal with input lag. And in a fighting game, this is the biggest sin of them all. There's now excusing that.
Thunder can also be pretty exploitable in which you can do certain things to win the match in as little as 30 seconds, such as keeping your opponent and yourself locked in arms to wear your opponent's energy out or immediately roll out of the ring to force your opponent out as well and once the referee is at 8 out of 10 to get back in the ring, simply press the Select button to call for another wrestler to come in and help you and just go back in the ring while the enemy is distracted to win by count-out. It feels cheap and unrewarding winning that way but sometimes you're forced to do it because the controls are bad.
You can hit your opponents with weapons and let me tell you, it feels great hitting your opponent with a baseball bat or kendo stick and you can feel the impact from those hits and it is so gratifying.
After that, the game doesn't really innovate in the way of controls, it's pretty much the same controls as Nitro but you can customize it. It doesn't bring anything exciting to the game and it feels kind of bland to be honest.
Right off the bat you're introduced to a menu of different match types and whether or not you want them to be single-player or multi-player. You have different match types (Steel Cage, Battle Royal, Tag Team) but you also have tournaments for the different championship belts in WCW like the World Heavyweight Championship, the US Heavyweight Championship, and the TV Title in which you fight. It's good and bad at the same time. Good because it already is more variety than the Nitro game, but bad because it felt underwhelming at the same. maybe it's because we're exposed to many more match types today but in the late 90's, WCW was experimenting with different match types and looking back, I wished there was more to offer, like an item on a Pole match where you put the title on a pole or even Viagra.
After you beat a tournament with a wrestler, you get to unlock another WCW wrestler and each wrestler unlocks another wrestler. So that's so far a total of 64 members of the roster which is incredible for a game at that time. If you get tired of having to unlock every character and going through the grind, there's always cheat codes to unlock every single unlockable wrestler. But it wouldn't be a 90's video game if there weren't a number of cheat codes and they do not disappoint.
There's cheat codes that lets you change the ring look at will, there's the obligatory big-head mode that was so popular as well. You could even change a wrestler's offensive and defensive stats. But the granddaddy of them all was the cheat code that lets you unlock the entire video game roster. It doesn't just automatically give you access to the 64 wrestlers but another 64 characters that the developers really enjoyed putting there. Why you ask? Because you can play as many other people such as Mean Gene Okerlund, Miss Elizabeth, the WCW Nitro Girls, and a Cow.
Nope that's not a typo. You can play as a cow! That needs to be said again. There is a WCW licensed video game for the PlayStation 1 where you drop kick, punch, kick, and body slam The Giant (a.k.a. The Big Show) who's billed as taller than seven feet and weighs in at 500 lbs. as a FREAKING COW!!!!!
You can also play as a sailor, a giant praying mantis, a horse, a robot, and even members of the development team themselves. This is so hilariously awesome it adds so much to the game having one of the most versatile wrestling video game rosters of all time.
This game is bad and boring. It doesn't do anything overly exciting in terms of controls or atmosphere. Yes you can compete in a steel cage or have a battle royal but it feels pretty much the same.
The graphics aren't great, the music is terrible, commentary is uninspiring and the controls have input lag and complicated. All of those blend together to bring in a pretty bad experience, much like the original Thunder television show.
But for some reason, I found parts of the game to be really fun. The roster in total gives ample opportunity to create some hilarious fight scenarios (Horse vs Cow. Who is better?) and you'll have tons of fun unlocking the characters and using them if you can get past controls.
You can do worse with a wrestling video game and playing with a friend can be somewhat enjoyable if your patience and pain tolerance is high enough. It got pretty bad reviews when it was first released and I can completely see why. But it's not a complete waste and if you were a huge WCW fan like I was, it's not a terrible pick-up. It only costs less than $10 online and let's face it. If you spent your life playing video games, then you definitely payed more to play worse.
Final score: 2.5/5