After years of toiling in mediocrity, World Championship Wrestling has become the best wrestling promotion around. The minds behind WCW have secured the sport's top talents, and the angles are almost as good as WWF's Rock-n-Wrestling Connection years. So with the raging success of WCW, it's only natural that it would license its name out for some video games. The resulting products have been a mixed bag, with WCW vs. The World and WCW vs. nWo taking the easy way out by slapping WCW talent into a Japanese-made wrestling game with little or no connection to the organization. WCW Nitro was designed from the ground up to be a WCW-licensed game, and it shows.
The game has all the standard options that one would come to expect from a wrestling game. There are exhibition matches, tournaments, tag team matches, and the like. Actual gameplay is where Nitro chooses to make its differences known. Rather than rely on senseless button mashing to execute moves, Nitro instead has more of a fighting game style to it, with each move having its own set of buttons that trigger the move. Don't be fooled - there is still a bit of button pounding in the game, but not nearly as much as most other wrestling titles out there.
The game was made to look and feel like WCW's Monday night program, from FMV intros to ring decorations. The pregame graphics are all quite good, but once the game starts, the game takes a huge downturn. While the characters look quite a bit like their real-life counterparts, the graphics are also very blocky. The game's frame rate is decent in a one-on-one match, but the minute another character runs down from the locker room to help out, the frame rate goes way, way down. Adding a fourth character makes a bad situation worse. The game's sound effects are nice, although commentary is very sparse. The announcers only butt in to state the name of a move or mention that someone is running down to join the match.
Even with its graphical difficulties, WCW Nitro is still the best WCW-licensed wrestling game out there. WCW fans won't be disappointed, and wrestling game fans will have something to cheer about as well. THQ already has another WCW game, this one based on WCW's new show, Thursday Night Thunder, in the works. If the game fixes the few problems with Nitro, then WCW fans are definitely in for a treat.