WCW vs. NWO features tons of licensed wrestlers for the WCW enthusiast, with dozens of special moves. If you've just got to fight Hollywood Hogan against Rey Mysterio Jr., you can - although they still call him "Hulk" in the setup screens despite Mr. Hogan's newer, sleeker, blacker look. Unfortunately the game is flawed with sluggish control and play mechanics. However, the list of pile drivers, body slams, sleeper holds - hell, the sheer number of submissions in general - is long enough to make it worth checking out. Plus, the game is blessed with a battle royal mode that may be the best comedy dollar spent on the N64.
Control is unresponsive and sluggish. A sense of timing is required not only to find holes in your opponent's defenses, but also to find the points at which the Nintendo 64 will allow you to perform moves at all. Run at your opponent and push the attack button and watch as your wrestler performs a flying kick - in the wrong direction. For the bulk of the game, the analog stick is only employed for special moves and grandstanding. The remainder of control is performed with the standard D-pad. Collision detection is sketchy at best. A punch will connect in one instance, but move one centimeter closer and attempt the same punch, and watch as your wrestler's hand moves right across your opponent's face and doesn't connect.
The animations of the individual wrestlers are pretty solid. The use of multiple or rotating camera angles during pins, holds, and special moves is a nice touch also. There is a fair amount of pop-up when the depth of field allows for the ropes to enter the view, but its effect on the overall feel is minimal. The animation of the crowd is a downright surreal blur of horrific shades of mauve, gray, and pale blue that somehow makes the ring seem to exist somewhere in Dante's Inferno rather than on pay-per-view. Very odd.
The AI is fairly competent, if a little random at times. It can hold its own against a novice player, but once you get used to the control it's easy to beat. It also exhibits a strange tendency to block or duck when neither is appropriate. WCW vs. NWO is much better as a multiplayer game. Maybe it's the license, or maybe it's the capacity to grab foreign objects from outside the ring, or throw opponents from it, but this game brings out the best and worst in human competitors.
Options include tag team play, season play, and round robin tournaments, but it's the battle royal, with four wrestlers in the ring - all the time - that really takes the cake. One word sums it up: shenanigans. With one to four human players and the CPU controlling the rest, battle royal is wild and crazy - and absolutely hilarious. It's so, well, downright silly, to have four people in the ring at once. The sheer number of onscreen bodies makes any time the right time for a flying leap from the turnbuckle.
With its ups and downs, you may want to rent WCW vs. NWO before purchasing it. Fans of the real-life WCW may find the treatment of the license not realistic enough for their liking. The characters' moves and appearances aren't very accurate, making the license appear like it was slapped on at the last minute. Control issues and poor collision detection aside, though, the battle royal mode is one of the strangest things going for the N64.