Given the success THQ has enjoyed with its use of the WWE license, it seemed only natural that the company would attempt to branch out beyond the scope of standard wrestling games. However, after releasing WWF Betrayal (a side-scrolling action game for the Game Boy Color) and WWF With Authority! (a collectible card game for the PC) in 2001, THQ seemed to abandon the idea of WWE games that aren't specifically about wrestling. That has all changed now that the company has released WWE Crush Hour, a car combat game featuring the superstars of the WWE. While the game actually does do a few things right, Crush Hour has far too many problems to make it a worthwhile purchase.
Crush Hour provides three main modes of play. Exhibition acts as the game's quick and easy single-player mode, allowing you to choose a wrestler, an arena, and some basic rules. Multiplayer is effectively the same mode, only in a two-player, split-screen form. Season mode takes you through a series of races and is somewhat similar to the career modes in other WWE games. You can choose from more than 30 superstars, including such fan favorites as The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar, putting them into crazily designed vehicles and setting them loose upon one another in assorted battle arenas, all with their own style and specific goals. You can also unlock hidden drivers and arenas as you progress through the season mode.
Crush Hour plays a lot like other car combat games; in fact, it plays very much like a stripped-down, simplistic version of Twisted Metal. Cars start out with the most basic of guns, but newer, more powerful weapons such as lasers, rockets, missiles, grenades, and the like can be obtained during gameplay. Additionally, each car has a specialized attack that can be used after filling up a bar in the top corner of the screen, which grows as you inflict damage on other drivers. The arenas in Crush Hour are similarly over the top in nature. Modeled after real WWE TV and Pay-Per-View sets, each level has its own set of goals. Some of the more basic arenas only require a specific number of kills to win, while others have more elaborate rules, such as obtaining a championship belt and holding it for 30 seconds without being destroyed or collecting a certain number of stars while trying to fend off your competition. While some of these goals can be extremely frustrating at times, much of what Crush Hour has to offer is an amusing, albeit simplistic, experience.
Unfortunately, when it comes to graphics and sound, Crush Hour begins to fall apart at the seams. Everything in the game feels extremely rushed and underpolished. All of the arenas have essentially the same bland, washed-out look to them and provide nothing in the way of atmosphere or creativity. The car models themselves are equally dull, especially since very few of them cater to the character they represent in any way. Steve Austin has his monster truck, and The Undertaker drives a version of his patented motorcycle, but everybody else seems to have been arbitrarily assigned a random car. Brock Lesnar drives an armored car, Kurt Angle has an SUV, and both Matt and Jeff Hardy drive wood-paneled station wagons. Rounding out the lack of any visual production are the game's wrestler entrances. While you may get to watch the actual WWE intro video for each wrestler on the Titantron, the cars themselves just sort of plod out onto the stage aimlessly, making it a very skip-worthy experience.
Even more grating is the game's audio. The in-game effects themselves are mediocre at best, providing only the barest necessities when it comes to the game's explosions and weapon effects. As you play, the wrestlers will periodically spout one of their catchphrases at you in mockery of your skills, but few, if any, of them make much sense in the context of this game, and the delivery sounds incredibly forced, even by professional wrestling's standards. Crush Hour also features in-game commentary by the WWE's own Jim Ross, but thanks to some astoundingly horrid editing, J.R.'s presence serves as little more than a stuttery, pointless irritation that will have you reaching for the mute button as quickly as possible.
While Crush Hour definitely has its share of problems, the game isn't all bad. Considering the $20 budget price and the fact that pieces of the game do provide a minimal amount of entertainment, die-hard WWE fans and desperate GameCube owners in dire need of some car combat action might at least want to give the game a try. Anyone else, however, would be wise to steer clear of WWE Crush Hour.