WWF Attitude signaled the end of an era for WWF video games. Is it worth revisiting?
By 1999 WWF was on top of the world.
No longer playing second fiddle to WCW, the company was flying high through unprecedented levels of success, dominating its competition in all but one area; video games.
While WWF War Zone had proven to be a financial hit in 1998, it still didn’t enjoy the critical or financial success that WCW’s video games were achieving at this time.
WCW/NWO Revenge on the Nintendo 64 outsold the N64 version of WWF War Zone considerably; racking up over 2.3 million sales.
Naturally, Vince took this on the chin and accepted WCW trouncing WWF’s video game offer…. he stole the competition.
In a case of bigger wallet diplomacy, WWF snapped up THQ as its exclusive game publishing partner. It was the kind of thing that happened all the time in the Attitude Era but for Acclaim, it spelled the end of a long term partnership.
It also didn’t help that the game itself suffered a number of notable delays; some outside of the control of Acclaim. By the time the game released in the Summer of 1999; many gamers were already hyped for THQ’s Wrestlemania 2000 – a game that would touchdown mere months after Attitude.
All of this might go some way to explaining why WWF Attitude underperformed when compared to its predecessor, surprising considering that the game released on three home consoles (It would release later in the year on Sega’s Dreamcast).
Official sales figures are hard to come by but the general consensus is that WWF Attitude failed to sell anywhere near its predecessor’s numbers.
Perhaps more interesting, WWF Attitude has developed a negative reputation as the years have passed. The general feeling is this game isn’t all that interesting and only serves as a footnote to the games that came after it.
So was the last gasp of Acclaim’s WWF gaming dynasty a triumph or a complete squash?
More More More Attitude
WWF Attitude is very much a sequel in every aspect of the word, both good and bad.
For better or worse, Acclaim doubled down on War Zone and offered up a package that, more or less, was a continuation of that game. I feel like that was a huge missed opportunity to course-correct some of War Zone’s weaker aspects; we’ll get to that later on.
Certainly, one thing gamers can’t accuse WWF Attitude of is lacking in depth. The game is stuffed to the brim with new features, modes, and additions.
There’s an abundance of new match types and options for gamers to get their teeth into. Handicap matches, hardcore matches, I Quit matches, first blood matches (Yes, Attitude lets wrestlers bleed from several limbs!) and more/ For the most part, these match types really add something the overall package, even if some of these end up feeling half baked in execution.
Adding to this sense of depth is the addition of many more Superstars to play as. Over 40 Superstars are included this time around, massively expanding on War Zone’s slim pickings. This includes the main event Superstars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Undertaker through to mid-card guys like Dr. Death Steve Williams, Road Dogg, and Billy Gunn.
You can even play as the women of WWF with Sable, Chyna, and Jacqueline all available for selection. This wasn’t the first time women were playable in a WWF game but it’s nice to see them fully included in this game.
WWF Attitude also goes big on presentation. War Zone skipped around recreating the TV product but Attitude goes to great lengths to correct this. The crowds are more detailed, there’s a proper titantron, and wrestlers are given fully fleshed out entrances.
On top of this, the game retains its in-game commentary with Jerry Lawler and Shane McMahon taking over the booth this time.
For me, this is something of a step-down. Try as hard as he might, Shane McMahon very much comes off as an over-eager addition to the table, regularly shouting lines and lacking the subtlety that JR or Vince could have brought to the table. He feels out of place here and his inexperience shows. Lawler is much better but the pair don’t gel in any great way. Even with more lines, it never gets beyond acceptable for me.
But it’s not just here where voice clips are used. All wrestlers open their matches with their own unique lines of dialogue; some even speaking during entrances. It’s a novelty for sure but it’s funny the first few times you see these play out. It adds personality to each wrestler and makes you feel like you’re playing as them; even if some of the lines are a touch bizarre.
Gamers can also express themselves in more ways than ever before.
Create a Wrestler has been expanded, offering more parts for gamers to create their own Superstars. More attire, more music, and a general sense that the mode is more flexible than ever. Because you can unlock more attire pieces in the career mode, it’s a compelling reason to return and experiment constantly.
You can even use these created superstars in the brand new Create-A-Stable mode where Superstars are able to be paired together. You can give groups shared entrances, taunts, and more.
Perhaps bigger than this, WWF Attitude lets gamers finally create their own arenas. It’s not as comprehensive as future modes but there’s a lot of options here for someone to go to town and make an arena that fits their mood. From lighting to the color of ring ropes, it’s an impressive suite and really was ahead of its time.
As if all that wasn’t enough, you can also now construct your own pay-per-view cards. Stack the card how you want and you can watch matches play out in real-time or simulate to get results. It’s a very forward-thinking feature and allows gamers to book their own shows, even if it’s a bit basic.
The career mode has also been altered and given a fresh coat of paint.
Functionally it’s more of what War Zone offered just presented differently. Instead of tracking through a linear tower and challenging opponents, here, you’re moving up from House Shows to the main WWF TV programmes. You’ll still be facing various Superstars on a loop and trying to build your reputation within WWF.
It’s not groundbreaking but thanks to a more generous selection of unlockable Superstars, attire, and cheats there’s more reason to hang around this mode and experience what it has to offer.
Much like a number of features in WWF Attitude, there are some odd cutbacks that take the shine off this game mode. The lack of cutscenes, for example, robs this mode of the charm its predecessor possessed. With no real story or progression objectives outside of winning matches; there’s a severe lack of charm when it comes to completing multiple playthroughs of this mode.
Hearing about cut features, gamers were originally meant to face off against jobbers and this would likely have helped expand career mode. I can’t help but feel with a bit more polish; this mode really could have stood out way more.
The Wrong Attitude
By now you’re probably picking up on my thoughts towards WWF Attitude. There’s certainly a lot of stuff here and some of that stuff is very forward-thinking. Sadly that progress is undercut by omissions, regressions, or stagnation in other areas.
Perhaps most disappointingly, the game doesn’t make any deep gameplay changes from War Zone. The same quirks that bogged down that game are ever-present here.
Punch and kick are still assigned to their own buttons. All moves are performed by inputting the correct button combinations from each character’s move list and the aim is to beat your opponent enough that they stay down for the defeat.
With a bigger move pool comes more diversity between wrestlers but it also introduces a steeper learning curve.
In most cases, it’ll simply become a race to press start and call up your characters move list. Without knowing the button combinations and no way to have them displayed in-game; this quickly becomes an infuriating pace breaker during play sessions.
Add to this the fact that the health bar has been radically simplified. Instead of progressing through different colors and various stun states, it only progresses through one bar and changes colors as it does so; very similar to a traditional fighting game.
The problem for me is that this doesn’t feel appropriate in wrestling games where momentum should be able to shift on a dime. WWF Attitude makes it harder for someone being wailed on to get back into the fight.
Health does regenerate but not with any great urgency; certainly not enough to stop a new player from getting frustrated and abandoning the game before properly learning this mechanic. Frustration is all to present in the game.
Then we have to talk about the other big elephant in the room; how everything looks in motion.
Back when talking about War Zone, I pointed out that the characters in the game looked incredibly stiff. Every movement looks slow and clunky; Attitude sadly hasn’t done much to reduce this problem – it actually makes some of the “improvements” made elsewhere feel all the more clunky for it.
There’s no way around it, most of the entrances in WWF Attitude range from hilariously awkward to downright silly. Steve Austin looks like he’s been sipping on one too many Steveweiser’s while the likes of Gangrel and Kane move like they’re walking in iron boots.
Superstars start straddling towards the ring and… it’s kind of hard to not laugh at how stiff everything looks.
Movement looks slow, running looks painful and everything the characters do in the ring just feels like it’s running at half speed. The game doesn’t feel like an exciting WWF product, it feels like it’s waiting for its bedtime.
I could forgive this in WWF War Zone because that was the first game to make this jump but 12 months later and it’s still awkward as ever. It’s unforgivable in a sequel that the biggest flaw of the original is not only present but amplified; to the point where genuine improvements are undermined.
If you liked War Zone and dug that, WWF Attitude is very much going to get you excited. If you wanted fast-paced, exciting matches that were being played out on WWF TV at the time; Attitude wasn’t going to scratch that itch.
It feels like a game where the answer to the problems of its predecessor were to add more and more to the game in the hopes of drowning out the issues that were very much unresolved. It’s not a lazy sequel but it’s one that doesn’t feel like it understood why it split opinions so heavily.
The End of an Era
The truth is that WWF Attitude is a really difficult game to recommend to wrestling fans. It’s a game of great potential and plenty of content; that all comes with the caveat of being tied to a gameplay style that splits opinion heavily.
There are positives to be had here. The deeper roster, the expanded customization suites, and the attempts to add more depth shouldn’t be ignored.
There’s a reason this type of wrestling game hasn’t been revisited over the last 20 years; it’s not the way I think gamers want to experience WWF. It felt dated in 1999 and, all these years later, feels even worse for it.
I honestly can’t recommend anyone go back to experience this one; even the hardcore wouldn’t get much from it.
Better WWF games were fast approaching.
Acclaim wouldn’t get another shot at the WWF video game license and would have to settle for the ECW license where they created two sequels to Attitude; neither of which are any better than what’s on offer here.
WWF gamers wouldn’t have to wait long to see what THQ had in store. Wrestlemania 2000 released barely three months after WWF Attitude.