February 01, 2003 - Wrestling fans are always anxious to see their favorite WWE superstars on the cover of a THQ product. The publisher has always treated the license well, producing some of the best wrestling games on all consoles. But its latest use of the sweating hulksters has nothing to do with pile drivers and body slams. Instead, it has everything to do with rocket launchers and turbo boosts. Confused? We'll give you a hint. The name of the game is WWE Crush Hour, and IGN gave it a full play test at today's THQ Gamer's Day in Las Vegas.
That's right, all of your favorite Speedo warriors have ditched the ring and are now behind the wheel of supped-up hot rods in THQ's upcoming title. The premise of the game is somewhat similar to that of the Twisted Metal franchise on the PS2: destruction derby on steroids, or "car combat" as the genre has since been labeled. Each driver will shout and holler their trademark slogans as they cruise around indoor and exterior arenas in their death machines, slamming into opponents and lighting them up with a wide array of weaponry. There are over 30 licensed WWE stars to choose from including such pop icons as The Rock, The Hardy Boys, and Stone Cold Steve Austin -- each equipped with their own personal vehicles of destruction. Car types range from fancy sports cars to impressive 4x4 beasts and even full blown semis.
But what fun would a car combat game be without tons of ammunition and demolitions? The WWE is no exception. These boys like their firearms and have rigged their units to the hilt. The default weapon is usually a moderately sized machine gun of some form or another, and weapons upgrades can be collected in the form of small hovering icons that are scattered across the 13 different levels. Such add-ons include grenade launchers, laser-guided rockets, mines, turbo boosts, and damage modifiers, and they can be used with a simple press of the secondary fire button. One of our favorites was the "Ramming Power," which allowed us to plow headfirst into our foes and completely trash them with a single shot. Now that's gratification, WWE-style.
The game now sports several different ways to play, including exhibition and season modes. When playing a single exhibition match, players can choose from levels that are named after their respective WWE counterparts, such as the renowned SmackDown, RAW, and Hell in the Cell. Although players won't be racing around familiar WWE coliseums, the levels are still styled similarly and attempt to incorporate elements such as triggering cages to open in the Hell in the Cell arena. In this case, once the cages are up, players can access an entirely new, sunny, outdoor region of the level. It was refreshing to see this kind of layered arena design as it greatly helped to keep the action fresh and exciting.
And that's exactly what Crush Hour is attempting to catch: all of the excitement and personality that fans of the WWE love. For example, a score tally appears in the upper left corner of the screen with 3D-animated wrestler headshots mouthing off to each other as one player bursts into spare parts and another earns a point for the kill. Wrestlers still have lengthy intros as they cruise into the arena, packed with flashy video footage on the big screen and signature tunes cranking through the speakers. You won't see much of the wrestlers themselves as you control their vehicles, but THQ is seems determined to give fans as much WWE flair as a car combat game can allow.
The control scheme is set up fairly intuitively, as you have the standard gas/brake buttons, the R button fires your primary weapon, and the L button kicks your car into a power slide. These power slides are pretty simple to pull off and really help to swing your weapons into line with your targets as you circle-strafe the punks. You can also use one of your limited nitro boosts, which kick the game into super speed. The boost effect is actually pretty cool, with a wider camera angle and nice blur effect that really get your juices flowing. WWE fans should approve.
Matches can be set to either a kill or time limit, as well as other nice options such as handicap controls. Single players can assign three CPU wrestling racers to flesh out the match, or toss another human opponent into the mix for some multiplayer goodness. With up to four combatants cruising around each level, there's always someone gunning and running at you, and the action can be quite fast at times.
Overall, the game is both looking and playing better than when we saw it last, and hopefully still has time for one last polishing before it's ready to ship on March 11, 2003. Perhaps the best part of the whole deal is the extremely low SRP of $19.99 U.S. that THQ plans to sell it for; don't ask us how they're doing it, but we're certainly not complaining.
Stay tuned to IGN in the coming month as we get our final copies of the game and bring you a more detailed look at what to expect when the WWE takes to the road this spring. In the meantime, be sure to check out our brand-new movies and screens from today's event via the media section below.
nWf World Heavyweight Champ
"YOU WILL RESPECT THE UNDERTAKER"
"I`M THE AMERICAN BAD ASS AND I DESTROY ANYONE WHO STEPS IN MY YARD"