In the late 90s, WCW was having a good run with its wrestling games. I was personally fond of WCW vs The World and almost everyone loves WCW vs nWo: World Tour and WCW/nWo: Revenge. On September 23, 1999, WCW released this game that was sort of a departure from those titles. Will it be just as good as the rest? We shall see.
Around this time, the WWF was noticing the success of WCW's video games that were being developed by AKI and released by THQ. This made them decide to end a long-term business relationship with Acclaim and jump ship to sign a deal with THQ. WCW, not wanting to share a publisher with its main rival; jumped ship to Electronic Arts for this release.
This game has a few "firsts" going for it. WCW Mayhem is the first WCW game to feature venues for all of their 12 PPVs and all of their TV shows (Nitro, Thunder, and Saturday Night). It's also the first wrestling game to be released in North America that featured backstage areas to take the fight to. There was also an interesting feature that allowed you to input "Pay-Per-View codes" that were given out on Nitro. If you typed the code into the game; it would set up a card for you to play featuring the real line-up for the latest upcoming PPV. This only lasted a brief while, though, because the roster became outdated pretty quickly because wrestlers came and went all the time in those days. This made it impossible to set up an accurate card to play through within a few months of its release. Great idea but they obviously didn't think it out very well.
Mayhem boasts a hefty roster of over 50 playable characters. That's a lot, especially for a game that came out in 1999. This means that aside from the main roster, you even get wrestlers you wouldn't expect in the game. Folks like Bobby Duncum Jr., Ernest Miller (he was always a favorite of mine. Did anyone ever call his momma by the way?), and even Norman Smiley. Sadly, the body dimensions of all the wrestlers make them seem a little extra wide and rotund. Konnan looks particularly portly.
With the departure of AKI; this game loses the classic AKI grappling system that everyone knew and loved from the previous two WCW games. That's certainly a step-down but the grappling system used in this game suffices and there are a few different match options to choose from like 4 Way Dance or tag team. It would sadly still be another few years before we could enjoy more varied match types like cage matches and ladder matches. You can however change up some of the rules in these matches. You can choose to do a weapons match or a falls count anywhere match. Even having a "Raven's Rules" match is possible although that basically means that pinfalls AND submissions count anywhere in the building. Even with little in the variety of match types; at least the many backstage areas you can brawl in add some variety to the experience.
Final verdict - This game may not be quite as fun to play as it's previous two predecessors but it comes pretty damn close. Still great fun, especially with a few friends. These late 90s WCW games are some of the best "party games" that ever existed. Much fun to be had by all.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!