WWF European Rampage Tour
Copyright/Publisher: Ocean/Arc Developments, Music: Mark Cooksey,
Release Year: 1992, Genre: Wrestling, Number Of Players: 1 or 2 2

In the red corner, it's the spangly-tights brigade's latest outing on the C64. In the blue conrer, Dave Golder. And they're ready to come out fighting.

The lights dim. The music begins. The stars of the evening's entertainment appear in the spotlights, resplendent in ornate make-up and luridly-coloured tights. Now all they've got to do is remember all those carefully-rehearsed moves.

Well, that's enough about that soppy ballet Lisa dragged me see the other evening. What about WWF European Rampage?

Apparently some time last year that WWF lot came to Europe and went on a rampage, although the only real damage they inflicted was on our ears by releasing that awful Oooh-wooo-oooh-wooo Slam Jam record. And so, to cash in on, erm, commemorate this momentous event we have WWF European Rampage.

If your favourite WWF wrestler is either Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart or Randy Travis you're in luck, 'cos these are the ones you can play. Also in the game are IRS, Sags and Typhoon, but they're all computer-controlled and only pop up on one-player mode, the play options being two-player practice or one-player tournament.

Two player mode can be used either to have a bash-about with a mate or practice your moves, which is something you need to do when you first play the game if you don't want to end up pinned to the floor so often you get mistaken for a wall-to-wall carpet.

Basically the one-player competition mode is just a series of bouts against the computer-controlled wrestlers. You play them in one country, then (as long as you haven't lost all three of your credits) you move on to another. There's an impressive range of moves you can attempt, both offensive and defensive, which you instigate by using various combinations of joystick movements and fire-button jabbing.

For a lot of the moves you need to be running first, and you can even rebound off the ropes. Both contenders have a status bar which decreases as they're hit (or when they lunge at an opponent, miss and land badly). But the game isn't over when one of them hits zero. You have to either pin your opponent to the floor for a count of three - which is easier when their energy is significantly lower than yours - or keep them out of the ring for a count of nine.

Now, the original game was quite a jolly little affair. As beat-'em-ups go it supplied the heaving, hurling, thmuping, pounding, crunching goods served up with a healthy dose of humour in keeping with the over-the-top style of the sport. One of its best points was that little icons appeared at the bottom of the screen telling you what to do with your joystick if you got yourself into a (slam) jam.

European Rampage has done away with this nifty control system, along with just about everything else that raised the original above your average beat-'em-up. And it's replaced them with, erm, well nothing really. What's left can be described as average at best.

While it's all very competently coded, with some smooth animation and great graphics, it's got all the gameplay of those executive toys with metal balls that hit each other.

It simply isn't very exciting. In competition mode you just plod from one bout to another, and they're all pretty much the same. You can use the same tactics in each because there's no difference in the way the opponents attack. Two-player mode is undermined by the fact that there's no scoring system and consequently no high score table, so you can't keep track of which mates you've clobbered the most.

There are also some niggly faults with the actual fights. Your opponents loses more energy if you punch and kick him than if you knock him down or throw him, which hardly seems in the spirit of wrestling. Surely the more impressive moves should be awarded (after all, wrestling is more about style than actually hurting anybody).

The bouts become wars of attrition, in which you just waggle and punch the fire-button as much and as fast as possible and hope that your opponent wears out before either your wrist or your joystick does. There's little point in attempting anything more flashy beacuse you're not rewarded for it.

Another problem is that both wrestlers have to be on the exact same horizontal plane to make contact with each other. But in the middle of a bout you haven't got time to get your ruler and set square out, so you often make a lunge only to go flying past your opponent and lose energy when you crash to the ground. A faint grid on the floor of the ring would have been very welcome.

But the drawbacks in the control and fighting system aren't terminal in themselves - they aren't perfect, but there is a lot worse around. The overriding problem with European Rampage is its almost complete lack of frills and variety. When you move to a different country, for example, the only on-screen difference is that the flags in the background change.

Whoo-as-they-say-pee! The opponents do become harder to beat, sure, but only in that they take more hits to deplete their energy; you don't have to learn any new skills or adapt your moves.

Okay, so the sprites look pretty funky (Lawks-a-lordy, you can almost tell which wrestlers they're supposed to be!) and some of the moves almost look impressive - when you can get them to work, that is.

But the game hasn't got any character, which is a shame when the characters it's based on are so over-the-top they make The Rocky Horror Picture Show look like The Sound of Music. Surely it wouldn't have been too difficult to inject a bit of humour into the game? Even something as simple as giving Randy a dirty great chunk of wood to wave about would have helped.

It seems distinctly odd to have a sequel that actually offers less than the original game. There's only so much that can be done with the actual fighting systems in beat-'em-ups of this type, so it's the aesthetics and the structure of the competition that make the crucial difference to the playability.

European Rampage sadly fails the fitness test on both counts, which is a shame, because the actual fights, while there's a room for improvement, are reasonably entertaining in the short run. But there's nothing to keep you going back for more.

The WWF mob have definitely been knocked down for the count by that Street Fighter bunch this time around.


INTRO SCREEN

POWER RATING 65%
UPPERS
The wrestlers are well drawn and animated
There's a wide range of moves to try out.
DOWNERS
There is a complete lack of frills or humour.
The control system is very poor.
No sense of progression - it's just one slug after another.


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