ECW Anarchy Rulz (PS1) Review

ECW games are like buses, you wait forever for one then two comes along at once! … then the company goes bankrupt. Oh well! Anarchy Rulz sees us wave goodbye to the “War Zone Engine”, and not a moment too soon as it started to get old during Attitude, and Hardcore Revolution didn’t do it any favours. Still, this game features a match where people explode into flames when they get tossed over the top onto lava-like “hot coals”, so… hooray?

Background:

A relatively plain “Three Way Dance” …. That won’t last.

ECW Anarchy Rulz (yes, spelt without an E and with a Z, because… anti-authority bad-assery, I guess?) was released in the US on August 15 2000 and in Europe on September 1st 2000 on the Playstation, with a Dreamcast version released in the US November 28th that year and in Europe on February 9th 2001, pretty much when the actual company had gone under.

Given the fact it was released only a few months after Hardcore Revolution, it’s not a shock to find out the roster is very similar. It features Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, Rob Van Dam, Rhino, Lance Storm, Jerry Lynn, Justin Credible, CW Anderson, Spike Dudley, Super Crazy, Nova, Steve Corino, Yoshihiro Tajiri, Little Guido, Spike Dudley, Danny Doring, Roadkill, Balls Mahoney, New Jack, Angel, Big Sal, Chris Chetti, Dawn Marie, Francine, Jazz, DeVito, Jason, Simon Diamond, and Jack Victory.

Plus the game debuts of, would you believe it, DUSTY RHODES (yes big Dust made his playable game debut in ECW Anarchy Rulz…), plus Masato Tanaka, Mikey Whipwreck, Kid Kash, and Elektra. It also has a bunch of managers, referees, backstage hands, etc. etc…

Gameplay:

Tommy Dreamer hits RVD with a large tube TV while his opponent held a ladder. Odd, but still not THAT weird…

So, for the last time, the controls are similar to the likes of Mortal Kombat, with direction presses followed by a button press activating moves, either from standing, grapple, on a grounded foe or off the top rope. You can also do strikes and running strikes, and block attempted attacks. They added a fair few new moves this time, though some of them were literally a copy of an existing move with a different “finisher name”, which is rather stupid.

Speaking of stupid, the sheer amount of match types! So you can still have all the matches from Hardcore Revolution, like singles, tag, triple threat, four way, battle royal, (Royal) Rumble and various handicap matches, and can have them under rules like Hardcore, Falls Count Anywhere, Ironman, submission only, finisher only, etc, and have them inside structures like a cage or with barbed wire ring ropes. New to Anarchy Rulz is a “Team Rumble”, which as you’d imagine is a Royal Rumble but with teams, one team member replacing another after he/she gets eliminated, a “Hate Match”, which is like a handicap match but it’s you vs. 12 other people, three at a time and elimination style (who would … why would you put that in?!) and a Tag Team version of the single elimination tournament (left over from the King of the Ring mode from Attitude)

These and all other viable match types can now have the Dumpster Match rule (throw your opponent over the ropes into a dumpster to win), Table Match (actually just a regular match with unmoveable tables that you can break by putting people through) , “Rage in a Cage” match (their vein attempt to mimic a UFC cage fight, for some reason), a “Brimstone Match” (the aforementioned match where the ring is surrounded by lava-like coals and people seemingly burnt to death when they get tossed over the rope) and a Backlot Brawl, which is a match that takes place in a backlot full of trucks and cars… behind chain-link fences you get to, leaving you with mostly textureless grey “concrete”.

There is a “new and improved” career mode, but really it’s not a whole lot different. They’ve thankfully kept to the actual ECW title set of TV, Tag and World Heavyweight, removing their fictional one, but otherwise you fight a number of people to rise up the rankings and win the TV title, defend it a few times and then move up the rankings to win the Heavyweight title, with the matches getting harder the further up you go. This time there is a Tag Team career, but it’s the same other than you pick a team and climb up the tag rankings and then defend the titles, and a “Stable Career” where you create a stable of four people and fight other stables, ending with their newly introduced “Team Rumble” match. So more options and less fictional titles, but still pretty much the same set up, though some of the latter stages of the single player path have a lot of handicap and “Hate Matches” which drains all the fun out of the experience.

Other modes include a “Belt Tour Mode”, where you compete in a series of tournaments for the TV, Heavyweight an Tag belts, plus a hellish one where you have nothing but Toughman matches, which if you remember from the previous game are 3 on 1 matches where you have to beat all three to win… Again, why? Some challenges just aren’t fun! Anyway, you then get all the “create-a” modes, like wrestler (with more options, but still feels like less than Attitude), PPV and now a Create-a-Stable, which allows you to create a stable of four and… that’s pretty much it. So the game isn’t short of content, it’s just short on fresh-feeling gameplay…

Graphics and Sound:

Jason and Angel battle in the grey void that is the “backstage”. Pretty odd…

The graphics look like Hardcore Revolution, which in turn looked an awful lot like the graphics from Attitude. Blocky wrestlers, zero texture crowds, robo-dancing idle animations, the lot.

Sound is also the same as previous efforts, people have pre-match taunts and vocal lines during gameplay, the crowd chants stuff, commentary is now Joey Styles and Joel Gurtner rather than just Styles, and a lot of the iconic ECW entrance music isn’t featured due to copyright issues. Average at best, especially seeing so little improvement over the previous few entries.

Thoughts Then:

A four-way dance inside an over-sized Octagon cage… yeah, that’s never happened! Very odd indeed…

I couldn’t fault Anarchy Rulz’ content variety, but I very was very harsh of their complete lack of gameplay variety. I didn’t get this when it came out, better games were still fun or on the horizon, but I did get it at some point for cheap in 2001 and… it lived up to what I’d heard. I played it for a bit, had some fun with the new match types, and then never really played it again…

Thoughts Now:

Tajiri watches his opponent explode into flames (that clip over the ring ropes) as they hit the “Brimstone” around the ring. EC-Dub, EC-Dub, EC-Dub?

I forgot just how much content there was here, but sadly it doesn’t mask the generic feeling the gameplay has. The arenas look more ECW-y, the career mode feels more ECW-y, but the gameplay still feels far too Attitude-y. I’m not sorry to wave goodbye to the “War Zone Engine”, returning to it got old fast, and so playing here just felt like “getting it out of the way” so I could get to better stuff. It’s the best ECW game released out of the whopping two that were, but it’s still not all that good…

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