WCW Backstage Assault (PS1) Review

You know what I really hate about wrestling games? The wrestling ring! THANK YOU BACKSTAGE ASSAULT. Seriously though, when is a wrestling game not a wrestling game but instead a vs. fighting game with wrestlers? It might be WrestleMania: The Arcade Game and its sequel, but even those games had a ring in it… Oh well, let’s take a look at Backstage Assault, both the first game to feature only backstage environments and the last game released with the WCW logo on it. Yep, this is how WCW’s gaming legacy ended…

Background:

Goldberg assaults Scott Steiner backstage! … While a bin thanks them for the opportunity?

WCW Backstage Assault was released on the PlayStation on October 31st 2000 in the US, and November 24th 2000 in the PAL territories. An N64 version was released in the US on December 12th 2000, just three months before WCW was brought out by the WWF…

Despite being only sort-of a wrestling game, it does have a large roster of end of WCW era competitors, which… is sort of a good thing? Plus some of the people who were sitting out their large WCW deals were also available to be put in the game, which gives Backstage Assault a much better selection of talent than you got on TV at the time, that’s for sure…

It features Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Sting, Hulk Hogan, Goldberg, Booker T., Scott Steiner, Sid Vicious, Lex Luger (as “The Total Package”), Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, DDP, Jeff Jarrett, Rey Mysterio Jr., Shane Douglas, Mike Awesome, Bam Bam Bigelow, Billy Kidman, Brian Adam, Bryan Clark, Buff Bagwell, Cpl. Cajun (otherwise known as Lash LeRoux), Disco Inferno, Eric Bischoff, Kanyon, Konnan, Lance Storm, La Parka, Lt. Loco (otherwise known as Chavo Guerrero Jr), Madusa, Norman Smiley, Stevie Ray and Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker.

Plus the game debuts of Shane Helms, Shannon Moore, Big Vito, Torrie Wilson, Ms. Hancock (later known as Stacy Keibler) and Mona (later known as Molly Holly), as well as the sole game appearance of Chris Candido (Damn…), Vampiro, Crowbar, David Flair, Daffney, Tank Abbott, Gen. Rection (also known as Hugh Morris and Bill DeMott, but not in games he wasn’t!), Johnny Stamboli, Evan Karagias, Sgt. AWOL, Asya, Major Gunns (unless you count the Backyard Wrestling games…), and Ron and Don Harris…

Gameplay:

Sting gets thrown into the bathroom’s water cooler… you know, the classic feature of any arena bathroom!

The gameplay is the same engine used in Mayhem, with punching, kicking, grappling, with several different moves by pushing a direction button, and running and diving attacks (though off of objects rather than the top rope in this case, obviously…) all of which will give you momentum, have enough momentum and you can do your finisher, have too little momentum and you’re more likely to get pinned or submit. Sadly the engine hadn’t been updated since Mayhem, meaning there is a lot of clipping and bad collision detection going on still…

There are of course plenty of weapons lying about the 14 different backstage areas you can visit, both weapons to pick up and dangerous areas you can throw people into. That’s about your lot though in terms of things to do… You can only have one vs. one matches, by the way, I guess due to their being no apron for tag partners to stand on? (Even though, you know, Texas tornado rules is a thing… Plus three and four way singles matches were surely doable? How about interference? There was plenty of that in backstage areas in Mayhem…Oh well!) Alongside Pin/Submission/K.O you can also have First Blood Matches and “Human Torch” matches, which is a non-copyright version of an Inferno Match I guess… Well, accept there being no ring, obviously.

In terms of modes, beyond the obviously limited exhibition mode (given it’s one or two players, and only three match options…) you have “Hardcore Challenge”, where you fight a string of opponents until you win your chosen title (Easy = Hardcore title, Medium = US title, Hard = World title), but if you lose to someone and then lose the rematch, it’s game over. You also have “Hardcore Gauntlet”, where you face seven people in a row without the ability to save and leave the game and a “you lose once, it’s over” stipulation. In both modes you compete to set a high score and unlock wrestlers, moves and CAW parts as you play. That’s actually the last mode to talk about: Create-a-Wrestler, but while it has more options on the table than Mayhem, it’s still far more limited than the likes of the Acclaim WWF games or even the AKI games…

… Yep, that’s your lot! An exhibition mode of only three types of singles matches and two modes where you face people in a string of singles matches and unlock stuff, all taking place entirely backstage with no wrestling rings in sight. What a complete shambles this was. No wonder it sold so little and generally got panned, it’s a massive step back from Mayhem, and that game wasn’t exactly great to start with. They were apparently planning a “Mayhem 2” for late 2001 after Backstage Assault’s poor reception, but obviously that fell apart come March that year…

Graphics and Sound:

It’s Big Vito! The only thing people ever remember about him is the fact that he wore a dress. Excellent career he had there…

They’re pretty much the same as Mayhem, but given the janky-ness of those were at their worst with the painted-on backstage areas, Backstage Assaults comes off far worse due to being nothing but close up shots and poorly realised backstage rooms.

Sound is … okay. The sound effects are basic and the commentary by Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan is repetitive but not offensive, especially for a PS1 disc.

Thoughts Then:

Oh God, the “G.I. Bro” era of Booker T… yeah, that’s what I wanted reminding of!

I was smart this time! With No Mercy just round the corner and my friend planning to buy Smackdown! 2 I wasn’t convinced about spending money on Backstage Assault, then I read about this game’s lack of modes and… a ring and passed on it. A few years later I saw it second hand for literally a couple of pounds, brought it for complitionists sake and… yeah, I dodged a bullet, that’s for sure! I played it for a few hours, grew tired of it and never played it again… until now, anyway!

Thoughts Now:

Yikes, this picture became badly compressed somehow… oh well, it’s only Ron “Nazi tattoo twatface” Harris getting stomped, not the end of the world.

It really is depressingly accurate that the last WCW game would be a garbled mess… WCW Backstage Assault is an assault on fun and logic and barely counts as a wrestling game. Hell, it barely counts as a game full stop. Avoid at all costs, unless you’re doing some sort of wrestling game rundown, in which case this is a rather large bump you’ll have to hit on the long road…

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