Honestly, I never thought I’d be the person who was nostalgic for WWE Crush Hour. A wrestling branded vehicular combat that was cashing in on the success and popularity of games like Carmageddon and Twisted Metal, WWE Crush Hour felt like a pale imitation to those titans of the car combat genre, but now, 20 years after the game’s original release in North America, I miss it. No, that’s not just because JR saying the words “The Brahma Bull now has The Annihilator” in the most stilted way possible has been seared into my brain.
In a world where noted bad person Vince McMahon has taken over all of TV, wrestlers can now be found on all aspects of television. Cooking With Kane, Survivor with the WWE “Divas” and vaguely racist Japanese-style adverts with Edge are just some of the delights being broadcast across the airwaves (which all showed up in brief cutscenes during the game’s Season Mode), but the star attraction was of course Crush Hour, where the wrestlers got behind the wheel to do battle in massive arenas.
If you’ve played the likes of Twisted Metal or other car combat games in the past, WWE Crush Hour is immediately familiar. Each wrestler has their own vehicles, stats and weapon, while the arenas themselves are filled with weapon pickups and other items. Each level is also based on different WWE shows and events, with Hell In A Cell taking place in an Egyptian themed level where the doors open over time, or King of the Ring being an actual Roman colosseum.
In the level design alone, you could tell there were some decent ideas being thrown around, but the actual gameplay itself wasn’t great. Collisions lacked any real impact, the weapons weren’t that impressive and the whole formula began to grow a little bit stale by the time you reached the climactic final battle with Vince McMahon himself. Sure, there were more characters to unlock through multiple runs of the Season Mode, but after one run, you’d likely have seen enough. Unless, you know, you were a poor kid who had to make do with the games he had. Someone like that might have played through the Season Mode enough times to unlock everyone.
So why should there be more games like WWE Crush Hour when it clearly wasn’t a great product to begin with? Because it’s one of many symbols of a time where developers and franchises were throwing gaming ideas at a wall en masse just to see what would stick. Shrek Super Slam, Rockstar’s The Warriors adaptation that actually improved on the plot of the film and the litany of film-related kart racers are just some examples, but these days we don’t see anything like it anymore.
It’s not that WWE Crush Hour makes me want developers of today to make bad games, but I’d certainly love it if big franchises took more risks. Instead of another live service, why not have a fully recognisable, licensed property viewed through the lens of a dumb car combat game? Don’t get me wrong, it’d still end up getting littered with battle passes and other microtransactions, because this is 2023 after all, but at least it wouldn’t be another live service loot shooter.
Perhaps this is just what getting older is. I’m turning 30 this year and all I want from gaming at the moment are experiences that turn back the clock 20 years, recapturing the excitement I had about gaming back then. Bloated, microtransaction-filled live services don’t fill that need, but if you told me that some developer was making WWE Crush Hour 2, I’d be there on day one.
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