Review: WWE Crush Hour

By James "King of the Ring… er… Road" Wiles

Ok, in all honesty, this one came out of nowhere and really surprised me to a degree. I assumed when I heard about this game it would set new standards for just how wretched and revolting a game could be. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this little time-waster. But in retrospect, perhaps it shouldn't have. I mean, let's look at the facts: I like pro wrestling. I like car combat games. Surely the two together should be a match made in heaven, no matter how wholly improbable that prospect may be, right?

Well, yes and no….

The plot is thus: Everyone's favorite evil genius, Vincent K. McMahon, has finally gone and taken over all of the world's media outlets, and has flooded the air waves with all things WWE. He's even gone so far as to cast wrestlers in familiar shows and commercials; Trish Stratus and Stacy Keibler are the newest Survivor contestants, Kane is hocking charcoal, and Edge is finally appearing in that Japanese shampoo commercial that fans may recall from his feud with Booker T a while back. In the midst of all of this madness, Vinny-Mac is also launching a new "sport" which pits his WWE stars against each other in deadly automotive combat, complete with good ol' J.R. callin' the action. Thus, Crush Hour is born.

The game itself features plenty of WWE stars duking it out in signature cars in various outlandish locations, ala Twisted Metal. In addition to the standard machine gun, an assortment of special weapons ("cleverly" referred to as "foreign objects") like Twisty Rockets and The Annihilator are available, as well as temporary power-ups like increased ramming damage and invulnerability. Each car also has access to a deadly "Finishing Maneuver" that can be unleashed once the player's Special bar has been charged to full by attacking opponents.
In certain respects, the game succeeds rather nicely; car handling is quite responsive once the use of the handbrake button is mastered, and the AI is tough enough to give the player a run for their money. The graphics are adequate, even though they will certainly not be winning THQ any awards. The framerate stays pretty stable, cars are reasonably detailed, and the environments are large enough to give players some room to run.

The area the game really shines in is the sheer variety of game modes available. Virtually every type of WWE match conceivable is available in one form or another, from standard one-on-one matches, to cage matches, tag team, King of the Ring, and even the Royal Rumble. All of the extra modes show quite a bit of creativity on the parts of the designers, and really help set Crush Hour apart from the standard car combat crowd.
Unfortunately, while the game's modes are all quite well thought out, the actual combat is about as bland as it gets. You really don't appreciate the depth of Twisted Metal's weapons selection and special maneuvers until they're gone. Since Crush Hour lacks pretty much all of that technique, most of the game is spent blasting away at an enemy with the standard machine gun and power-sliding like mad to keep them in your proverbial crosshairs, while waiting for that finishing maneuver to charge up. The strategy pretty much remains the same, regardless of which car you choose to hop into, since their capabilities don't really seem all that different. The other available weapons (besides also being white bread dull) don't seem to do enough damage to make them seem significantly more dangerous than said machine guns, and are therefore neither exciting to find or use. There are some secret areas in the arenas, but they are generally easy to find and reap few real rewards. And while the game's multiplayer component is pretty solid, the single-player season mode is awfully dry. All it really amounts to is tossing a series of matches at the player until they either finish all of them and unlock a character, or get too bored to continue. There are no in-game story elements outside of the occasional mock commercial (which are all quite funny, by the way), and none of the overblown bravado that WWE fans crave, which only furthers the impression of simply being herded through matches.

Even though it is inches away from being something pretty special, Crush Hour just doesn't have the depth or graphical flair to step in the ring with the likes of the genre's current undisputed champion, Twisted Metal: Black. While WWE fans will dig the campy atmosphere and wide wrestler selection, the shallow gameplay won't hook them for much longer than the length of a rental. Still, if you're looking for a simple car combat game without the serial killer overtones of Black for your lil' bro or sis, Crush Hour's $20 price tag is quite a bargain.

James' score: 2 1/2 (out of 5)