Dale used the word "underwhelm" to describe WCW Mayhem and upon early inspection of the game myself, I had to agree. Barely any game (wrestling or otherwise) can match the sheer amount of options available in WWF Attitude, but Mayhem not only paled in comparison, it seemed limited in and of itself. Career modes seemed restricted only to singles matches and there wasn't a steel cage option to be found in any mode. The create-a-player feature was also a sore spot since it wasn't able to recreate my fashionably simplistic Bruce Lee lookalike in a yellow jump suit (I had to settle for the white tank-top look a la Return Of The Dragon instead). Once a personal character was created, it was also curiously difficult to edit my creation. I was only able to do it at the start of a new career mode and even then, I was unable to change his arsenal of moves. Why they didn't allow me to openly edit my character via the create-a-player section is beyond me and really a poor implementation on the part of the developers.
Presentation for Mayhem didn't really shine either. Models seemed deformed like Dale had mentioned and the skins were far from seamless. Backgrounds and pyrotechnics also had a technically dated feel, conveying none of the spectacle that is commonly associated with professional sports today. Entrance animations for each wrestler seemed to be inconsistent as well, but, fortunately, the in-game motion-captured wrestling moves were far more solid and really did the job in terms of conveying that illusory and painful body-slam feeling. The only thing that did stay on par, if not surpass, its competitors was Mayhem's audio. Theme music seemed to go beyond a weakly sounding .midi file and the play-by play commentary was surprisingly ample (especially on the PSX version).
Luckily for EA's first wrestling outing, not all is bad. Beyond the lackluster features and graphics, Mayhem's controls are fantastic and for me, much better then the mind-numbing controls of Attitude. Not only are the controls easy to remember and execute, there's also a great deal of depth below the surface as well. I absolutely adored the fact that most finishing moves were easy to perform. Ordinarily, simplistic special attacks leads to unbalanced gameplay for Street Fighter-style fighting games, but for wrestling, where matches take on a more choreographed feel, it's perfect to be able to perform that final KO blow right before a pin without any frustrations. Tough matches dragged on unusually long, but I was still pleased overall because I was able to creatively chain attacks to my liking and, surprisingly, discovered new attacks intuitively.
Added multi-player options and overrated backstage brawling features were minor positives in my mind, but it was truly the excellent controls and subsequently fun gameplay that saved this game for me. It served as Mayhem's saving grace and allows me now to marginally recommend it. Just as unlikely as it is for Stone Cold fans to embrace Goldberg, Mayhem isn't going to make converts out of WWF fans. Attitude will still remain their swan song as well as the overall genre leader. But for rabid WCW fans looking for fresh pixels to pummel with a steel chair, Mayhem should more than suffice.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation version of the game.