Name: WWF Betrayal
Format: Game Boy Color
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 2001
If you, like presumably everyone; were one of those well into colour 8-bit handhelds, side-scrolling beat-'em-up's and the World Wrestling Federation, you were pretty much stuck without your niche void being filled – until the day that a certain game was released that's up for review, right here in this very rin...Erm, website. Yes, you can smell what Olly023 is cookin'!
Back in 2001, THQ went ahead with branching out their WWF license by publishing a game from the typically excellent dev team at WayForward called WWF Betrayal exclusively on Nintendo's Game Boy Color system. Fans everywhere rejoiced at what on paper sounded like a fantastic experiment in cartridge form to add to their sparse collection(s). The aforementioned void of nicheness, finally filled.
After all, why not branch out a bit? 2001 was a good year to be Vince McMahon, after all. The World Wrestling Federations global dominance of the mid to late 80's was back, cranked up to whole new levels since buying our the two closest competitors across the pond (the bankrupt ECW and bargain buy of WCW). There really was only one show in town, so it was best to make most of it. Even if that too meant the rise and fall of the XFL, among other exploits that had slowly rolled out since the ratings success' of 1999 (hello, WWF New York). Granted, they all went the way of the World Bodybuilding Federation, but 2001 being a good year to flex the proverbial might of the WWF brand was there.
The GBC (Game Boy Color) wasn't ever exactly known as an exciting hub of classic brawlers, which for me personally made the addition of WWF Betrayal to its library all the more exciting at the time. My personal problem was lack of an actual GBC system to play the damn thing. But now it's 2016, I finally get my chance. So, how does it resonate..?
Story-wise the game takes a massive cue from the infamous Black Wedding storyline from '99, which for the uninitiated; featured The Undertaker (in his Ministry persona) kidnapping Stephanie McMahon (Vince's IRL daughter) in a dastardly plot that ended up making next to zero sense. Austin ended up being the hero of the day, saving Steph and whatnot, putting differences with the boss aside to do the right thing, if you will. The Betrayal plot pans out slightly differently, but long time fans (or at the time, just fans from what were the past few years) should be able to twig what'll happen quite easily. After all, there's rarely any real surprises in pro-wrestling and that's extending to the video game realm here. Essentially, it kicks off with you (or your character, rather) in a match, then you get informed by Mr. McMahon that his kids has been, well; kidnapped. With the lure of a WWF title shot upon mission completion, you jump right in and get to opening a can of whoop-anus (natch).
There are four of the biggest Superstars available to play as: The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H and The Undertaker (yes, the same one who actually did kidnap Stephanie on Raw that time; albeit now an American Bad Ass). There isn't much difference between them, despite obviously sprite design, special moves, introductory theme music and changes to the written dialogue (and yes, The Rock does speak in third person). Only Triple H has an alternate ending if you are wondering at all, the rest is basically the same deal times three. Without explicitly screaming SPOILERS into your face, this is the point where rasslin' fans can figure out where their knowledge will come in handy.
There is only six levels, that while visually separate from one another, all really fall into the same category in what you actually do. There's no real break up of the action (not a Turbo Tunnel in sight, for example – nor a Turtles-esque surfboard sequence), it just keeps the repetitive nature of the beat-'em-up to its very similar core. Whether on the streets or in Titan Towers, you punch/kick rent-a-cops, plumbers and referees before running into boss battles against one of the out of favour three grapplers in the game.
WWF Betrayal plays exactly as you would expect, as has been alluded to. You dash, kick, punch and utilise special moves (by upping your energy bar) and weapons (that can be picked up and littered throughout the stages) to batter all the baddies in each level to then face a mini-boss and move on. Nothing fresh, nothing new – just the entertainment factor that this is all set within the WWF universe. There is a surprising lack of grappling and you can't go jumping about, either – both of which were a disappointment but at the same time understandable considering the fact you only have two real action buttons on offer with the Game Boy Color. When you finally lock up with the likes of Austin et al, you will soon find instead of genuine difficulty curve, WayForward unfortunately just ramp up the cheapness instead which in turn has you do the same with the dash attacks. M'eh. There is other collectables you can claim to increase health and whatnot by smashing open breakable objects during the various stages in a style reminiscent of the genre icons that came before this. It doesn't have clunky controls, which again works in the games favour and prevents it from getting a downgraded rating when it comes to pure gameplay factor, even though it has all been seen and done in much better games by this point in history. For a game so very close in style to Double Dragon, it'll just have you reaching for the DDII cart instead by games end (the awesome original Game Boy port, that is).
Graphically speaking, the game is fine. Some of the sprite animation can look a bit awkward (seriously, I have no idea why the Rock struts like that, unless he's literally ripping piss outta Vinnie Mac the entire game or something), but everything is easily distinguishable utilising the typically bold colours that the GBC has to offer. It never totally fills the screen with enemies so it keeps things nice, bulky but ultimately simple. Often two other big sprites will be on screen with no noticeable flicker or slow down to annoy the hell out of you (as in you the gamer). In fact, the only flicker you get is that of an enemy after you've just smashed their head in, which just happens to be the death animation. The scrolling itself is smooth and makes everything nicely fluid, as you'd expect from WayForward, really. My personal favourite touch of graphical flair is the security guard/police officer with the tazer. Genuinely cool!
In terms of sound/music, it's not exactly a title you'll be dying to rip the tunes from or whack in your headphones for during play. Besides the wrestlers' themes themselves, its all rather generic and uninspired. Not particularly bad or anything, just nothing incredibly memorable/super enjoyable. To my tastes, that is. All the hits and other sound effects are those you've heard a thousand times before and sound in general just feels like it was a last minute/rushed section of the games design. Disappointing, really. As stock as it all is, it does fit with the action well enough to not become a distraction, so for that alone it gets put purely in the bang average bracket by moi. It makes you feel especially bad when you not Factor 5 even had a hand in it all. Needs more Jim Johnston.
Although the constant terms used throughout this review may have been mostly leaning towards that or “uninspiring” and “disappointing”, I will always give credit where credit is due. Indeed, WWF Betrayal is far from WayForwards finest work, not on the Game Boy Color at least and certainly not overall; and it may have the “seen it all” stench of something like a borderline racist 'foreign menace' gimmick in wrestling terms, it still has that original factor going for it in treading waters that had yet to be trodden in what THQ aimed for with the World Wrestling Federation license.
Indeed, it's a capable game, but with the talents involved, you just know they were capable of so, so much more. Perhaps had this become an actual series, perhaps on the GBA onwards, we could have had some really awesome games as it's two genres that should go hand-in-hand, fitting as neatly as Hulk Hogan in a tutu. Of course, THQ would go on to release other outside the box offerings with the WWF/E license before their doors unfortunately closed including the future review fodder that is WWE Crush Hour. As it stands? WWF Betrayal stands alone to fill the niche void that us rarities of the world crave. That's a shame, in this reviewers most honest and humble opinion.
...AND THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE COZ OLLY023 SAID SO!! *Ahem*
Verdict:- An almost ironically unoriginal 'could-have-been' moment from THQ/WayForward in WWF Betrayal for the Game Boy Color.
A by the numbers genre title that I would so dearly love to love, but there just isn't enough there to get me jumping out of my seat and popping like I would a classic near fall. The world of wrestling and beat-'em-up games could be a match made in heaven.
What we have instead here is a vanilla option, that accross the board; ultimately fails to deliver. Instead of a cult classic, this 2001 release remains a mildly obscure experiement in licensed gaming that is all too happy with being a dull Double Dragon clone.
Second Opinion:- Another day, another brawler...
At least Olly023 isn't forcing Transbot to take a look at more lukewarm puzzle games. Bzzt. Anyway.. WWF Betrayal is a game where fleshy humans smash each others brains in all for the sake of a gold belt. Fitting.
Transbot finds this a rather ho-hum affair, only wrapped in the novelty of it being an oddly licensed jobby. Play as you wish!
Transbot Scores:- 5 out of 10