Despite having an identical rating, Dale and I arrived at the same destination rather differently. Dale notes in his review of WWF No Mercy that there are moderately remarkable improvements over its predecessors, but doesn't seem think these updates are anything ground-breaking. I disagree with that, but not entirely. No Mercy includes the now defacto standard of gameplay, graphics, animation, sound, and multiplayer madness that we've all grown accustomed to in the series, but Dale downplays the significance of the Championship story-mode way too much.
Describable as a branching story-arc which alters according to player performance and choices, I felt the various Championship modes for different belts was a stroke of genius on the part of developers. Each belt told its own tale filled with profanity-filled ego-posturing mic dialogues, chaotic back stage brawls, and diabolical backstabbing betrayals; in other words, everything we've come to expect and love about the WWF. What makes the mode even better was that once each title is conquered, the story-branches are easily reconfigured and randomized so that there are endless variations to keep things interesting. Throw in an ever improving Create-a-Wrestler mode and long-time fan wishes like Table and Ladder matches and what you have a title that transcends the same old yearly roster update sequel to a full-fledged revolutionary title.
Unfortunately, No Mercy has some severe problems; the damaging kind that keeps it from attaining instant Hall-of-Fame status. This is a game that could have easily garnered the highest accolades from me if not for two glaring problems.
The first problem is the handicap matches. Almost always occurring at some point through out most story-based modes, these matches were the most insane, hellish and lope-sided videogame wrestling experience I've every encountered. The degree of difficulty for those matches is so off the charts in comparison to any other type of matches through out the game that it was unnerving. I can recall one handicap match that was so frustratingly hard, that it took me well over an hour and a half to complete!
The second thing that really hurt my opinion of No Mercy was the infamous player-created character erasing bug. Unlike Dale, I love delving deep into customizing my own wrestling alter-ego and consider it to be one of life's pleasures to be able to live out a fantasy to such a great degree. As such, I go through great pains to ensure that every aspect of the my character—everything from the costuming, right down to the inane gestures—have been tailored to my liking. You couldn't believe the level of anguish I had to endure when my character was completely erased and I had to restart from scratch—MULTIPLE TIMES! THQ has since sent us a new defective-free copy and the bug didn't resurface, but since this problem was so widely reported and well documented to have afflicted many players, I felt it was necessary to penalize No Mercy in my final rating.
Though keep in mind that if the bug wasn't a problem, No Mercy would have easily achieved a half or even a whole point higher. That's how highly I think of this game. It's unfortunate that external problems had to come into play in my final assessment (ironically No Mercy's leading competitor for wrestling game of the year, WWF Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role, suffers similarly from another technical snafu, long load times). Take away that bug and you have easily one of the finest wrestling games ever made and that's saying a lot when you consider the current renaissance the genre is now under going. Competition is at an all-time high and despite some problems No Mercy still stands head and shoulders above the rest.