Mirroring the way wrestlers have been popping from federation to federation in the last year, both the WWF and WCW switched videogame companies last year. WCW left long-time partner THQ and joined up with Electronic Arts; THQ then snapped up the WWF license when they left their long-time partner Acclaim. For a while this left Acclaim without a company to use in what was generally considered the best videogame wrestling engine in this country. But not a long while.

Francine can battle Dawn Marie in the new ECW Hardcore Revolution.

Last week Acclaim released ECW-Hardcore Revolution, the first videogame based on that upstart federation, Extreme Championship Wrestling.

Featuring over 55 wrestlers including 11 jobbers and a few names from ECW’s past, Hardcore Revolution has a lot of options when it comes to violence. Lots of matches too, including the three-way dance, cage matches, Stable matches, and yes, you asked for it – the Barbed Wire Match.

Blood flows freely in the game and the language is as close to the real thing as you can get. (They draw the line at the actual use of the…ahem, four-letter euphamism for carnal knowledge, if you know what I mean.) But fear not, watchdog groups everywhere – the blood and cussin’ are easily turned off by parents worried enough about the effect of videogame violence on their impressionable angels (provided they can get the little monsters to show them HOW…).

Joey Styles does the play-by-play alone, featuring such memorable exaggerations as “He’s Dead!” and about 736 different versions of “Oh my GOD!!!” He’s a lot less talkative than the commentators have been in previous games, something I was disappointed by; the commentary has always been a plus in the Acclaim games. Also, all your favorite announcers are available as wrestlers; Joel Gertner and Cyrus can finally give each other the butt-tanning you’ve always wanted to see.

This game uses Acclaim’s wrestling engine, previously seen in WWF Attitude. Acclaim had to rush the release for Attitude to make it in time before the license ran out, so not everything they wanted to get into the game made it. With ECW, they’ve had the time to make all the fixes and improvements they wanted to put in that game, and a lot more. Moves are smoother, graphics are cleaner and sharper and there’s a lot less phantom moves that get sold even tho they didn’t come near connecting.

To be honest, this game can be summed up as a revved-up “More of the Same”, but considering that Acclaim’s engine is pretty strong, that’s not a bad thing. There’s enough improvements to make the purchase worth it, especially if you’re a big time ECW fan, and are sick of spending three hours in Create-a-Wrestler mode to create them all. But I’d say this should be the last game we see from this engine – with the stuff EA and THQ are doing, the bar has been raised, and we need to see some real innovations in the next game.

But be patient; Acclaim is already working on their second ECW game, due out sometime this summer. They promise that with it, once again Acclaim will be on top of the heap.

Vinnie Bartilucci was born on Prince Edward Island, spirited to New York at a young age, and is living quietly as a computer programmer in New York. He has a wife, a daughter named after a character from “A Pup Named Scooby Doo” and an apartment too small for their collection of toys and movies.