WWE Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth Review (PS2)
When THQ released their last Wrestling title on the PS2, many people took it like a steel chair to the forehead. All the hype and high expectations, yet they only delivered a mediocre title that didn’t seem to use half of the capabilities of the “Next Gen” console. Well just like the WWF has changed to the WWE, things have changed in the world of Wrestling titles. THQ hits the “squared circle” with a new try at Sports Entertainment. Is the new “Smackdown” just a roster update? “Shut Your Mouth” and find out!
THQ has all but cornered the market on Wrestling titles. It’s obvious with “Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth” that they hope to keep their hold. SYM wisely includes all that is right from “Just Bring It” while making up for their errors. All the great match types from JBI are back and easily accessed in Exhibition Mode. From your classic one-on-one encounters, various tag-team matches including Hardcore, Tornado, and TLC, plus a litmus of special matches like Hell in the Cell, I Quit, Table, and Last Man Standing, SYM has almost every type of match that you’ll see on WWE programming.
The controls are once again a solid experience in SYM. The few control flaws from JBI (like tagging in a partner) have been rectified and all the controls feel very natural. Specials moves (Finishers) or Smackdowns are easily executed with the right timing and situation. In addition, the reversal system is much more fluid then the last offering.
The match presentation itself takes a page right out of the Raw and Smackdown broadcasts. Camera angles change to record all the action. THQ did a wonderful job capturing the essence of watching a WWE program. The entrances are next to flawless, although you’ll probably find them unnecessary to watch after you’ve seen each one.
The Superstar roster is current up to a few months ago. All the main players are there like The Rock, Triple H, and Brock Lesnar. In addition, newcomers like Randy Orton, Maven, and Rico made the cut as well. Stone Cold Steve Austin, although no longer with the WWE, is still owned by the WWE and THQ, thus he’s in the game. Plus, if you don’t find someone you like, try the very deep Create a Wrestler mode to build yourself or a mat favorite that was left off the roster. Be warned though
I decided to dedicate an entire section to the Season Mode (the mode formerly known as Story Mode), because it is definitely the “bread and butter” of this title. Not only that, it was what was most wrong with the last release. Not this year! In Wrestling terms, it is a Tombstone Pile Driver off the top rope followed by an Atomic Leg Drop from the top of a ladder.
I ran two full seasons before writing this review. Each season last for two calendar years, from the Raw after Wrestlemania 2002 (the draft) through Wrestlemania in 2004 with all the weekly events and pay-per-views in between. My first season, I used my fellow Detroiter and mid-level Superstar Rhyno. Season mode is based on what THQ is calling Superstar Points. The more you win, the more you have. The more you have, the better your chance of getting a shot at a title. Rhyno started with 72 points, pretty decent, but the upper echelon competitors were in the high 80’s and 90’s. Rhyno was drafted by Ric Flair’s Raw brand and immediately started active competition.
In my second season, I used a created Wrestler named Clay “Big Daddy” Shaver. A handsome lad with a red high top fade and some gaudy black and gray checkered pants. “Big Daddy” started with only 50 Superstar Points and was immediately relegated to the wonderful world of Sunday Night Heat. I had to pay my dues by smacking around the likes of Shawn Stasiak and Maven before Vince McMahon gave me the call-up to Smackdown a few months into the season.
Now, you know it can’t be all good. I did find myself wrestling a lot of opponents again and again with seemingly no resolution to our feud. It’s also very rare that a title is defended anywhere but at a pay-per-view. In fact, I once held the now defunct Intercontinental Title six months before I ever defended it. And, lastly, and this may be nit-picking, but a lot of second-tier Superstars like Billy Gunn and Al Snow were wrestling Main Events by year two. It seems like an oxymoron to wish for more reality in my Wrestling!
While the visuals haven’t grown by leaps and bounds over JBI, SYM kept everything that was right in it’s predecessor like the impressive arenas that are beautifully detailed and true to their WWE counterparts in look and feel. The backstage areas are nicely rendered and give a nice feel for scale and depth.
The Superstars themselves are quite reflective of the real-life men and women. Certain imperfections still exist, but, for the most part, there is no mistaking one for another. I felt that the faces of each character were especially well done this year. Muscle tone is very character specific and the skin textures, for the most part, look great.
Keeping to the feel of a WWE Broadcast, SYM has all those great entrance themes that Wrestling fans have come to expect. In my 100+ matches, I’ve yet to notice any incorrect tracks or dated versions of what the real-life counterparts are currently using. One complaint I do have is the frequent use of the “Raw” and “Smackdown” themes. I can’t shakes Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People” (the “Smackdown” theme) out of my head for hours.
THQ definitely went with the less is more philosophy when it came to the play-by-play aspect of this years game. Commentary duties are handled by the WWE Dream Team of Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jim Ross. Their comments are well done and well timed, but they come up far less frequently then last years attempt. I wouldn’t hate hearing some more comments from the Superstars themselves in future versions, but, for the time being, they’ve done a nice tweak in audio presentation.
The WWF…errr…WWE itself is down right now. Ratings are down. Pay-per-view buy-rates are down. And, frankly, the quality of the stories are down. As a former die-hard Wrestling fan, I’ve always loved Wrestling games. As my interest in the real product dwindled, so to did the quality of the Wrestling games being releases. Well, knock me across the head with a sledgehammer and call me Koko B. Ware...Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth is a great title! Whether you’re a current or former Wrestling fan or you don’t know a Superplex from a Super Sized Fry, the Season Mode alone is worth giving this game a purchase. Now Shut Your Mouth and play it!