GAME OF THE MONTH COLLECTION!
WWE SMACKDOWN Shut your mouth
(THQ/Yukes, November 2002)
To be perfectly honest, I never liked THQ's Smackdown wrestling series. If anybody knows the StarSoldier well, I always preferred some of the older N64 games like WWF No Mercy and WCW/NWO Revenge to these newer games; in fact, it has been a darn good reason why I still have my old Nintendo 64 around the apartment. Sadly, the N64 is quite dead and wrestling fans need to move on, so here we have Smackdown 4: 'Shut your month' for the almighty Playstation2. Smackdown 4 boosts a massive line up of characters, a larger one player game with real WWE story lines, and it even has better Create a Wrestler options. Can this Smackdown game change my mind on these video games or is it another year of the same old thing?
The fourth SmackDown game now features an impressive list of 60 plus wrestlers from both the Raw and Smackdown brands. This not only includes top guys like the Rock, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, the Undertaker, and others but this also has newer superstars like Brock Lesnar, Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Stacy Keibler, The Hurricane, and lots more. This roster is also fairly up to date unlike last year's pathetic 'Just bring it' which didn't even have any WCW or ECW wrestlers from the summer of 2001 (even though the game was release late in October of 2001). This game also has characters you wouldn't think to be in the active line up like Diamond Dallas Page (who was released by WWE in 2002), Scotty Too Hotty (out with a injury), Stone Cold Steve Austin (he was charged in mid 2002 for beating his wife Debra), Debra, Shawn Stasiak (that Planet Stasiak gimmick was pretty bad, eh?), and Rhyno (who was out for over a year but finally made his return on February 2003).
The makers of this newer Smackdown not only wanted to improve the roster problems of 'Just bring it' but they also expanded the new story game as well, and believe me, its better! Remember when the WWF split up in two after the 2002 WrestleMania? When you start a new game here, you are a loud to go to either Raw or Smackdown and you can even select which 30 can go with you (or the computer can just pick all that stuff for you). After you're done with that mess, now the game real begins. Remember when Edge shaved Kurt Angle's head at the Judgement Day 2002 per per view or when Vince McMahon started a very special club after the alliance lost? Here is your chance to relive past WWE episodes right here in the game! Some of the dialogue is not as intense as what you would see on TV but its still fun to visit old story lines just like it was in WWF No Mercy!
Moving on to the game's looks, Smackdown 4's graphics are sharper then ever before. The character models have an impressive array of facial features, excellent body types, and some realistic animation at times. The scary Brock Lesnar is one character that looks very real here and he even does that trademark mini hop before a match. Sadly, the super quick pace can work against just how real the game looks. For example; big men like the Big Show and Kevin Nash can be flopped around like a light weight, regardless who hits them.
Although I liked the game's graphics, the controls are another story. I don't like how you have to quickly press the grab button and the direction to do common moves like suplexs and takedowns. You also have to press two buttons at the same time to do key grab moves but it's too easy to do the wrong thing in the fury of the match. This awkward grappling system makes doing Irish whip and different holds more difficult then they need to be. The controls, like the graphics are decent enough but I still see room for improvement.
You look sooo... good to me
The Smackdown series has been well known for capturing the wrestler's real entrances and that includes most of their own theme songs. This game is no different as most of characters have their original sound tracks from TV. I was actually surprised that Ric Flair has his '2000' theme and Edge had his 'Never gonna stop!' track from Rob Zombie because I'm pretty sure the WWE has to pay royalties to their respective owners. Some characters we not so lucky, Stacy Keibler, Billy Kidman, and the Hardys (sorry all you M F'ers, there is no Mattitude music here) have different generic themes then what we usually hear. Smackdown Shut you month music selection is so big that many wrestlers have more than one music track, the funny thing is that Kurt Angle has two different versions of his 'Medal' theme: one plays his Olympic style music normally, the other plays his same music but now you can hear a loud crowd chant of 'You Suck!' ever so often. That's not only funny but it's also shows a great attention to detail.
Unfortunately, the in game commentary is just as bad as ever, the only difference now is the play by play is done by Raw's Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawyer instead of the usual Smackdown announcers Michael Cole and Tazz (isn't this suppose to be a 'Smackdown' game?). The switch is really kind of pointless and the problems of dead air and ill timed sentences still remand. I will admit one thing though; the King had his funny moments. Yukes really needs to clean up the level of commentary and not just change who is behind the play by play. "I don't want Lita and the Coach for the next Smackdown game, k?!"
Dr. Franken Steiner
speaking about the Coach, did you ever want to make the Sunday Night Heat announcer for yourself (stop laughing)? Smackdown's Create a Wrestler feature is back and it is just as massive as ever. I love how you can edit any part of the body so it's possible to give your wrestler a skinny body and really fat arms, just for fun. The game even lets you edit a women's breast size with 3 different types, no lie. After you done creating your wrestler's body then you can give them there very own WWE entrance. Yuke's not only lets you select from 60+ videos and music but the makers of this game were even kind enough to give you a huge of 18 original sound tracks as well. All the tools are here so you can create almost anybody you could possibly want. Sure, there is already a huge selection wrestler already available, but I bet you are dying to make some other popular super stars that could not appear here like Rey Mysterio, Tommy Dreamer, Scott Steiner, and Nunzio. The game even has some per made characters that look oddly like Jamie Noble, Paul Heyman, and Christopher Lewinski. Be prepared to spend a lot of hours in this awesome Create a Wrestler, it so good that it puts WWF No Mercy's edit mode to shame.
What is the bottomline?
So does this game satisfy the need for grappling action? Smackdown Shut your mouth certainly has a lot to offer Wrestling fans. Just look at the impressive list of WWE story lines, huge 60 something roster, and excellent selection of options in both the Create a wrestler and the various matches as well. With all these options this easily overwhelms other next generation Wrestling games like WrestleMania X8 for the Game Cube and WWF Raw for the X box. Despite all this, the game engine still plays too clumsy like all the other Smackdown games before it so again Smackdown fails to be as tight or fun as WWF No Mercy. If the programmers can fix the character's animation and the improve the control set up option then the Smackdown series may have a chance to become the best Wrestling game ever made. As it stands right now, the game still tasted the same but it had a lot more topping, do you really want to put that in your mouth or should you just keep it shut?