Review by Da Bomb

Reviewed: 08/22/03

Despite the huge hype, it is a pretty poor game

I enjoyed the first Smackdown!, mainly because I was into wrestling at the time. It was so gripping to watch fighting like that, except I grew out of it. Anyway, as the first Smackdown had been such an intense and enjoyable game to play, I went out and got the sequel the moment i was released. I probably would have increased the score if I had reviewed it just then, but unfortunately, I was not able to play it.

I lived in England at the time, but the game had been bought in Canada. So while my WWF craze was at its peak, I longed to play the game. And so, a year later, here I am in Canada playing the game. Good things come to those who wait I reassured myself as I popped in the disk. Well, unfortunately for me, and many fans out there, WWF Smackdown 2! is an exception to that rule.

THQ had drastically changed the game, from rosters, to matches, and many others, but the game lacked the charm of the first. Why? Well, THQ forgot that sequels usually improve on their predecessors, and instead they cashed in on a hot craze. And as you will find out from this review, the game is not one that will remain a time honored classic.

Graphics
Honestly, the graphics were very impressive for the Playstation, but only on some levels. The wrestlers look life like and many of them have been updated to look something like the real life counterparts. When looked at from a distance, they look decent enough, but if you look closely at some wrestlers, they look terrible. Trish has had a face lift gone wrong, Jaqueline has been in a crusher, and Bradshaw just fell into a vat of white paint. Many of the characters look decent, but there are those few that look terrible.

Unfortunately (that seems to be a reoccuring phrase), the player models were the strong part of Smackdown 2. The crowd is incredibly flat and take that tiny sense of realism you had left away. All the environments other than the ring and the vicinity of that area are absolutely terrible. Everything looks washed up and incredibly unrealistic, and even the bricks making up a wall are not straight. It is disappointing to see the power of the Playstation being used in such a disgraceful manner.

Another problem was that the wrestlers seemed to be ghosts rather than actual (albeit deformed) people. Sometimes, you could do a Chokeslam, and your hand would be inside their head rather than on their neck. This again detracts from the realistic feel.

On the bright side, the animations were usually quite fluid and there was rarely any slowdown, but the game did freeze from time to time. But unfortunately, that bright speck in the sea of monstrosity did not change the score in the slightest. For the graphics, 6/10.

Audio
Where to start? The sound is one of the major flaws of he game, though there are a few good points that are tarnished by everything else (speck in a sea of monstrosity comes to mind)flawed in the game.

To be frank, the music is appaling. Sure the menu music is tolerable, but what had this soothing music got to do with wrestling. I preferred the original music from Smackdown; that was tolerable and enjoyable. The in game music is even worse. You have 2 tracks to listen to during all the matches, and they are just repetitive rock that I do not even like. Some may think it is 'cool' and I have no taste in music, but I do occasionally like rock and such, but this is no rock at all. It is bloody bad though!

And even if you turn the music off (great idea), you will have to listen to the sound without it being droned out by anything else. Now, the thuds and slams on the mat are realistic, but the crowd sound more like an asthmaic donkey with laryngitis, and the weapons sound all the same.

What annoyed me most was that there was no commentary to be found; the game is more of an arcade than a simulation, which means that commentary would be better suited to that arcade feel. Yet, it was not implemented.

Now, the entrance videos usually did have the correct music for the wrestler entering the ring, but several (such as Lita's) are just a random pick from one of 2 songs. Come on, if you are going to update the roster, then you could at least have the correct music!

The only saving grace was the volume control for the sound and music, that lets you totally silence everything. Unfortunately, you have to wait ages to get to the options menu...but getting back to the sound, it gets a 3/10.

Gameplay
Sorry, but I will continue when the game has loaded...still waiting...had a haircut...still waiting...watched female neighbor undress...still waiting. Well, thankfully it has not loaded, so I can get to actually playing-, oh, sorry, there is another loading screen.

That is the problem; it takes such a long time just for the damn thing to load that you rarely get to play. This could actually be a way to help the longevity so that you have to wait in order to have the torture of playing the game, but in any case, it still is annoying.

On the bright side, Smackdown 2 allows for a high degree of customization. Arenas, types of match, interference and even the type of mat can all be changed to your liking, but they barely change the hideous gameplay.

Now, Smackdown 2 is fun for a while. It was many game modes that will keep you entertained for hours, but I would have liked more options to go with these modes (tornado casket match? Tornado tag TLC?), but after a day of gripping gameplay, you start to notice several flaws in the action and fighting.

If I were a 300 pound, 7ft monster, do you think that Crash could get immediately back up if I chokeslammed him? The problem is that large moves do not work well until the end; it is best to create a guy with decent moves that wear your opponent down, such as the suplex or scoop slam. But that makes it even more unrealistic. I do not want to suffer for 10 minutes by wearing down an opponent before I can actually beat him. There were several game difficulty levels that would hopefully entice you for a little longer, but they are just stupid. Easy mode lacks any challenge, even for a disabled man with 1 arm. Medium difficulty is incredibly easy too, but hard mode is incredibly cheap. The computer can block nearly all of your moves, yet you can rarely block their's, even when tapping the block button repeatedly. This gets incredibly frustrating. What makes this worse is the fact that you have to spend 5-10 minutes wearing your opponent down, which increases your chances of losing. There are other ways of challenging experienced gamers, you know.

On the positive side, the controls were very simple and easy to use. Again, they were aimed soely for arcade gamers, so there are a lack of moves that can be performed. Also, they were too easy to perform. A wrestler cannot simply pull off a complex move by pressing 2 buttons; in Smackdown, you just need to keep pulling off moves and you will win, without any sense of complexity of fatigue, and therefore strategy.

That is a key element that was missing: strategy. All you need to do to win a match is just keep on doing running attacks until they lie down for a long time, at which time you can perform a sleeper hold or submission move. Repeat an win! And there is an incredibly easy way to win every game mode; I even produced a guide to illustrate these easy approaches! So, you are stuck with this inane combat system for the entire game. THQ implemented the matches, but they are just so unrealistic and easy, so they may as well not be there.

And in season mode, you may get to think they are. Season mode mainly has tag and single matches; that gets repetitive incredibly quickly. And in order to actually get a match, you must enter yourself into a ranking and wait a few hours to get a match. And of course, you wish to get to your match quickly, so you skip all the other matches. Unfortunately (it is that word again!) you have to watch these health bars that move like molasses in snow. I like to see how close the contest was, but it is annoying to watch these and waste so much time.

I though season mode was supposed to be fun. Wouldn't it be great to take in the carrer of a WWF superstar, except you would not have to feel the pain if you were beaten up. Well, THQ messed that up as well, and so you are stuck with this abomination. The storylines would be laughable if the were not so painful to watch, and most of the time you cannot even choose what happens. Sure, you can choose whether to attack another qrestler or not, but it has no relevace, and you will still be stuck with the same thing. The storylines are also illogical; why is Scotty hitting and ugly limo, and why do we never find out who is in the vehicle. Why are the killer unknowns attacking everyone? And, the most mind boggling question of them all, why am I playing the Kat? I am the Big Show, and you are a tiny ant from my very tall point of view. Because of the silly manner at which the computer fights, you may end up losing too her, mainly because you have many level 5 moves and she had level 1.

I also disliked the knockout system. If I did a powerful groggy grapple that was not my finisher, then you would be hurt. If I did that 50 times, you would be dead. So why the the opponent in the ring standing up again? You can throw an opponent off an ugly steel cage and he will get back up within 3 seconds of hitting the ground.

But do you want to know the worst thing about the entire game? It when you try to unlock something. Basically, while you are just barely tolerating season mode, an unknown comes out and you have to face him or her. If you win, you get their moves and bodyparts! Unfortunately, you can get the same unknown person around 30 times with a bit of unluck. Combine this with everything listed above (poor fighting system, frustrating computer ect.), and you have an incredibly frustrating game. I tell you, the air will be turning blue from the amount of swearing that comes from your mouth when you win the same person over again. Luckily, you only need to play for 6 years before you can win every one of the limited bodyparts and moves. But, if each venue takes 15 minutes, and you have 4 venues per month, 12 months per year and 6 years, you get:

15 x 4 x 12 x 6 = 72 horrid hours of season mode gameplay. Because of that, you will probably never finish it. Overall, the gameplay is flawed an frustrating, so it gets a 3/10.

CAW Mode
The create a wrestler mode in Smackdown 2 is impressive, but not without its faults. You can change nearly everything, the color, the brightness and nearly everything else about the body parts. But you still cannot create whoever you want. Now if it were just as simple as this, the CAW mode would get a 9/10. But I hated everything else. Firstly, there is not pre-season mode, so you do not earn points; you just make your wrestler enemies with 5 others and you have a whole lot of points that you do not deserve. And once you have these points, you do not have that many moves you can perform. What makes this worse is that everyone has some of the same moves, which means that there is no real identity to your character. Also, you cannot rename you finisher. It is small points like these that really bring the score down. So overall the CAW mode gets a 6/10.

Extras
In Smackdown 2, you can unlock extra wrestlers,matches, costumes and moves, making it barely worth your while to play the game. So overall, the extras get a 9/10.

Replayability
Theoretically, you would have a huge replay time due to the length of the game and extras you get, but the game is so tedious, repetitive and frustrating that I doubt you can play it for more than 2 weeks.

Overall
In the 2 year maturing period I had before playing this game, I grew out of touch with WWF. I do not care for it anymore. People may say that that is the reason why I gave the game such a low score, but the fact is, that it is terrible. It has a few shining point, but they were not enough to haul you in. Can you smell what THQ is screwing up now?

Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 3/10
Gameplay: 3/10
CAW Mode: 6/10
Extras: 9/10
Replayability: 2 weeks tops, so 5/10
Overall: 5.33/10

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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