Game Review - by James Allen
One of the most successful PlayStation releases of last year was WWF SmackDown! Building off the success of the best-reviewed wrestling game for the PSX, THQ has released SmackDown 2, chock full of new wrestlers, new game modes, and the ability to layeth more smacketh down. Is SmackDown 2 worth your hard earned cash, especially with the PlayStation riding off into the sunset?
It's hard to make a sequel of a very good game and add anything revolutionarily new. SmackDown 2 has added many wrestlers and more modes to expand gameplay to new levels. The roster of WWF combatants is astounding. Basically anyone who was in the WWF about two months ago is included in the game, and all are accurately portrayed, with their signature moves, mannerisms, and entrances. In addition, there are an insane number of match types, including Single, Tag (both Normal and Tornado), Hardcore, Anywhere Fall, handicap, King of the Ring, Royal Rumble, Triple Threat, Fatal Four-Way, Battle Royal, TLC (Tables, Ladders, and Chairs), Casket, Cage, Hell in a Cell, I Quit, Iron Man, Ladder, Special Referee, Table, and Slobberknocker. Combinations of these matches are unlocked by trudging through a season. As you can probably guess, it would take you a while to use up all the wrestlers and game modes in SmackDown 2.
You can also customize each game you play, and the best feature ever is included: disabling knockouts. When was the last time someone got KO'ed in the WWF? Tapped out, yes, but not knocked out. Other rules changes include submission wins, rope breaks, ring outs, interference by other wrestlers, and match length. There are also several "extra" features, such as create-a-wrestler, which has been greatly expanded to let your imagination run wild. You can also create-a-taunt, create-a-pay-per-view, and create-a-stable. Obviously, THQ believes in creationism! With all of these possible combinations of options and modes, you should never grow tired of SmackDown 2.
SmackDown 2's gameplay is similar to that of SmackDown 1, which is not a bad thing. Each move depends on each of the wrestlers relative positions in the arena, and all the moves are executed with a direction and one button. This simplicity makes it very easy to learn, but hampers the total number of moves each wrestler has. Fortunately, there are so many moves in the game, if you play several wrestlers, you probably won't complain about too many DDT's. The actual wrestling is slightly more realistic than before, now that wrestlers stay down/tired for a longer period of time: this makes winning a triple threat or fatal four-way match by fall actually possible.
The collision detection has greatly improved. Before, if you performed a move near the edge of the ring, the other warrior would meet an invisible wall directly above the ropes. We say NO MORE. If you perform a move that should have sent a wrestler over/through the ropes, they go over/through the ropes! Simplicity is brilliance! Using your surroundings has also become much more fun. Want to do a pedigree through the announcers' table? Go for it. Swan Ton Bomb off a ladder? Be my guest. 3-D through a table? Heck yeah! Doing a 3-D through a table is reason enough to buy the game! Speaking of the 3-D, double team moves are available, and each team is not restricted to just one move. If you see it on TV, you can do it in SmackDown 2.
The staple of SmackDown, the season mode, has both improved and degraded. The season mode is the way to unlock other wrestlers and such (go to Backlash in year one and find out). I really like the accuracy of the matches: each month you engage in two RAWs and two SmackDowns, and ending with the PPV for the appropriate month: Judgment Day in May, and King of the Ring the following month. Each television event comprises of seven matches and the main event of the night, and usually the fights on the network shows evolve into a title bout at a PPV. There are a couple of annoying problems with season mode, however. Each match you wish to skip now takes more than an instant to simulate, and involves the suspense of watching two energy bars battle each other to the death! This takes about five to ten seconds, and is bearable. However, storylines are conveyed through cut scenes that take FOREVER to load, especially if they (a) do not affect your wrestler, and (b) they just say, "The Rock is here! Joy!" When every skipped match is bookended by two long cut scenes and load sequences, you just want to move along with the next match. I know that it did not take even close to this long in SmackDown 1 to load the storyline sequences. The upside is that the storylines are more varied this time around, and you can actually envision seeing them on RAW is Jericho. SmackDown 2 is a complete sports entertainment experience.
SmackDown 2 squeezes as much as possible out of the aging PlayStation. Most of the wrestlers are recognizable, and subtle features, such as jewelry and tattoos are present. Each wrestler enters with their video playing in the background, and each environment is indicitive of which show you are wrestling on. Even though the graphics of SmackDown 2 look dated when compared to N64, Dreamcast, or PlayStation 2, it's really the most we can get.
One of the improvements that most fans were anticipating for SmackDown 2 was commentary. Get ready to be let down: no commentary in SmackDown 2. Most sounds are probably taken straight from SmackDown 1, so the sound has not improved at all. That's not to say the sound is horrible; minus the commentary issue, all the sounds of wrestling are here. Barring the strangely unrealistic kicking sounds, sound is well done. Sadly, the lack of commentary tarnishes what could have been a fine audio outing.
If you like the WWF, SmackDown 2 is for you. You'll get over the long load times, because the game is worth it. There are so many different games to play, so many different wrestlers to use, so many ways to lay the smack down! I highly recommend this game, and believe that it will be one of the last greatest games on the PlayStation. Now where's that 3-D?