When THQ and Yukes released Just Bring It!
last year it was received with some pretty mixed results. While Know Your Role!
was an excellent PSOne title, starved gamers were looking for something that would advance the genre to the next level. What they received, however, was a slight improvement that failed to deliver to expectations. How would THQ regain their audience? What could they possible do to captivate the thousands of gamers that were yearning for an amazing WWE experience? Nothing short of excellence would satisfy this famished audience. Enter Shut Your Mouth
.Shut Your Mouth
isn’t so much as a reinvention as it is a revelation. It doesn’t try too hard to push the barrier to provide something unique and unseen. Instead it decides to focus on refining and tuning the existing aspects so that they’re as polished as can be. What you get is a game that doesn’t just do things but does them right. Thus you have WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth, a title that not only accurately captures the look and feel of the WWE, but is also a whole lot of fun to play.
Don’t come here looking for a serious simulation full of counters and strategy because you’re just not going to find it. If you’ve ever played a Smackdown!
title before you’ll know that the emphasis is heavily placed on action as to not disrupt the flow of the title. Pulling off grappling maneuvers such as Dragon Sleepers and DDTs are as simple as pushing circle button along with a direction on the d-pad. Striking maneuvers are done with the X button while square handles the counters. Furthermore, a meter gradually fills as you perform strikes and grapples, when it becomes full you will have access to your wrestler’s specific finisher.
The roster is comprised of about 60 WWE Superstars including some of the more popular stars such as HHH and The Rock and perennial jobbers like Shawn Stasiak and Raven. Interestingly enough the roster features X-Pac (who has since departed) but opts to leave out Scott Hall and Steve Austin who departed in about the same time frame. You’ll also get some up to date stars like Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton but sadly there’s no Rey Mysterio or Batista. Overall you have a pretty well-rounded cast that features plenty of WWE wrestlers including some of the more popular ladies.
While each wrestler plays and handles in the same fashion they each have a move set that is very faithful to their real life counterparts. This means that Benoit has awesome arsenal of suplexes and holds while Jeff Hardy has a high flying arsenal. Some wrestlers such as the Rock have moves such as the DDT which are similar to others but have been modified to fit with the wrestler’s personality. It’s cool to see that the designers took the time to craft new animations to tailor to specific wrestlers.
Right from the start you’ll notice some significant improvements in the graphics department. While Just Bring It! Looked like a high-resolution PSOne title, Shut Your Mouth
looks like an excellent PS2 title. Nearly every single facet of the game has been improved, even the crowds. Gone are the 2D cardboard looking, heavily pixilated monsters that caused millions of eyes to bleed. In their place are well-done (albeit crudely rendered) 3D models that serve as the audience. They each animate separately, holding up signs, dropping them down, cheering along with the action.
Many of the 2002 arenas, including all of the Pay Per Views have been recreated with some amazing results. This year I managed to check out the Summerslam and King of the Ring Pay Per Views and I’m telling you, these recreations are just astonishing. Each of them is unique and is crafted to coincide with their real life counterparts. What’s nice is that each of them utilize the fonts and graphics that you’ll see on television so the entrance for RAW and Unforgiven look like they do on television. Each of them can be unlocked by playing through the game’s vastly improved season mode.
While last year’s Season Mode was pretty barebones and archaic, Shut Your Mouth’s
Season Mode opts to return to its Know Your Role
roots and allow you to play through the WWE Schedule. The beginning of the game’s timeline appears to be rooted in the ‘Brand Extension’ angle that split the WWE roster between its two marquee shows, RAW and Smackdown!. When you begin you choose which wrestler you’d like to control and which brand you’d like to control in the draft. You can opt to participate in the draft or you can manually edit the rosters to your liking. The draft is fun if you like to mix things up a bit but I preferred to manually edit my rosters. The rosters are accurate to about the date after the draft had been finalized so that means Benoit is still on Smackdown! Along with most of the other major stars. Eventually though there is an angle (just like in real life) that brings him over to RAW.
All right so you’ve chosen your wrestler and the rosters have been finalized where do you go now? Well if you choose an established superstar you’ll start our right on the marquee show but if you selected a created wrestler (more on that later) you’ll begin on the low-tier show like Heat. This serves as the training mode and you’ll have to win some matches before you get promoted. Then the real fun starts, like Just Bring It!
you can wander around the arenas in first person mode, chatting it up with wrestlers and such. It’s implemented much better this time around, however, you get angles that actually make sense and develop out of something. For instance, I was wandering through the main lobby and I saw Eddy Guererro hanging around so I decided to approach him. It turns out that he was hitting on Trish Stratus and after I defended her and foiled his plans he became upset and challenged me to a match. Trish was at ringside and would aid me whenever Eddy would come move near the apron, just like you’d expect in real life.
Now the cool part, I was feuding with Val Venis at the time so I figured that the match would be a one time deal, well guess who decided to interfere with my match? That’s right, Eddy came down and gave me a heavy dosage of Latino Heat. After the match was over Eddy and Val beat up on my wrestler, setting up next week’s match, a tag match with a partner of my choosing. This is just a small sample of just how robust this Season Mode is. In a nice touch Kurt Angle even starts out with hair to begin the Season, only to lose it after he faces Edge in the Hair for Hair match. Suffice to say, I’m impressed.
Speaking of impressive, each of the wrestlers has also received some massive makeovers. I’m certain that the poly count has been increased significantly for the models, you’ll see wrestlers who not only look more lifelike but maneuver more realistically. I wouldn’t say that the models are the best to appear in a wrestling game, I’d place them a few notches above Wrestlemania X-8
and a few below RAW
, but they’re definitily appealing and attractive. The faces in particular look great, I have yet to see a better digital realization of Vince McMahon’s mug. It looks like Yukes incorporated some of that digital scan technology that goes into Jakks Pacific’s action figures and it definitely shows.
Although some of the animations appear to be re-used from previous entries it appears that they too have received a lot of attention. Many of the gaps that appeared between animations have been filled with transitions and it provides for a much smoother flowing experience. Counters in particular are more well-done this time around. It seems like many of the moves have realistic counters as opposed to some generic filler material. If you manage to counter a back body drop you’ll actually float over your opponent and land on your feet, just like you’d expect to see in real life. While the game isn’t as visually impressive as WWE Raw
was there’s no doubt that Shut Your Mouth
is the most realistic looking wrestling title available on the market. The talented artists at Yukes have done an admirable job of capturing the spectacle that is the WWE, they must be commended.
An aspect that heavily contributes to the realism is the sheer number of moves that are included in this game’s arsenal. Nearly every single move that you can think of can be utilized here. They even included the classic botched double team maneuver where one wrestler accidentally crotches his partner with his head after their opponent throws them both into the corner. As a nice touch they’ve included the signature moves of specific wrestlers who didn’t make the roster such as D-Lo’s Sky High and Mysterio’s 619. You can literally spend hours in the create-a-wrestler mode that’s one of the deepest of its kind.
I decided that I’d mess around for a bit just to check things out, that didn’t last for long. I quickly became engulfed by what the CAW mode had to offer and was hooked to it for hours, going through menus in an effort to craft the perfect wrestler. The main hook is that it’s deep yet simplistic. You pick an item, select the hues and colors and that’s it. Everything is basically adjusted via sliders so it probably won’t confuse too many people. It’s also very versatile and features enough parts so that you can create a plethora of wrestlers who didn’t make the cut. My friends were even able to make a pretty accurate recreation of my although I feel that my real life persona is much more handsome, not to mention buffer:
This isn’t just the same game in new and shiny wrapping, no that’s far from the truth. Sure the game looks amazing in comparison to its predescor but the main attraction comes from the improved gameplay. Nearly everything that you could ask for has been included into the game and features that didn’t quite work so right have been tweaked and improved. Having trouble getting your opponents onto a table for the table match? This time around you can just pick up a table and then nail them with the circle button, this will knock them out and place them onto the table, bypassing all of the hassle of last year’s game. Weapons also have been improved in this respect, you can now DDT opponents onto chairs by hitting them with the circle button. No more trying to set up your opponent near a chair in hopes of slamming them on to it. Some of the weapons have also been improved, the fire extinguisher can be thrown, wielded or fired so that you can spray your opponents with the contents. You can even escape the ring and drive the Undertaker’s bike and although this wasn’t quite done as well as I had hoped, it’s still a nice addition nonetheless.
What’s really a mixed bag are the game’s sounds and audio portions. With the inclusion of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler came the promise of improvement over the team of Tazz and Michael Cole. Well it’s an improvement but a marginal one at that. The commentary is still broken up and seems to have little cohesiveness or flow. Occasionally Lawler will chime in with some entertaining comments referring to specific wrestlers but they’re far and few. On the other ends of things the entrances are just amazing as each song has been accurately recreated. I especially enjoyed how the crowd chants “You Suck!” along with Kurt Angle’s theme music, nice touches like that won’t go noticed by everyone but to me, they really show the designers’ dedication to the project.
There are still a few problems with the game but it comes with preference. The game will be a bit too arcade-oriented for some to muster, the push one button and one direction gameplay will surely turn some off. The counter system also needs a bit of work and while it’s not as flawed as last year’s game, it’s still far too simple to counter an opponent’s maneuver. Like last year’s game the audio suffers from repetitive guitar riffs and inane commentary that doesn’t have any real flow or direction. Of course there are some minor clipping problems and some of the wrestlers’ faces don’t quite look right but when the game plays this well, all can easily be forgiven.
Wrestling isn’t for everyone, that’s a given. Some guys are just too insecure about their manhood to enjoy watching two sweating guys beating the living hell out of each other. Some of them are skeptics who think that wrestling is ‘fake’ and thus it’s not worthy of their attention. Then there are just some guys who can’t stand to see big-chested women prancing around in skimpy outfits (strangely enough the first and last groups often tend to lump together). For the true fan however, they understand that wrestling isn’t homoerotic and for the most part, wrestling isn’t fake, unless you count someone falling off of a 15-foot ladder through four tables as faking it of course. You know something though? While the WWE may not be for everyone, the PS2 video game representation most definitely is.
Having some trouble laying the smacketh downeth uponeth youreth opponent-ths? Then check out Prima Games' excellent strategy guide, showing you each wrestler's moveset as well as giving you tips on how to win each type of match.