Shut Your Mouth
System: Playstation 2
Developer: Yukes Interactive
Released: November 2002
Genre: Pro Wrestling
Capabilities: Memory Card, Dual Shock 2 Analog & Vibration Feedback, Multi-tap for up 6 players
Review Written: November 29, 2002
WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth is the fourth game in the Smackdown line up on the Playstation consoles. I haven’t really loved or hate the Smackdown games, they have always been just there. They’ll be addicting as heck for the first few weeks I own it, and then they’ll be thrown into my pile of wrestling games featuring classic stinkers like WCW Nitro, the Dreamcast version of WWF Royal Rumble, and ECW Anarchy Rulz. SYM delivers more of the same game play as found in previous installments of the series, but boasts a revamped Season mode and some more extra tweaks in return. Let’s see if these new additions will spark a breath of fresh air into the Smackdown franchise.
The 30 to 40 man rosters that were in the last crop of wrestling games are no more. You’ll be glad to know that SYM contains over 60 wrestlers. All the key players are here like Triple H, Kurt Angle, and the superstar with the fastest rise to the top in the history of the WWE, Brock Lesnar. Other stars that haven’t been seen on WWE television in several months still manage to sneak their way into SYM such as Steve Austin, The Rock, Kevin Nash, Rhyno, and Hulk Hogan.
Besides the behemoth that is Brock Lesnar, several other rookies that debuted this year are also in Shut Your Mouth. Some of these are Tough Enough champion Maven and Randy Orton. Also noteworthy is if you enter create-a-wrestler mode and select to view the sample models. The first three samples are near perfect creations of new WWE stars John Cena, Christopher Nowinski, and Jamie Knoble.
If you thought the graphics from Just Bring It were good then wait until you take a look at what SYM showcases. The character models are as distinctive as ever, and you’ll notice all the tiny elements like the wrinkled faces of Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan, to the baldness of Kurt Angle. All the textures seem to have gotten a big improvement from the ones in JBI. The way the hair is animated looks great, and it doesn’t tend to float through the wrestlers as much as it did in the last game. The arenas also look good with all the memorizing designs of the entrance stages looking better than ever.
Most of the crowd is still 2D sprites, which hurts the presentation provided by the stellar character models, but at least the first couple of rows at ringside now sport 3D models. I don’t know if the 3D models have anything to do with it, but you can’t wrestle into the crowds anymore like you could in JBI, which was one of my favorite things to do in that game. The entrances for the wrestlers are well done. I made sure to gaze at each wrestler’s entrance at least once as they walked to the ring. The developers at Yuke’s did a tremendous job at mimicking each wrestler’s taunts they do on their way to the squared circle. For example, the Hulkster does an awesome job at air guitar, and Steve Austin does his famous four corner salute.
The animation for the moves looks great, especially the trademark moves like the Stone Cold Stunner and F5. One slick effect added in SYM is the ability to have the camera to do a 360 “Matrix” effect where it rotates around a finishing move being performed, and blurs out all the surroundings by simply holding L1 while you do your move. I like this added touch, and whenever I do it I get a sensation of good ‘ol Jim Ross calling the event shouting out comments like “Stone Cold! Stunner! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!” There are a few more loading times than in JBI, but to make up for it the loading screens have a great pin up of a wrestler showcasing a tip of how to do one of the many moves in the game.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the god-awful commentary featured in Just Bring It. You’ll be happy to know that Michael Cole and Tazz got canned from the commentator’s booth in Shut Your Mouth, and are replaced by the preferred team of Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler. The long pauses in commentary that plagued the last game are nowhere to be found in SYM. However, the commentary isn’t as continuous, and is a bit more sporadic during game play instead. I like this commentary more than the last game, but I do wish a little more effort could've been involved. Good continuous commentary was done before in games like WWF Attitude and WCW Mayhem, and perhaps the developers should look back at those games if they ever want to perfect the feel of a WWE event.
The background music is more generic guitar riffs that seem to be popular among most wrestling games. Most of this stuff is fairly passable, but it would be nice to have an option to include a random wrestler’s theme music being played in the background. This happens for a brief moment whenever a new wrestler enters competition in the Royal Rumble mode, but it’d make a world of difference if the developers would actually have in run continually in a game for once. It was done only once before in Wrestlemania Challenge for the NES, and I’ve been anticipating for it to happen again ever since.
Speaking of theme music, Just Bring It takes a page out of Wrestlemania X8 for Gamecube by not including the themes for a handful of wrestlers such as Maven, Stacy Kiebler, Matt & Jeff Hardy, and Tajiri. Other than those exemptions, the rest of the themes in the game are in tact and include many of the new themes found in the musical releases of Forceable Entry and Anthology this year. There are also a few surprises in here like Hulk Hogan’s old “Real American” theme being included, and the first game ever to feature Hulk’s current theme he’s been using since 1996, which is “Voodoo Child” by Jimmy Hendrix. Let me assure you this, Hulk Hogan & classic rock fans will be in heaven the first time they view the Hulkster’s killer entrance as he plays air guitar to Hendrix!
The insane fast pace of past Smackdown titles never did leave a lasting impression on me, other than the fact that they got stale fast. Wrestlers stayed on the ground only for a couple of seconds after a finishing move was executed, and submission holds only lasted a brief moment. Are there any improvements to the game mechanics in SYM? Well, yes and no. Wrestlers actually stay on the ground for more extended periods of time. However, this may be the case after a signature move such as the Rock Bottom, or right in the beginning of a match up from a simple body slam. This just make things get frustrating all too fast, and sometimes it can ruin the game for you.
Other new inclusions in game play are interactive environments, and being able to use weapons with moves. This means wrestlers will be able to climb onto the top of the entrance stage or other parts of a backstage area and deliver a body splash or other attacks much like in the last ever WCW video game, Backstage Assault. Mixing weapons in moves mean you can pull off the coolest maneuvers seen on television, such as Rob Van Dam’s Van Terminator! Another slick feature is being able to get on and ride the Undertaker’s motorcycle over opponents. You can also rip the padding off of turnbuckles and use it as an advantage against your opponents.
Most of my complaints about the controls from the last Smackdown game, Just Bring It are still apparent in Shut Your Mouth. Matches still progress all too fast. The average singles match usually is over in less than two minutes. Some of the major attacks from turnbuckles only result in mildly stunning your opponent, when they should be knocking their ass out! Much like everyone else, I prefer the game play of WWF No Mercy more than this. And when a two year old Nintendo 64 wrestling game features better game play than a brand spanking new one, that’s not a good thing, it’s a bad thing!
The main single player mode from Just Bring It that was known as “Story Mode,” while a fresh effort, resulted in tedious game play and getting repetitious fairly fast. The amount of interaction and the presentation was like no other wrestling game before it, but after seeing it for the tenth time in a row, it was really starting to grow on my nerves. SYM now has a revamped single player game called “Season Mode” where you progress through two years of actual WWE programming.
The cool thing about Season mode is you start off where the actual programming in the WWE circled around earlier this year. I’m speaking of the draft that split the WWE talent into two separate rosters: RAW and Smackdown. You have the option of competing in the draft and picking your side of wrestlers and watch in anxiety to see if your foe gets to your pick before you. Or you have the option of customizing the roster for each talent roster, or skip through the draft and have the computer randomize it all for you.
The season mode plays out on a week-by-week basis like in Wrestlemania 2000 on N64, but with more storylines and interaction on your part like in Just Bring It where you roam around in a first person view before each match so you can start grudges or get title shots. These two elements combine for one compelling experience. You can select a lower tiered wrestler, or enter a created wrestler and start them from the bottom of the ranks. They’ll be curtain-jerkers for B level shows, and you’ll slowly advance their way through the ladder progressing onto title shots, and Pay-Per-View matches. If you don’t want to bother with that hassle, then you can automatically select one of the bigger stars in SYM and automatically be in PPV matches and main events.
The plethora of modes from Just Bring It is back in Shut Your Mouth. I’m still in awe that they manage to fit this much variety in here. All the usual matches like single, tag team, triple threat, fatal four way, royal rumbles, and cage matches are in here. The popular gimmick matches from before like Hell in a Cell, Ladder, Table, TLC, and Iron Man contests are all still in tact. My preferred matches are the intense Survival and Elimination bouts. Survival is a blast because you can throw up to six men in a ring (with no way of going outside the ring) in a free for all where you have to eliminate each man one-by-one, and the sole survivor is the winner! Elimination plays out similar to Survivor Series matches where teams of two or three compete against each other, and the team to eliminate everybody from the other squad first, wins.
I was stunned by the depth of the create-a-wrestler featured in Just Bring It. It was the best I’ve seen in the American market of wrestling games in quite some time. I thought there was no way they could improve on it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When creating the appearance of your grappler, you’ll automatically notice some convenient features like thumbnails of each item. Each tile of nine thumbnails gives you an early impression of what to expect of each sample. Another new feature to the CaW is the ability to “age” skin textures. This is great to tinker with if you want your wrestler to look as wrinkled as Mr. T, or as disgruntled as George Bush. There are also loads of new created parts to be used in the game, and you’ll be spending a lot of time glancing through all of them.
Creating your own diversified set of moves for your grappler is a must for any hardcore fan, but if you’re too lazy to do so, you can choose one of several presets available to you. I’m amazed at how long it takes to go through each available option in order to be satisfied with the end result. When it was all said and done for me, my ultimate creation (dubbed the ingenious “Big D”) took me two and a half hours to complete. I’m sure it’ll take the same amount of time, if not longer, for you.
The other creation options from JBI like Taunts and Stables also return in SYM. Stables is still in tact from how you remember it in JBI, but Taunt got a whole new makeover. Instead of combining several taunts into one unique taunt like before, you now have the option of customizing one individual taunt down to the tiniest detail. For example, if you choose the infamous Hulk Hogan taunt where he waves to the crowd, you can set it to where you can Hulk’s lips smiling, being blunt, and so on. You can also change the position of the hands into being fisted, flat, or whatever. If you’ve been dying to create your own unique taunt, then you’ll love what this version has in store for you.
Unlocking the hidden items is different than Just Bring It. Whenever you win a PPV match; you are shown five items you can select to unlock. These range from movies, parts used for Create-a-Wrestler, and wrestlers to be used in Season mode. Each season only lasts two years, so that means if you are granted a spot on every succeeding PPV and win each one then you must complete Season mode two and a half times in order to unlock everything. That’s about a good 30 hours of single player gaming right there! Thankfully, there’s enough depth and variety so that the game play doesn’t get as stale like it did in Just Bring It. If you have two multi taps, then up to six people can play SYM simultaneously. The wealthy amount of modes and the superb creation options are also good enough to keep you hooked until the next game comes out.
+: Superb character models, huge roster, loads of game play modes, best create-a-wrestler out there
-: The fast paced arcade game play doesn’t float my boat, still some faulty control issues, a few more loading times than before
Game play: 7.8
Replay Value: 9.1
Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth is a little bit better than Just Bring It. The overhauled Season mode is eons better than the Story Mode in the last game. The loads of options and great create-a-wrestler the series is known for still remains the same. The same crappy control engine also stays the same, and you’d think that by the fourth game in the series that they’d give it a new overhaul. While the vast amount of modes available and the great Season mode make up for the same crappy engine this time around, I don’t know how forgiving I’m going to be for the next game.
Fans of the series will eat this one up again. However, if you got to have one wrestling game on the PS2 that promises something new and fresh I suggest looking into Def Jam Vendetta (which is developed by the same people who made the award winning N64 wrestlers like No Mercy & Revenge) or Legends of Wrestling 2 this holiday season.
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