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The best wrestling game ever?
WWF Smackdown (PS)
Member Name: Johndonut
WWF Smackdown (PS)
Date: 06/09/00, updated on 06/09/00 (43 review reads)
Advantages: Superb graphics and great animation
Disadvantages: Mediocre create-a-wrestler mode
The wonderful world of professional wrestling (or 'sports entertainment' as it's known these days) has never been bigger. In the States, the top wrestlers are some of the biggest names in the country, and here in the UK, the weekly TV shows, shown on satellite, attract massive audience figures. The WWF, the founder of professional wrestling, is quite rightly the market leader at the moment, offering viewers a soap-opera-like plot that, along with generous helpings of sex and violence, makes for one hell of an entertaining package. Not surprisingly, developers have been trying to take advantage of this huge popularity, with a string of wresting games being released as of late. A good example of this exploitation was WWF Attitude, an average game which used an awkward fighting system to execute poorly animated moves and failed to capture the feel of the WWF. Thankfully, the lucrative WWF licence has been bought by THQ, the people who previously held the WCW license and publishers of the classic WCW/NWO Revenge for the N64. With the best license in hand, THQ went on to produce the best wrestling game ever, WWF Wrestlemania 2000, exclusively for the 64-bit console. Now THQ have made their first ever PlayStation WWF title by the name of WWF SmackDown. Confused? Don't be. All you need to know is that WWF SmackDown is easily the finest wrestling game on the PlayStation, and puts up a good fight with Wrestlemania 2000 for the top spot overall.
As opposed to sticking with Wrestlemania 2000's developers Aki, THQ have chosen to go with experienced Japanese developer Yukes, who are well known for their successful domestic grapplers. The biggest and most noticeable advantage that SmackDown has over its counterparts is the speed of the gameplay, which provides a looser, less structured feel than Wrestlemania 2000 in particular. Yukes have employed a simplified timed-based grapple system which helps keep the pace high, whilst enabling you to perform a
wide and realistic range of manoeuvres. And don't the moves look good! The animation, for the most part, actually surpasses that in Wrestlemania due to the fact that the action is less mechanical. Sometimes, however, the wrestler movement is a bit jerky, but nothing compared to the unnatural, stiff animation seen in Attitude. When the wrestlers are knocked down, for example, they proceed to roll away from their opponent in a strange, jerky motion. This aside, the vast majority of moves look excellent and very realistic which are captured in all their glory with some nifty TV-style camera views. You will see the showstopper chokeslam from 10 feet high, the Rock Bottom delivered to perfection and a tombstone from the bowels of hell! Also, check out that lethal piledriver and the full People's Elbow complete with arm-pad removal! These manoeuvres are made to look even better by the absence of clipping, which has commonly plagued other wrestling titles.
SmackDown features 36 of the WWF's finest superstars, but as always in wrestling games, the roster is a little out of date due to recent changes and arrivals in the federation. The D...D...D...Dudley Boyz are in, but there is no Tazz (the human wrecking machine), Rikishi, Too Cool, Kurt Angle (your Olympic hero) and of course the Radicalz are far too new to be included. Needless to say, as you can see from the screenshots, each wrestler's appearance is very reminiscent of their real-life counterpart, including impressive height and weight distinctions.
For some reason however, with some large chaps such as the Big Show, their upper bodies look disproportionately big in comparison to their legs. On the plus side, the characters' faces are superb, emphasised by the animated facial movements, for example the Big Show's roar and The Rock's People's Eyebrow. Another nice touch is the way in which the wrestlers' hair moves when they run or perform and receive manoeuvres.
The real meat of the game lies in the revolutionary season mode, which contains some of the soap-opera plots found in the WWF. From backstage interviews, parking lot brawls and main event interference, SmackDown has set the standard for an authentic wrestling experience. As you would expect, the ultimate goal is to capture and defend the WWF Title, but once this has been achieved, the game does not have a definitive climax but tends to drain out. As such, the one-player mode can become too much of a chore and loses it's appeal quite quickly.
In the modes department, THQ have delivered everything you could ask for, plus a few excellent and unique extras to fuel your enjoyment. Tag-team matches, battle royals, cage matches, handicap matches, three-way and four-way matches, King of the Ring tournaments and survival matches are available, but what really catches the eye are the 'I Quit' and 'special referee' matches. The first involves beating your opponent into submission then grabbing a mike from the crowd and forcing him (or her) to say the dreaded "I quit". Incidentally, there is a tempting selection of weapons you can resort to if you find yourself on the end of a beating. You can also play the role of a special referee, giving you the control over speed of count and even your own interference. As you can imagine, this mode is particularly entertaining in multiplayer. As standard in modern wrestling titles, SmackDown includes a create-a-wrestler mode. As in Wrestlemania, this concentrates on assigning your character loads of moves as opposed to the complete customisation of their looks, which is slightly disappointing.
One of my favourite parts about SmackDown is the fantastic look of the arenas and back stage areas. In 'Go Anywhere' matches you have the freedom to brawl in a number of such places, from boiler-rooms to parking lots. These additions really help bring the game to life and capture the fe
el of the WWF. On a contrast is the weak audio. The game sounds to quiet, lacking both commentary and voices. You would expect this to be the case with an N64 wrestling game but not from the CD format of the PlayStation. The in game music which takes its place does not fill the gap, thanks to its bland tunes and repetitive nature. It's not all bad on the sound front. The hits, crashes and slams all sound authentic.
Whether or not SmackDown is better than Wrestlemania is really not the important question here. If you own a PlayStation and are a WWF fan you must buy this game. True, it is by no means perfect, containing less polish than Wrestlemania 2000, showing some signs of a rushed product, but it makes many steps forward in a genre which is becoming more predictable with each passing game. The brilliant graphics and fast, addictive gameplay make for a very impressive package indeed. Get ready to lay the smackdown!