Release date: 01/12/00
Our set up: PS1, scart connection to 40” LG T.V.
Review by @Grapplearcade
What on earth was going on?
Kurt Angle was half way through his title reign after beating the Rock at No Mercy in a No DQ match. Billy Gunn was in the middle of his I.C title reign after somehow bettering Eddie Guerrero on an episode of Smackdown. LeAnn Rimes correctly informed us that we couldn’t fight the moonlight, we all knew she was right, unless it was an eclipse. On top of this, it was a Friday, we had been paid and “Finally…” it arrived at the anticipated release date for SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role on the original PlayStation . It was the second instalment for the Smackdown series, developed by the now established tag team of Yuke’s and released by THQ.
We were presented with new match types, a larger roster and completely different mechanics, creating what was arguably a much more arcade-like game. Ignoring the aesthetics, it was a completely different game and this caught a lot of us by surprise. This game gains a lot of credit from the retro gaming community, but was it really any good? Is it still playable today? Let’s settle down, cosy up and have a look back at some 32bit bruisers, brutes, behemoths and beefcakes.
TURN IT ON
After turning the game on, we are greeted with the obligatory company logos and then THWACK, straight in to a real life video introduction, including video highlights from the production truck, stock footage and snippets of famous in ring scenes and moves, 3Ds, Stink Faces and Pedigrees galore, with overlaid signature sound bites from all of your favourite WWE/F professional athletes. It looks identical to a weekly show called SmackDown that we watched religiously… This is a strong start.
The Main Menu page is incredibly clean and straight to the point. Select a match type and then the specific rules from additional drop downs. Simple enough. In fairness it needs to be, the sheer quantity of match types is very comprehensive. Quite simply, there are loads. The game boasts everything that we had either been accustomed to, or specialist matches that only tended to occur once a year on a PPV, if we were lucky. The choice is almost a bit overwhelming, but let’s start at the top and progress through the madness.
The most obvious and standard match types to select from are Singles and Tag Team bouts. From there you can choose from a number of PPV classic match types, including the Battle Royal, Royal Rumble or King of the Ring complete with knock out tournament rules. You can opt for a Handicap Match if you’re brave enough to take on 2 or 3 opponents, or if you really dislike Essa Rios, then you (Mark Henry) can team up with Viscera and Rikishi and take Mr. Rios to the Hall of Pain. A literal squash match. The infamous ‘anything goes’ Hardcore Match is an obvious feature, which includes interactive weapons.
Other match types include the I Quit match, an Ironman match, Tables match, Ladders match and a Tables, Ladders & Chairs match. A special Referee match, an Anywhere Falls match, a Casket match, and a Steel Cage match. All as you’d expect, following the same, or very similar principals and rules to their real life counterparts.
What do you get if you take the rules of a Triple Threat, or Fatal Four Way and chuck them into a name generator? That’s right, Survival Mode. And last but not least, the Slobberknocker match is basically a gauntlet match under a time limit. You need to batter your way through a series of opponents in order to prove your worth.
Career mode is an interesting one, with some tremendous glitches, questionable AI, exceptionally long loading times and the occasional crash. However, this could simply be seen as nit-picking when you consider the booster pack of storylines and the fact that it has a multi-player feature, meaning you (Mark Henry), your best friend Viscera, your other best friend Rikishi and your little brother (Essa Rios) can battle your way through the daily grind, unleashing your potential, laying the smacketh down and progressing up the card to main event status, or being future endeavoured (once again, Essa Rios).
The Create-A-something (such as wrestler, or PPV) modes are actually much better than I remember. There’s a greater amount of customisable content and features for characters available, including a generous 10 slots/spaces for your 10 most bizarre character creations. I mean, yes, technically you can create CAWs of real characters who aren’t featured in the game, but let’s be honest, unless your characters resemble a 7’5” tall, 500lbs masked wrestler called Peter, who wears knee high boots, a camouflage vest and a florescent green Mohawk, you’re not doing it properly.
CAW is something we’re used to seeing in previous releases, but it’s fair to say this is the most detailed variation to date. Create a PPV is a really fun addition to the game. It’s a chance to try your hand at being a booker by putting together cards that may consist of any roster or CAW wrestlers, you can add special stipulations to said matches and it even features a match scoring system.
For the sake of this review, we’re playing a basic 1 on 1, standard rules match. We’ll pick two obvious titans of the ring, so it’s going to be Sexy Chocolate Mark Henry vs Essa Rios. It would be unfair to look at graphics in depth, as they are garish and bulky but more than acceptable for a year 2000 release, still dabbling with the capabilities of 3D animation.
Due to the slightly slumberous actions of your character when trying to perform your move, an element of timing is required, but that’s pretty standard for wrestling games in general. Saying that, the game itself feels pretty fast paced, much more arcade like than similar offerings.
Although timing can be key, the controller response is really quite good. We’ve been able to pick up and learn moves via the standard configuration really quickly. Feel free to button bash, but it’s so easy to learn, you might as well. As we fought against each other, it didn’t matter who we selected to play with, as the character is as good as the person holding the controller. However, there is a considerable difference in ability when playing against the computer. Characters are clearly tiered in this respect, much like in real life.
The occasional disappearance of limbs due to animation issues is an interesting feature, but that could arguably add to the spectacle during a hard core match if you were playing with Mick Foley. In terms of what went down, Henry absolutely destroyed Rios and I mean he completely butchered him. You could see Essa wondering if the streak of red dye running through his hair was trying to escape due to puddles of blood splattered all over the canvass.
Henry used his signature Big Splash finisher several times, it was all over, except for the fact it wasn’t, because the Erotic Bounty bar, Henry, thought it would be a good idea to perform his special move whilst next to the ropes, meaning every special move performed was a waste of bloody time due to “Rope Break”. I swear even the referee got fed up of saying “Rope Break” to the point he started shouting it.
Essa Rios won with a schoolboy pin in the 3rd minute because porno Bournville Henry forgot how to kick out.
Yes OK, I forgot how to kick out, but I didn’t think I’d have to remember how to kick out, so put that memory in the brain bin with Bret Hart’s pink short singlet and Jeff ‘the worst knight’ Gaylord. Then I turned the game off and went to bed.
Even though I was completely Montréal’ed out of a win, I can’t hold that grudge against the game. It was so fun to play, like really, really fun. We obviously had a few other matches after the above shambles and I’m seriously considering starting a new career mode.
On to the scoring. I’ve asked several professionals and upstanding citizens of the gaming and wrestling community for their honest opinion of SmackDown! 2. I’ve asked each person to provide a score out of 10 for the following categories;
– Playability (Compared to today’s latest wrestling game, or the last modern wrestling game that person played)
– Session longevity (Whether a quick game or a long haul session, do each of these elements deliver?)
– Single player modes (Provide a score for the amount of game options and the quality of said game options)
– Multiplayer modes (Same criteria as the 1 player mode)
@grapplearcade scored = Playability 8/10, session longevity 7/10, Single player modes 7/10, Multiplayer modes 7/10, total = 29/40.
@Powerful_Fox_GG scored = Playability 8/10, Session longevity 6/10, Single player modes 8/10, Multiplayer modes 8/10, total = 30/40.
“The best non-64 wrestling game in my opinion… If it’s not the best, it’s certainly in the top 3.”
@RWGamesPresents scored = Playability 6/10, Session longevity 4/10, Single player modes 7/10, Multiplayer modes 3/10, total = 20/40.
“Overall the game is good for what it is, graphics are for the PS1 and the Season mode is good. The sound is awful and the loading times are sooooo loooong.”
@TomCampbell scored = Playability 7/10, Session longevity 8/10, Single player modes 8/10, Multiplayer modes 8/10, total = 30/40.
“At high school, my mate Phil played this all the time with me and he hated wrestling. His favourite was Frumpy Shirt Teeth Boy aka Gangrel. There’s enough to keep you interested. It’s all about the Season Mode. Probably the most robust control the WWF type setup in any wrestling game so far.”
@VirtuaCombat95 scored = Playability 8/10, Session longevity 7/10, Single player modes 6/10, Multiplayer modes 8/10, total = 29/40.
“You can learn the basics in your first match. By the end of your first hour, you’ve added forklift truck driving, furniture removal and skydiving from ringside structures to your repertoire. Lots of selection, varying in quality. Unfortunately let down by cheap, predictable in-match AI. It takes me a long time to get bored of multiplayer.”
That’s a total combined score of 138/200.
Although it is let-down by issues regarding AI and sound quality, it’s still a bloody brilliant game. Career mode is incredibly good fun, but it takes absolutely ages to load every segment, regardless of how in depth of insignificant the segment is. Multi-player is where the heart of the game lies, much like pretty much every wrestling game. Get your friends over, plug your PS1 in, load SmackDown! 2 and give Essa Rios a kicking for me.
The Grapple Arcade run live retro wrestling games events around the U.K.
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