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WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth (PlayStation 2) artwork

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth (PlayStation 2) review

"The early 2000’s were a time of change for the mainstream professional wrestling business, with the World Wrestling Federation dissolving its main competition, and then getting into a tussle of a legal mould with the World Wildlife Fund, in which the sports entertainment mega power would come out on the losing side. "

The early 2000’s were a time of change for the mainstream professional wrestling business, with the World Wrestling Federation dissolving its main competition, and then getting into a tussle of a legal mould with the World Wildlife Fund, in which the sports entertainment mega power would come out on the losing side.

With the rebirth as World Wrestling Entertainment, a bloated roster, new championships, and the monumental Raw and SmackDown! 'draft’, there was a lot to tweak with the latest version of the SmackDown! series to make sure it stayed up to date and in tune with the outrageous escapades of all the characters.

WWE SmackDown!: Shut Your Mouth is the second release on the PlayStation 2, and comes on the back of Just Bring It – a game which promised so much but actually gave very little, bringing hardly anything more new and exciting to the table than Know Your Role on the PSOne the year previous. Indeed, it almost came across as more a conversion than a successor.

This game boasts one of the best rosters of any SmackDown! game – taking full advantage of the post-alliance roster boom that Just Bring It missed out on. Superstars range from ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan to Rob Van Dam to ‘The Next Big Thing’ Brock Lesnar to Goldust, as well as the usuals such as The Rock, Steve Austin and Triple H. The sheer number of superstars on Shut Your Mouth – approaching sixty - is impressive in itself.

While each superstar is depicted with clear dedication – with the majority of the recurring characters looking far superior to their Just Bring It counterparts - Shut Your Mouth still doesn’t match up to other similar games in the fighting genre, such as Tekken. Issues such as clipping are rife, with superstars’ long locks protruding through their shoulders – a recurring problem from previous instalments of the series. The facial expressions can sometimes appear odd, with eyes seemingly popping out or bizarre mouth movements. These ailments can hinder the various segments of the game, both in and out of the ring.

An issue never encountered before with the series, but is with Shut Your Mouth, is the freshness of the gameplay. When the SmackDown! series burst onto the PlayStation scene in 2000, the simplistic method of using a directional key and the circle button to perform various moves was embraced with critical acclaim. It was a far cry from Acclaim’s system employed in Attitude and War Zone which revolved around long and frustrating chains of buttons to perform even simple moves. A number of these weren’t even supplied to you, so you had to work that out for yourself. It was a refreshing dose of easiness, and made SmackDown! all the more popular, as anyone could jump in and pull off some offence. By Shut Your Mouth, however, the system, which remains practically identical to the first game in the series, begins to feel very stale. It goes from being refreshing to overly familiar, and this game yearns for something new to be brought to the party to reinvigorate what is still a good control layout.

It’s worth citing that there are some minor helpful additions to the system, however. Each superstar now has a pair of finishing moves, as well as the ability to sacrifice two ‘special’ counters to pull out the ultimate humiliation and perform the opponent’s finisher. Superstars will occasionally begin to favour arms or legs as the match goes on (though there still ceases to be a way of knowing how damaged you or your opponent is). More reversals are packed in, and it’s now possible to fight your way out of a special move. These don’t shake things up enough, however, and the general method of play will still feel almost as if its overstayed its welcome.

Thankfully, the utterly awful commentary of Michael Cole and Tazz in Just Bring It ensured that they were not enticed back in for the next game; here, Raw’s own Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross call the action. Though an improvement over the previous, it’s still far from perfect – if anything, it’s gone to the other end of the spectrum here. While Cole and Tazz went on inanely far too much, J.R. and 'The King' tend to barely say anything at all, except maybe a call of a couple of moves, and a generic comment about a relevant superstar. It’s something which, judging from this game, still needs a lot of work in order to do its job effectively.

These points in mind, there are a lot of positives over previous games in terms of the modes available, and replayability. There are hoardes of match types on offer in Shut Your Mouth, including diverse bouts such as Captain Fall Elimination Tag matches, in which teams of three fight each other, with one labelled as ‘captain’, who is the superstar needed to be pinned to win the match - Lumberjack matches, and a revamped Hell In A Cell engine which resembles the real life battle much more closely.

Within some of the new match types the increased interactivity bubbles up to the surface. There are now a huge variety of actions available to the player dependant on which match type you are playing. In a Ladder Match, the player can prop the weapon against the turnbuckles and throw their adversary into the aluminium. Fight in the SmackDown! arena, and you can climb the stage and launch yourself off the giant fist overhanging the entrance way. Battle The Undertaker, and you can hop on his motorcycle for a ride around the arena. There are so many of these hotspots to encounter throughout the various arenas and numerous backstage areas that it will make particularly the more hardcore match modes very enduring indeed.

Another area where the game really could do no worse than Just Bring It is the Season Mode. The previous game in the series offered a sorry excuse for a Story Mode, as sometimes it could result in you wrestling just one match before it was over. In Shut Your Mouth, it downgrades back to the general structure of Know Your Role, whereby you take each show of each week as it comes for two years. Along the way, you’ll endure all the fall-outs, betrayal and title match controversy that you would expect from a WWE programme. To add more fuel to the fire, you can also choose to interfere in other matches on the card, which is a really nice touch as it can potentially reshape your storyline. As well as this, you’ll also partake in some notable WWE storylines of the time, such as the introduction of the Draft – which is interesting as it allows you to select your brand, and select superstars for that brand – the ill-fated return of the New World Order and the battle for the King of the Ring trophy.

As you progress from 2002 to 2004, you’ll notch up high-profile matches at Pay-Per-Views which each have a set of unlockable items attached to them, for you to select should you win. On offer are arenas, alternate attires and Create A Superstar parts, among others. These are accessed by walking your superstar to the shop in the arena – this is conveyed in the same first person view style as Just Bring It, and, while offering some amusing impromptu cutscenes, such as bumping into Booker T and ending up verbally wrestling with him, or going into the General Manager’s office and asking for a title shot and being refused, it really only comes across as THQ emphasising the fact that this is a PlayStation 2 game with its superior graphics, rather than sticking with a much more simplistic text-based route which would do the same job even quicker, and with more effectiveness.

Overall, WWE Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth is a good game, and a definite improvement on the previous titles in the series, collating some of the high points on all its predecessors, and ditching much of the poor. It captures the feel of WWE programming well in most areas, and it has the critical advantage of being very simple to get to grips with. Just as important is that it remains fun to play for a long period of time, either on your own or against others, thanks to the immersive environments on offer to brawl throughout, the plethora of modes, and the now even more robust Create A Superstar which makes creating virtually anyone possible. But the in-match control system of the series starts to wear here, and it just begins to feel as if a missing depth needs to be introduced to push it further towards being a great game, and distinguish it from its predecessors.

Rating: 7/10

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Community review by Louisutton (September 10, 2010)

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