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WWF Smackdown! Just Bring It
Review By:  Christopher Coey
Developer:   Yuke's Interactive
Publisher:   THQ
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Wrestling
ESRB:   Teen
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:   1-10-02

Do ya love wrestling? Do you get a kick out of watching overgrown men in Speedos smashing chairs over each other's heads? What about rocker-girls in skimpy clothes, pulling each other hair? If so, you might just think that this is the best game ever made. I don't follow the world of WWF very closely. I generally prefer my fantasy to come with a helping of light-sabers or phaser pistols. But, that's not to say that I have never followed wrestling, I have. So I know what the appeal is. And I know how loyal, and hardcore, the fans can get. I know a few of these people personally. Friends of mine who watch every bit of WWF they can get. They watch every show, and all the pay-per-view specials. These are the guys who pay $400 a ticket to sit first row at WrestleMania. THESE guys were excited about this game. These are also the guys who really matter when it comes to reviewing this game.

Some games are made for everyone. The truly great games usually have the widest appeal. I'm talking about games like Tetris, Gran Turismo, the Zelda series, Tekken, etc. It's not that ALL gamers would want to play them, nor would they all love them. But they have broad appeal. SmackDown! isn't trying to be one of those games. Perhaps that's why it's good. It was made for a specific group of people, and it targets that group fully.

Also, personally, I prefer fighting games to be a little move involved. However, often that means 'overly complicated'. The controls of SmackDown! are fairly simplistic. In general, there are four variations of each move, depending on whether you push up, down, right, or left, plus a move button. The actual move you perform depends on a number of factors: your position in the ring, or your opponent's health, among other things. What this all means is that when you do square off against a friend, you are not thinking about the combination of eight or nine buttons you'll need to press in order to perform your 'super-duper, deluxe combo'. Instead it's a simple matter of beating down your opponents through uncomplicated fun. That's not to say that this game has been dumbed down. It's just that it's all about the wrestling. It's not about learning each wrestler's special moves. It's not about button mashing. It's about the wrestling.

All that being said, I still found this game frustrating. Especially for a newbie like myself, having never played a SmackDown! game before. Like I said, I prefer my fighting game to be a little more involved, like DOA or Mortal Kombat (the arcade games, no one ever managed a good console conversion). But as complicated as those games can get, they still have a very forgiving learning curve. Maybe it's because I'm used to playing the other games, that I found the 'simple' controls, too simple. For the first few matches in story mode, I got my butt kicked. And I couldn't for the life of me pull off a finishing move. It seemed to me that the 'SmackDown! Icon' only appeared for a split second when I finally managed to build up the meter to full, and by the time I noticed it, it was too late. The 'simple' solution is to just hold down the button all the time, but it took me a while to figure that out; the idea goes against all of my other fighting game training. Plus, even that idea doesn't work all the time. Another gameplay issue that I found exceedingly annoying was the targeting. Often when you recover from a fall (and the other wrestler is coming right up on-top of you), just as you are pulling yourself off the ground, you might only have a split second to get in a counter move: You finally get up and find that for some stupid reason, you're targeting the Ref instead of the other guy! Meanwhile, you get clocked in the head and knocked back down. Sure it's funny to clothesline the Ref a few times, but not if it gets in the way of gameplay. And finally, the last 'frustration' point that I'll make is: that it takes WAY too long to pin someone. This point really goes against the 'steep learning curve' point that I mentioned earlier. You can play against someone whose never played before (or even against an opponent not even using the controller), and it still takes way too many hits to get them weak enough to pin. They even kick out automatically, without player interaction.

The back of the game-box advertises: "thousands of moves", "enhanced story mode", "70 match types", "authentic entrances", and "Tazz and Michael Cole call the action." Let's address that last point first. Someone chose to advertise this on the back of the back of the box? "Tazz and Michael Cole call the action." Maybe that point should have been left unsaid, literally. It's obvious that the cost of getting each of the over 36 wrestlers to offer their voices would be prohibitive. But the commentary in this game is awful. Seriously, terrible. Now that games are being developed on DVDs, there shouldn't really be any memory space issues like in the past. So why then, is the commentary so limited? It's not just that you tend to hear the same things over and over again every time you play a match. You actually hear the same things again and again during the same match! What exactly were the developers going for here? Whatever it was, It didn't work. Not to mention that it's a little weird watching Vince McMahon announcing a title match with subtitles.

On a brighter note we have the "70 match types" and "thousands of moves." Thousands? Who knows? I didn't count. But there ARE a lot of match types. And unlike every other wrestling game I've ever played, there IS a wide variety of moves. A thousand seems like a lot, but if that's what the producers are saying, I suppose I believe it. The "authentic entrances" consist of a mix of real footage from actual events, and some pretty good polygonal animations. The mannerisms, and moves are certainly authentic. And the character-mapped faces are better than I've seen in any of the current sports, or boarding titles on the market (except, maybe, for the hair). However, once you see the entrances the first time, I didn't really feel the need to watch any of them again (except for the female wrestler entrances, but that because of different reasons). However, you CAN skip them, so kudos to the developers for that one.

As I said, I have never tried another SmackDown title. Apparently one of the real gems of 'Know Your Role" was the story mode. That is not the case in 'Just Bring It'. The story mode consists of choosing a wrestler and fighting one match. If you win that match, you get a shot at the title. Win the title, and that's it. Game Over. Congratulations. If you chose a wrestler who already holds a title, there's only one match. Game Over, Congratulations. Isn't the whole point of wrestling the stories, and between match banter? Obviously the wrestling is important, but if that's all there was, there wouldn't be millions of people watching each week. If the people buying this game wanted just fighting in a ring, they'd by Mortal Kombat or Knockout Kings. But, I could be wrong. I'm still betting that even with the weak story mode in this game, it'll still be flying off the shelves. People will love it for 'just the wrestling', but it should have had a bit more 'story stuff'.

Now that I've brought up the concept of 'more', what more is there? Truthfully, a lot. Each time you win in story mode, it unlocks something new. The something new might just be an entrance video, or some mini-movie, or (more often than not) a new move, piece of clothing, or pair of shoes, all to use in the create-a-wrestler mode. It's the create a wrestler mode that I was referring to when I said there was "truthfully a lot more" to this game. It's the best character designer I've ever had the pleasure using. It was as good as some of the PC game character editor programs I've used. Actually reminded me a little of The Sims. You have control over nearly everything, even the type, and color of underwear you wrestler wears underneath their pants (or skirt.) Change the color of skin or hair, length of arms or legs, hairstyle, and more and more and more.

So, to recap. I did enjoy this game. It's very solid as far as wrestling games go. Fans should love it. Tons of moves, characters, and matches. These add much to my score of this game. The light story mode, and poor commentary drag the score down a bit. But the thing that really kills my score for this game is this: it take 4MB of memory space to save your game! That's right, 4MB. This game came out just before the holidays. The early 2002 sales should be huge. There are a lot of new PS2 owners out there. Those lucky people who got a new console for Christmas. But here's a common story: people get a brand new PS2, and the latest game as a present under the tree. But no one ever thinks to also buy a memory card. SO, just after Christmas, the sales of memory cards shoot through the roof. But let's face it, PS2 memory cards are not cheap. When I first got my PS2 over a year ago now, I was shocked. But, I thought to myself, it's 8MB, and that's a lot of space. These NEW owners are going to get SmackDown! as one of their first games. Then they're going to find that this one game takes up HALF the space on their overpriced cards. That's crazy. If the cards didn't cost as much as they did, then fine. It wouldn't be as big a deal. But basically this is like adding half the cost of a memory card to the cost of buying this game. That's not right. And it severely affects the overall score for this game.

HIGHS:

  • Loads of moves, way more than any other wrestling game
  • Excellent character design system
  • Made for fans

LOWS:

  • In-game commentary is terrible
  • Story mode is very unworked
  • Takes a HUGE amount of memory card space

FINAL VERDICT:

This isn't a game for the MASS market. It's made for wrestling fans. The important thing to note, however, is that there are millions and millions of wrestling fans out there. And those fans are going to love this game. It has all the moves, characters, and matches that the dedicated fan is looking for in a game. The face-mapping is great, the characters actually LOOK like the people they are supposed to be. The controls are simple and easy to pick up, although the gameplay is occasionally frustrating. There are tons of things to unlock, and an excellent create-a-wrestler mode. One major point that anyone buying this game should be aware of though is that it takes up 4MB on a memory card, so either buy a new card when you buy the game. Or, get ready to erase a bunch of other files to open up enough space for you save file.

Overall Score: 7.1

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