THQ has done their best to imitate the glitz and glamorous testosterone-enhanced soap opera with their latest wrestling effort, WWF Smackdown, which will be released in Qi aooo. Smackdown, developed by Yukes, has as much going on in the ring as out of it. A television-style presentation allows you to witness backstage plots as they unfold. WWF superstars will plan ways to undermine your wrestling skills with acts of betrayal and surprise.
The game moves very quickly (it uses the Toukon Retsuden engine, the most popular and refined wrestling series in Japan), and all of the wrestlers you see on TV are present with loads of moves and all the finishers to bring the flash bulb-happy fans to their feet. More on Smackdown later.
Download WWF Smackdown
PlayStation folks always got the crappy end of the stick when it came to THQ wrestling games. Nitro? Thunder? No thanks. Give us Revenge or Wrestlemania any day. But now, with Yuke's (they're famous for their Touken Retsuden wrestling series in japan) on PS development duties for THQ, you may forget all about the word "Acclaim." First, let's talk about how the game looks.
The venues look great and are incredibly detailed. You can almost see into the far, beer-drenched corners of the stadiums. You'll notice other nice little touches, like the multiple shadows from the arena lights to how realistically the ropes react as 260-pound men bounce around the mat. The character models themselves are pretty decent; they're smoothly animated. The collision detection, one of the biggest problems with today's wrestling games, also seems to be fairly accurate at this point of development. SmackDown belongs to the "simple gameplay" school of thought. In other words, you won't have to memorize any joystick combinations like you have to for Nitro, Thunder, War Zone or Attitude.
It's just a simple button press and an up, down, right or left for most of your moves. In those regards, SmackDown plays more like Mayhem or Wrestlemania than anything, which is a good thing if you just want to jump right into the ring and start piledriving with any of the game's 35 characters.
THQ and Yuke's made extra sure to not only deliver a solid game engine, but a truly satisfying wrestling experience as well. Story line (the only reason why this "sport" is so damn popular) plays a big part in SmackDown (see sidebar for more details). You can also play in special referee matches (as seen on television). These guest officials may help or hinder you. If you have an extra controller, you can even play as the ref! From what we've seen so far, SmackDown is better than all competing products on the PlayStation, except in a couple of areas. First, the game doesn't move as fast as Mayhem does (perhaps that title's best quality). Second, the create-a-wrestler bit still isn't up to Acclaim's standards. "This create-a-wrestler mode will be deeper than Wrestlemania's," says Sanders Keel, producer on WWF SmackDown. "But we wanted to concentrate on the one-player game, the moves and the realism, not a create-a-wrestler mode that will let you make big and goofy clowns." Wait a minute. Aren't all pro wrestlers, in essence, big and goofy clowns? If you still like wrestling games, you will not be disappointed when SmackDown arrives this March.
It plays very well and has raised the bar for the genre with a very involving one-player experience. From what we've seen so far, this will be the ultimate wrestling title for the PlayStation.
Wrestling titles went stale last year, with new games being nothing more than miniscule updates of previous editions. Thankfully, THQ is bringing us SmackDown!, a game that really pushes the genre to the next level. This disc should really please wrestling fans, because it does the best job of any game so far of bringing home that wrestling soap-opera feel. With the backstage activities, personal vendettas, special referee matches (if you play as the ref, you can decide how slowly or quickly you want to count someone out!) and more, this has that certain RPG feel/interaction missing in all other titles so far (though it could be done better). Even better, the game engine far surpasses anything else on the market. Not only does SmackDown! put all others to shame graphically, it's fast, it controls well and it has incredible collision detection. You know how in other games, you can't hit an opponent because a.) you don't have him targeted or b.) he's in the middle of an animation (like getting up) that isn't programmed to be recognized by attacks? Well, with SmackDown!, you can hit pretty much everyone, if they're within range. (I once knocked down three guys with one roundhouse punch.) You can also attack folks in just about any situation or animation. This is a great engine with a lot of frills backing it.
SmackDown! has more depth and personality than any wrestling game I've played. For starters, the story line incorporates enough WWF shtick to satisfy any fan. Realistic venues complete with TV-style camera work and animated crowds charge the circus atmosphere to an impressive level. The move interface is the best feature however. No combos, just direction and one button--it works well. SmackDown! is a must-buy for wrestling fans.
Acclaim and EA, look out. SmackDown! is the new wrestlefest to beat-and it's not just 'cause this thing looks so much better than the competition. The ultra-fast gameplay and quick-change camera angles really get your blood pumpin', while collision detection is nearly dead-on. You get all the modes you could want (you can even play as the ref). SmackDown! also manages to capture some of the soap-opera-style story elements of the real WWF.
SmackDown! is the play mode- and option-filled, graphically impressive wrestling game fans of the sport have been waiting for. Sure, sequels and new versions of wrestling games from various companies have been fun, but there was never really much to set them apart from their predecessors. Not the case in SmackDown!. In addition, the thing controls like a dream, and I like how you can hit anybody at any time. If I only watched wrestling on TV.