Review: WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain (PS2)

Smackdown — Just Bring It was THE first game I got for my PS2. In fact, on that fateful Christmas morning almost 2 years ago, I unwrapped Smackdown first, owing to an error in logistics by my lovely wife. Mechanics-wise it was no No Mercy, but there were some aspects I liked better. I liked the inclusion of Hell in a Cell matches. I liked the less-cartoonish character models. Controllability suffered a tiny bit, but it was relatively easy to deal with.

When SD: Shut Your Mouth came out I actually pre-ordered it, and it didn’t disappoint, especially the new and improved season mode — easily the best I had ever seen. True, matches were put together a bit haphazardly; but, as Raw 2 showed, it’s definitely more frustrating to err the other way, when you can’t finish a match without getting interfered with, and having all of your PPV’s taken up with a stupid feud with Torrie Wilson that JUST WON’T BLOW OFF. The CAW mode of the last two versions has been phenomenal. Editing down to the most nauseously minute detail. It was so good that it ruined me, and as a reviewer that’s a good thing. Now that I know what can be done, I’m a lot less forgiving to those who don’t do it. See also Backyard Wrestling.

I get mail all the time from people asking me how I can be such a fan of the Smackdown franchise. Are you going to come out and tell me that Raw is better? Wrestlemania, perhaps? No, nobody ever points to either of those games, they all just bring up No Mercy. Hey, I love No Mercy, I really do. But you have to come to grips with the fact that it’s for an OLD system. I’m not saying it’s not great, I’m saying that the Smackdown line is the best of what’s available right now, unless you want to count Def Jam Vendetta. (Frankly, I’m praying that EA Big does agree to do an NWA:TNA game, because it would almost certainly use the DJV engine, and that could potentially blow EVERYTHING away.)




Game: WWE Smackdown — Here Comes The Pain
Platform: PS2
Developer: Yuke’s
Distributor: THQ
Elapsed Time Creating First CAW: 1 hour 10 minutes (but I cut some corners)

STORY

This year’s Season Mode has some simple, but much appreciated improvements over last year’s. Remember that the Season Mode that came out last year was considered an unqualified success, so that should set the tone for THIS section. First of all, the “brand extension” is finalized, so no hopping shows in the middle of the month like you did last year. The mode starts out with a canned cut-scene featuring your character of choice in a pretty good replica of the awesome WWE video promos. This one has you talking (well, the text at the bottom of the screen reading, at least) about why you’re a wrestler. It’s in black-and-white, and I have to admit it’s a nice way to start. It almost feels like someone is trying to put you over a little bit.

Then you get into the meat of being a newbie: jobbing. Now, I haven’t completed a full season yet, so I’m not sure if the Season Mode runs one season, two, or more; but I hope it’s two or more because a side effect (apologies to Matt Hardy) of the new mode is that you don’t necessarily have a match every single week. This brings me to one thing I wish they had changed: the shows (even the PPVs) are all still THREE matches long. Now, I realize that with the current round of McMahon-mania, this isn’t as far from the truth as it once was, but I would have appreciated a slightly expanded card.

Anyway, depending on whose career you’re controlling, you could start anywhere from contending for the heavyweight title (if you’re The Rock) to curtain-jerking with the types of Rodney Mack and Batista (if you’re a Created Character). Suffice it to say, it’s a little easier to compete with an established character, so newbies may want to play through a season or two with their favorite WWE Supastah before creating themselves and entering the fray. (I’ll have more on this later.) By beating opponents you earn superstar points, indicating how “over” you are, a la pretty much every wrestling game right now; experience points, which you can spend to increase attributes; and money, which can be used to unlock new movesets, outfits, arenas and characters for the game. While I really like condition-based unlockables, this is a great improvement given the frustration of last year’s version. I STILL haven’t unlocked everything from Shut Your Mouth.

Before each show, you start out at your locker. There you can go around the building and talk to people (another nice improvement, you don’t actually have to wonder the friggin’ building forever. From the locker, it gives you a menu of different locations in the building AND who, if anyone is at those locations. The GM’s office is almost always occupied (and you can bug the GM, like you did the owners last year, for title shots and the like) but other places are often grayed out. If someone IS available to talk to, you can be sure that it won’t just be a pleasure conversation.

Every talk is a potential storyline, and there will almost certainly be repercussions for your actions. I once got punked out by Jericho after a talk and lost a superstar point for getting beat up (it wasn’t a game fight, the cut-scene ended with him punching me out and that was that). Another time, Uncle Eric mediated a heated discussion between me and Bubba Ray (he was a little sore; we had just won the World Tag Titles from them) and by stepping off; I got 5 experience points for “earning Bischoff’s trust.” Yet another time, Goldberg challenged me to “show him what I’ve got” and we fought in the workout room. Checking out who’s around to talk to is important; because, like I said, there are weeks where you’re not on the card, and by talking to people, you can get yourself some action you normally wouldn’t have.

Anyway, back to the locker. You can also go to the ShopZone to spend some of that money on unlockables, you can spend your experience points on upgrading your attributes, you can check out your bio, or you can make or change stables. When you’re done with that then you can start the night’s scheduled card. You can’t go back once you start the card, though; and that’s what makes checking to see if there are people to talk to so important.

The storylines themselves are a nice block-point change from last year’s version. They seem to give a little more face time to the stories and the booking makes a whole hell of a lot more sense. After winning the Tag team titles, Vince booked us for a title defense at the next Raw PPV. Of course, being faces, he wanted us to lose. So as a build up, he booked a match with one of the guys we’d be defending against, Ric Flair. The catch is that he was at ringside, in Flair’s corner. He interfered and I lost, prompting my partner to beat him up after the bell, which got him suspended, which landed me in a match the next show against the other guy we were defending against (Batista) with the stipulation that if I won, the suspension on my partner (Steve Austin, go figure) would be lifted. It all just seemed to flow a little better.

Story: 7.5/10

GRAPHICS

Not quite the jump in character fidelity between Just Bring It, and Shut Your Mouth, but still an improvement. In particular, the models of the women are starting to look like the women they’re supposed to represent. True story: one of the load screens features stills of Bischoff and Stephanie, and for the first few times I saw it I assumed they were digitized still photographs. Then I looked closer and realized that they were stills of the faces of the MODELS. Yes, Steph’s virtual self actually passed for her corporeal self. Of course, a lot of the models needed no improvements over last year, and a lot of the models are still not quite right, and some things STILL don’t look very good. Stone Cold still looks like Stone Cold, Jericho still doesn’t quite look like Mistah Irvine, and HBK coming down the ramp in his red plate-mail-y getup was bad enough to make me edit this section.


There really wasn’t an increase in graphical fidelity among any aspect of the game. You can tell the graphics engine is exactly the same, they just refined a lot of the models, and that’s fine. MORE than fine. Changing graphics engines always has the side “¦ secondary effect of causing some of the new models to be “¦ well “¦ off. Refining the models in the engine they already have is far safer and potentially more effective, since the programming team would have a great deal of familiarity with it by now. Pity they didn’t do that with all of the models.

The clipping/spacing problems are still there, especially with the women wrestlers and heavily form-edited CAW. The bra and panties match in particular was a bit ugly. Trish Stratus looked like Mesmero the Mentalist trying to get Sable’s shirt off using telekinesis.

My favorite addition has to be the new moves added for this year. They’ve kept pretty much everything from before (including that wussy-ass “Russian Neck Drop.” Yuke’s, I beggin’ ya. Rent a copy of No Mercy and just check out their Russian Neck Drop. That’s all I want. Really.) but have added new moves not only to accommodate new characters (I LOOOOOVE Goldberg’s Spear) but to fill out the personalities of existing characters. Case in point, they’ve added a suplex for The Rock where, afterwards he sits on the ground and does his little applause to himself thing. I’m sure Haley will mark out hard for that, just like I did. They added a lot of moves like that; that end with a character-specific taunt and it really helps the game feel less like a game and more like a wrestling match. They’ve also added some new moves just to make them look more brutal. My new favorite move: The Running STO. To steal a phrase from J.R., OH MY GOD!! It’s like High-Impact Hap-Ki-Do (and Hap-Ki-Do practitioners will find the humor in that statement) and it looks positively BRUTAL. They’ve added enough new moves as is that I spent most of my character creation time just looking for them all, and I haven’t even unlocked any of the additional movesets yet. Hell, maybe MY Russian Neck Drop is in there after all.

Not much change in the graphics, other than the additions of new stuff. I really would’ve like to have seen some more realistic faces, but I’m happy to say that none of them (my CAW aside) are hideous.

Graphics: 6.5/10

SOUND

For those of you that hate the color commentary, your ship has come in. This year, Yuke’s has decided to scrap the voiceovers entirely. J.R. and King were a little understated last year, anyway (at least, compared with the horrible Cole/Tazz engine of the year before) so this is the next logical step. Surprisingly enough, they’re not missed.

The biggest travesty of the year in terms of sound is that THQ apparently didn’t want to pay for licensing some of the proprietary music so we’re getting cheap knock-offs for RVD’s and Victoria’s entrance music and we’re defaulting back to the Dudley’s old theme instead of the cool Powerman 5000 music they’ve used for the better part of a year now. Considering that “One of a Kind” is one of my favorite workout songs, I am considerably pissed about this. At least with Raw 2 you have the option of custom soundtracks. Here, you’re just screwed.

Menu music and such is about the same as last year, which is to say not terribly annoying.

In-game sounds are more vivid, sharper. They’re not fundamentally different, but it just sounds like they’re mic-ing the mats better. Everything just sounds more violent, and that’s a Good Thing. A good solid slam sound does a lot to sell a move. A move that doesn’t look terribly impressive but sounds impressive becomes impressive. Call it the “falling toddler” effect (which I can attest to, having one of my own). Sometimes he falls but you can tell he catches himself and the result is that it doesn’t look or sound painful. Sometimes it LOOKS like he catches himself, but you get a solid *thwack* and you instinctively jump because you’re sure that he nailed his head on the ground or something. That is, the severity of the sound caused you to assume the fall was worse than it looked. That is a very important principle in professional wrestling and it’s nice to see it employed here.

Sound: 6/10

CONTROL

Oh boy. New control configuration. Cry havoc and set loose the dogs of bitching (pardon the pun). But, wait “¦ it’s not really different. The only real changes are the new grapple mechanism and the new reversal mechanism. Everything else is the same. X still punches (with directional arrow adding variety, natch), circle still grapples, triangle still runs. Reversals have moved from the Square to the L2 and R2 buttons. Now, L2 reverses strike attacks and R2 reverses grapples (a welcome change which has greatly improved the ability of the new gamer to reverse moves, thank you). Reversing signature moves is easier now. You do this by pressing L2 and R2 simultaneously; and, unless I’m mistaken, it isn’t necessary to possess a Smackdown icon to block a Smackdown move now, you just have to have good timing. Square is now used for a lot of the miscellaneous actions, like tagging in, climbing in and out of the ring, grabbing and dropping weapons and such, and I like the new configuration, if just for the increased ease in tag matches.

The big change is the grapple mechanism. They’ve added a couple of layers of grapple-ness to the whole thing, but it’s not the weak-grapple/strong-grapple we’ve seen in other franchises (apologies to Shane Douglas). First of all, which direction arrow you hold while you grapple determines the TYPE of grapple you execute. Circle + UP is your Submission grapple. Circle + RIGHT is your Speed grapple. Circle + DOWN is your Power grapple. Last but certainly not least, Circle + LEFT is your Signature grapple. Now, each grapple actually looks different, thanks to the initial grapple being a little mini-attack in and of itself. You can even edit these in the CAW. Once that is finished, you hit a direction+Circle combination again to initiate the specific move, OR you can hit X+direction to initiate a striking attack specifically out of the grapple.

Each grapple type gives you different move choices in the CAW. The Submission grapple isn’t purely submission moves, but also moves designed to wear down a specific body part to set up for a submission later. Speed moves have more of your cruiserweight-type moves than the others. Power “¦ figure it out. Signature, if I’m not mistaken, has everything in the other grapples and a bit more. There’s a fair bit of overlap among the different grapple movesets; some DDT types are both in Speed and Submission, for example, but each set does have a specific purpose and feel and I love the increased move choices.

If I can rant a little bit here, one of the things that really annoyed me about the predecessors was that mysterious “G1″ groggy state that you hardly ever saw. If you stood somebody up to grapple them, you were automatically at “G2″. If you grappled them standing, they were usually not groggy at all. You had to smack the guy hard enough to make him just a little groggy, but not hard enough to knock them down. It was kind of frustrating, although I made the best of it by putting the moves I considered signatures in that group, so that I wouldn’t see more than one or two in any given match. Okay, end of rant.

The new grapple mechanism may sound confusing, and it was a little confusing for the first five minutes of play, and then it was no problem. I actually like it now, not only for the larger moveset, but because the transitional grapples make the game feel more like a real wrestling match than a wrestling game. It’s another example of taking something good and just making it a little better.

Oh, taunts have moved to the right analog stick; something that will be familiar to all of those No Mercy players out there.

Smackdowns are still done the same way: L1. Now it’s R1 + L1 if you want to rip off your opponents signature move, and yes, you still need two Smackdown icons to do it.

There is one more significant change to control, and that’s the new submission engine. Once you wear down an opponent’s body part enough, a little battle-bar will come up when you apply a submission move. Then we’re into button tapping. It’s your submission ability against your opponents as you have a few seconds (actually a number of seconds equal to your Submission Rating) to try and get your opponent to tap out. You hit the buttons and try to push the dot on the battle-bar to “Submit”, while your opponent fights towards “Escape.” If you’re near the ropes, a little “Rope” arrow will even come up, giving your opponent a shorter distance to have to move the dot to escape (I also gotta give props to the rope grabbing animation when a player in a submission actually makes the ropes. It’s another Little Thing that makes a difference). Now, after that set number of seconds your character will still break the hold on his own, but now the rationale is that your character is only strong enough to hold that submission for that length of time, so even that is a bit more believable.

As for the total package of playing, it plays a lot like Shut Your Mouth, but more difficult, even on the Easy setting. You can now target specific body parts for damage. In fact, each character has a little figure in his/her corner of the screen that shows how badly each part is damaged. This addition allows, and almost requires, more strategy out of the players, especially those that specialize in submissions. Some players will still have issue with the grappling; one of the chief gripes I’ve heard from Smackdown players is that the CPU seems to be able to grapple from further away; but I have never seen a wrestling game that wasn’t that way to some degree. Here Comes The Pain, like it’s predecessors isn’t that bad in my opinion.

Control: 7.5/10

REPLAYABILITY

Between the plethora of match types and the excellent story modes (comparatively), Smackdown games have always had a great deal of replayability in my opinion, more than any other of the WWE games. Making the unlockables cost-based instead of condition-based is probably an improvement, since the task of having to go through a season five times, winning EVERY SINGLE TIME to unlock everything was a bit daunting.


The specialty matches, especial HIAC have always been staples of replayability for my crew. The didn’t dink with that too much, except to grow the breakable panels on top of the cell from 1 to 2, and now, before one breaks, it’ll bow a little bit, so it’s not such a crapshoot as to when it’s going to go. The Elimination Chamber match was actually fun. You can break the Plexiglas, climb up on the chambers and such. My favorite part was when I toss the Undertaker into the side of the cage.

The big disappointment is the Bra and Panties match, thanks to the aforementioned spacing problems with the graphics. It was definitely distracting. The gameplay itself was pretty good, though I don’t see this really becoming a staple of my crew’s gaming sections. That may just be because we’re co-ed, so judge for yourself.

Unlocking the rest of the bonus characters will definitely help replayability, but that may only be true for us late 20’s/early 30’s fans who remember the glory days of Hillbilly Jim. Younger fans may not care that much, even IF Superfly Snuka was THE MAN back in the day. Another little Good Thing: You can play the legend characters in career mode. Those of you not happy because Snuka or Piper never got the heavyweight title can now go and right some wrongs. I know I will.

I guess the bottom line is that there are enough goodies to keep this playable for quite some time.

Replayability: 6.5/10

BALANCE

Wrestling games, like other sports games, have to have a good balance of single-player and multi-player modes to be successful. It has to be able to draw in the solitary player as well as the group slam-fest. (As a side note, has anyone else noticed that none of the wrestling games have gone online yet? Does anybody else find this weird?) This Smackdown and the last one were excellent in giving both single players and multiple players reasons to pop in this game. I still remember the day we figured out we could do the 5-Star Frog Splash from the top of the King of the Ring set. Cris and I spent HOURS splashing people through tables.

Nothing much has changed in that regard. The single player stuff is a bit better, and the new characters add a new wrinkle to your multi-player slugfests. Otherwise it plays pretty much the same. That is to say that there is an absolute glut of match types and characters to choose from. And when you’re tired of that, you could get creative with the CAW or the Create-An-Animation engines. Not much has changed in gameplay, plus even more characters and modes, equals maintaining a pretty good score.

Balance: 7/10

ORIGINALITY

And how original can a wrestling game be? Really.

I say that a lot about “¦ pretty much every game I review. Aside from the odd home run of a game, ALL games follow some sort of formula for success. Technical innovation drives originality, as it’s always done, I suppose. GTA3 is a heavily over-used example of this but damn if it doesn’t apply. Without the ability to create that expansive world, that genre just didn’t exist. Now it does. Fancy that.

Niche games like this or sports games are even worse, because there is a certain expectation of the target public; and if they don’t hit that, the game maker is screwed. Smackdown, fortunately, has been able to avoid getting stale after all these years, because Yuke’s make a point to make at least a couple of major changes every year. This year it was the submission engine, classic characters, and the inclusion of the Bra and Panties match (like anybody was really hyped about the Elimination Chamber match. It’s a good match, but look at the target demographic). I can’t fault them here for trying to reach they’re target audience, and in truth they did a great job of fixing the little annoying things from Shut Your Mouth. If they had just done that, I would have given them an average score. The improvements are enough to push it into above-average status with me.

Originality: 6/10

ADDICTIVENESS

I have a measure of this when I’m reviewing a game. It’s called the “Oh, shit it’s late” factor and it’s based on when I actually turn-off the game and go to bed compared to when I intended to turn off the game and go to bed. Zelda games are notoriously bad (or good, as the case may be) at the OSIL test; but, for me, getting caught up in a season of Smackdown is close. There is a certain degree of tedium associated with these games, but Yuke’s has done a good job of alleviating that tedium by having different logic types for each character. This is something that goes back a couple of generations, but seems to be executed a little better each time. For example, I ran over the top of Batista simply by playing keep away and wearing him down until I could slap a Sharpshooter on him. Next match I got my ass kicked by Ric Flair, because I tried to do the same thing, and when was the last time you saw Ric Flair tap out? Hey, I love to win every match, and I was a bit pissed when I lost that one (I consoled myself that Vince’s intereference actually cost me the match. Yeah, right) but I appreciated the style differences.

I’m really looking forward to playing this game more. I’m so impressed with the new moves that I can’t wait to unlock the other movesets and see what else is available. After that, I’m looking forward to exploring the clothing options in the CAW a bit more fully. Then I’ll create Veronica’s character and form a stable and see what that does in Career mode. Somewhere in there I’m sure Cris will come over and we’ll bust up Hell-in-a-Cell and TLC and Elimination Chamber matches until our eyeballs bleed. Of course, we’re all wrestling marks, so we’re naturally going to be addicted to this sort of thing. But that’s not a knock against Yuke’s, because their target was our demographic all along. If the game is good enough that we want to keep playing it, they’ve done their job. As it is, I’m squarely in the target audience BUT old enough to know better and I still can’t wait to get home tonight and play this game some more.

Addictiveness: 7/10

APPEAL FACTOR

And that leads us here. Is this game just for wrestling marks? You know, I hadn’t followed wrestling for years until I rented some of the Acclaim WWF games for the N64 (you can start laughing “¦ NOW!). I rented them on a lark and found them fun enough that I started getting interested in the product itself again.

I don’t suppose we can count on scores of people giving Here Comes The Pain a rent “just because.” Those that do happen to pick it up, especially if they start by playing against friends and not the CPU, will find it fun, I think. And if they can get wrapped up in the CAW mode, then they’re journey to the Dark Side will be complete.

With wrestling as a whole in a down cycle right now; this game, like ANY wrestling game, will be lucky if it can break out of it’s proscribed niche. It really doesn’t have anything feature-wise to help it make that leap.

Appeal Factor: 5/10

MISCELLANEOUS

I promised to be objective about this, and I think I was. That being said, I love this game and am glad the Powers That Be convinced me to buy it. It’s funny that I griped so much about Shut Your Mouth here, because I still like it a lot. The story mode was better than any thing previously done; it just had a bunch of little issues that got annoying after a while. Sometimes all you have to do to make a good game great is fix the little things and Here Comes The Pain does that all over the place.

First of all, I REALLY like the new moves, particularly the ones with taunts built in. I played a couple of games as The Rock and they captured him in all of his heel glory. He was applauding himself, pointing at his head, giving somebody the blow-off (yes, there’s a grapple move where all you do is turn away with your nose in the air. The opponent then grabs your shoulder and Rock spins back around, pulling his shoulder away and yelling.), it was wonderful.

After playing wrestling games for a while, you start to notice the differences between the game and the show. Not only are there not that many clean wins on the show, but there was a decided lack of personality in the characters during the match. Now, with a GREATLY expanded grapple mechanism, you have room to put some of those “Attitude” moves in your movesets and not feel like you’re sacrificing fighting ability. I can’t say this strongly enough: The new moves and the new grapple engine do more to make this feel like a real pro wrestling match than any other innovation I’ve seen. It was a bit of a gamble but it pays off big in my book.

The safer bet was the inclusion of the classic characters, and I love that too; especially the fact that Roddy Piper is not only in the game but is playable right out of the box. I loved beating up on Triple H with Piper. There was just something right about it. Not to get too far off track, but does anyone else think that Roddy Piper was, more or less, the prototype for Steve Austin? He was a brawler, and a guy that was so obnoxious that people LOVED to watch what he would do, even as a heel. A bad guy with charisma shooting out of every orifice. Anyway, they did right with the classics. Piper, Hillbilly Jim, Snuka, Old-School Undertaker, George “The Animal” Steele, Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik, and the Greatest Tag Team Of All Time, God rest Hawk’s soul. And for those that care, there is no Hulk Hogan, but there ARE all of his moves, including the no-sell-the-punches grapples so those that want to make him can go right ahead and take that trip down Nostalgia Blvd.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the new “weight detection” feature. I haven’t had much experience with it (that’s a good thing, since it should really only be in effect for extreme cases anyway) but I know it’s there because Roddy Piper could not body slam Test for the life of me. I thought that may be pushing it just a little bit “¦ Piper ain’t that small and Test ain’t that big. My created character had no problem slamming Batista, though, so it stops before things get silly.

The new matches were the big selling point this time around, and you’ve already heard me talk about them a little bit. I was definitely impressed with the E.C. match. It went off just like it should, with two starting (and one of them isn’t necessarily your character, thank God) and another one being let out every minute. They even have the little strobe light thing when they let someone out. You can climb the chambers, you can smash people into the cage, you can whip them into the Plexiglas and break it, it was cool. Maybe not HIAC cool, but cool nonetheless.


The Bra and Panties match? Gih. I hoped for better. The clipping/spacing problem is just unavoidable, and digitized breasts “¦ well “¦ that’s been covered elsewhere on this site. It ain’t DOA: Extreme Beach Volleyball, and it sure as hell ain’t what you can get for free off the internet. It’s more of a novelty for the teenage set than a hardcore match type, and I suppose that’s okay; but for all the hype they gave to it, you’d think they would have made Virtual Torrie Wilson look a little better.

There is one other thing I’ve got to gripe about. In the new CAW, once you set your created character’s initial attributes, they are set in stone. No editing whatsoever. You can add points in season mode, of course, but if you make a character and then realize you screwed up with the attributes, you basically have to start all over. BIG HINT for those of you who plan to play your CAWs in HCTP: Start with at least a 5 in Strength (you won’t be able to start much higher than that, anyway). Strength determines how much damage your moves “¦ ANY of your moves “¦ do to your opponent. I made the mistake my first go-round setting my Strength at 2, thinking that my superior speed and submission skills would carry me. Uh-uh. I would smack around opponents for minutes at a time and have them get right back up. In that fight with Goldberg backstage, all things being equal, I would’ve kicked his ass HARD with all of the offense I got in, but because my Strength was at 2, he basically shrugged off everything I threw at him off and he eventually wore me down for the pin. Kinda like Homer Simpson as a boxer.

Playing CAWs in Season mode may prove a bit frustrating for some gamers, simply because you’re FORCED to start with lower stats than everybody else. The bright side is that you can count on winning enough experience to up a stat by a half point every single time you win, so provided you can get the wins rolling, it will just get easier as time progresses. Truth be told, I kind of like it that way. It better represents a newbie’s experience in the WWE I think. You start at the bottom of the card, you work your way up, getting intermediate titles along the way. Eventually, you’re popular enough and good enough to start vying for the heavyweight title. It’s better than Raw just because you’re able to finish a match without four people running in on you. It may not be as free-form as Raw, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m certainly glad I don’t have to defend myself in a locker-room brawl every week, or steal things out of people’s lockers to unlock things. After a while doing that you start to feel like either a klepto or a stalker.

There’s space for 32 created wrestlers, so start measuring your friends’ dimensions now. Or don’t. Actually, that sounded kind of creepy, didn’t it. Let’s move on.

This game just embodies the concept of the Little Things theory of excellence, and that’s why I’m giving it so many points here. I got e-mails that told me that this game was going to be nothing more than Shut Your Mouth with a couple of new features. In the strictest sense I guess that’s true; but looking at all the little additions made, it’s hard to not acknowledge that this is its own game. The personality is different, the story mode is different, all just by tweaking and fixing what already existed. It may not be the classic that No Mercy was, but anyone who would blow this game off because of that is doing a grave disservice to themselves. Give it a try, guys.

Miscellaneous: 8/10

Average Rating: 6.5/10

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