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ups: Everything a wrestling fan could want; great Create-a-Wrestler mode; season mode is actually worthwhile.
downs: Canned animations; commentary still sucks; can't use women in season mode.

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WWE Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth Review (PS2)
game: WWE Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth
four star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: THQ
developer: Yuke's Media Creations
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Dec 1st, 2002
last revision: 01:02 PM Sat Oct 29th, 2005

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Finally, The Rock is not on the cover of a wrestling game! The \"wrestler\" turned \"actor\" whose catchphrase gave birth to Smackdown on Thursday nights and four videogames isn\'t around WWE very much anymore, so it is nice to see Y2J, HHH, Angle, Brock, and Booker T get the cover spot. Tucked away inside the improved cover art, WWE Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth is a fantastic wrestling videogame that is definitely the best game in the Smackdown series and may even stand as the best wrestling game ever released that doesn\'t have to be imported from Japan.

The Smackdown series has always been known for its easy controls and arcade style gameplay. The first Smackdown game established the look of the series and introduced gamers to the fast paced gameplay. Smackdown 2: Know Your Role brought improved graphics and a ton of new match types such as Hell in a Cell and TLC. The third game in the series, Just Bring It, was basically just a prettier version of KYR, and many wrestling fans were very disappointed with it. Now the fourth game in the series has come out and it definitely makes up for Just Bring It. Shut Your Mouth has excellent graphics, a great story mode, a new reversal system, and an overall change in the pace of gameplay that makes it a lot more realistic than the other games in the series.

The season mode in Shut Your Mouth lasts through two years of WWE programming and follows some of the same storylines that have appeared on Raw and Smackdown over the last year or so. The only bad thing about season mode is that you can\'t use a female superstar, but other than that everything is pretty great. The first year of season mode starts off with the draft and allows you to draft for either Raw or Smackdown or just edit everything yourself. You can make everything true to life, or you can make the rosters reflect how you wish they were in real life. I chose to put all of my favorites on Smackdown and shipped all of the jobbers to Raw, for example, but you can set up your season any way you like. After the draft, you may be invited to be in the King of the Ring tournament, participate in a six man elimination tag match at Survivor Series, or even take part in the six man Hell in a Cell for the WWE Title that happened at Armageddon a couple of years ago. Storylines such as the \"Hair vs. Hair\" match against Kurt Angle, the return of the nWo, and the battle for ownership between Vince McMahon and Ric Flair are just some of the storylines you\'ll be a part of. The first year in season mode features storylines that should be pretty familiar, but the second year of the season will throw a few completely new things at you.

The ad campaign for Shut Your Mouth is probably pretty accurate. The ads state that these are \"The best storylines ever. Period. End of story.\" These really are the best storylines that have been put into a wrestling game. Sometimes there are a few inconsistencies, but it isn\'t really anything WWE hasn\'t already tried to pull. The nWo storyline in particular is kind of funny because it plays out exactly like it did in real life ? Vince talks about injecting his creation with poison and then turns around to reveal \"NWO\" written on the back of a chair ? and then the group debuts and announces that Shawn Michaels is their new leader. After about a month, the nWo disappears and is never heard from again, just like in real WWE.

Throughout the course of a season, you are given several opportunities to control your own storylines. When you aren\'t in a match, you are allowed to wander around backstage in first person mode and talk to any superstars you might find or even go to the big boss monkey men and ask for a title shot. Depending on what you say to the people you meet, you can spark new feuds or even find a new tag team partner. You can also choose to interrupt matches in order to solidify friendships or just to piss people off. Being able to choose your own adventure every now and then when you aren\'t involved in a pre-scripted storyline is pretty fun. I actually managed to sweet talk Triple H into forming a tag team with Chris Jericho (me) and we went on to win the tag titles. I also made sure I was as nice as possible to the divas I met which resulted in them accompanying me to the ring every now and then, and Trish Stratus even gave me a valentine. Overall, the season mode in Shut Your Mouth is well worth the effort. First of all, it is fun to relive all of the storylines, and secondly, you unlock new CAW parts and moves and new attire for all of the wrestlers whenever you win a match at one of the fourteen pay per views.

Enough about the story mode and on to the matches themselves. Shut Your Mouth is a completely different beast than any of the other Smackdown games. The pace of the game is noticeably slower than in previous titles. You don\'t run around quite so fast and you can no longer jump up right after Undertaker gives you the last ride. If you take a lot of punishment, your wrestler will lay on the mat for a rather realistic amount of time. This makes the matches much more dramatic as there are a lot more occasions where you and your opponent manage to kick out after they were seemingly gone for good. Another great change to the gameplay is that you have to actually work on a specific body part before a submission move will be effective.

Perhaps the biggest change to the gameplay is the new reversal system. Last year\'s game, Just Bring It, had a reversal system but it consisted of pressing the square button at the right time and the move would be reversed 99% of the time. In Shut Your Mouth, you have to press the directional button of the attack they are using on you. Not only do you have to guess correctly, but you also have to time it right. If you guess right, you\'ll be rewarded by a cool reversal animation and the chance to deal out some punishment of your own. If you guess wrong, you are penalized by your opponent being able to get a few extra hits in or your character going into a groggy state. Learning how to take advantage of reversals is vital to your success in the ring, but it is fairly easy to learn and is a great addition to the Smackdown series.

Another change to the gameplay found in Shut Your Mouth is that the weapon system has been reworked. When you hit someone with a chair, it actually does a tremendous amount of damage and can turn a match around very quickly. You can also do finishing moves with chairs such as RVD\'s Vandaminator, a DDT onto the chair, or the Guillotine move that Undertaker favored a few months back. You can now look under the ring for weapons and find tables, ladders, chairs, and even sledgehammers. Of course, you have to make sure the referee isn\'t looking when you use these tools or you will be disqualified. Having to either distract or just plain knock the ref unconscious adds a nice degree of strategy to matches. Another great thing about the weapons in Shut Your Mouth is that they actually deform when you use them. Chairs and trashcans bend and crumple when you use them. It is also easier than ever to perform moves on a table, and doing an F5 on someone through a table is exactly as satisfying as you have probably imagined it. You can also now remove the turnbuckle covers and throw your opponent into the exposed hardware. Throwing your opponent into the exposed turnbuckle will make them groggy and thus allow you to hit your special move rather easily. It is a bit of a cheap way to win, but it makes the Slobberknocker mode a hell of a lot easier.

All of these changes to the gameplay result in Shut Your Mouth standing out as the most realistic representation of fake wrestling you can buy. The slower pace of gameplay, the fact the wrestlers actually get worn down and can\'t just keep getting up, the improved submission system, the new reversal system, and the improved weapon system all work together to make Shut Your Mouth seem very realistic.

One thing that sort of spoils the realistic feel is that there isn\'t any sort of weight to strength ratio. It is pretty goofy when Stacy Kiebler can suplex Big Show. No Mercy managed to tackle this problem two years ago, so it is still a bit puzzling to see the Smackdown series not correct it. This takes away from the realism factor, but it doesn\'t make Shut Your Mouth any less fun, so it is just a minor complaint.

There are tons of match types in Shut Your Mouth. You can enter standard singles matches, tag matches, and hardcore matches as well as the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring tournament. The special matches are what have always made Smackdown really stand out and Shut Your Mouth has the best match options available anywhere. Cage matches can now be won by pinfall or submission as well as escaping from the cage. There are also elimination matches available that allow up to six people in a match. These are great for reliving past Survivor Series matches. Hell in a Cell is now full sized (finally!) and it is much easier to fall off the top of the cage. Pretty much any move can knock someone off the top of the cell, but it is also easy to make yourself fall off if you miss a move. There are Lumber Jack matches where four wrestlers surround the ring and deal out punishment whenever someone leaves the ring. There are also the rest of the matches you would expect, Table, Ladder, TLC, Street Fight, Slobberknocker, and many more. Ladder and TLC matches are better this year because two people can both be on the ladder and even perform moves on it. You can also grab onto and hang from the belt if the ladder is pulled away. The match options available in Shut Your Mouth are great and add a lot of variety to the game.

One thing that fans expect from the yearly update of Smackdown is an updated roster. Shut Your Mouth has almost everyone that has been on TV in the last six months or so. It is a bit ridiculous to me that wrestlers such as Diamond Dallas Page (retired), Shawn Stasiak (released), X-Pac (released), and Kevin Nash (only wrestled two matches this year and got severely injured in both of them) are included when other wrestlers like Rey Mysterio, Chris Nowinski, and Tommy Dreamer aren\'t in the standard character set. They are easy enough to make in the Create A Wrestler mode, but it is a bummer they aren\'t on the regular roster. Key additions to this year\'s game are Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Booker T, Brock Lesnar, Goldust, Rob Van Dam, The Hurricane, Ric Flair, and Tough Enough winner Maven. All of the characters look and act the part too. RVD and The Hurricane both have their unique stances and fighting styles and Chris Jericho has a ton of extra heel-ish animations. He slaps people around when they are down and takes every chance he can get to prove he is the king of the world. All of the characters have little extra moves like this that make them pretty darn close to their real life counterparts.

All of the moves and little added individual mannerisms are great, but there are some moves that launch into long strings of predetermined animations. Rob Van Dam, The Hurricane, and almost all of the other cruiserweights are big messes of canned animations. Sure, the moves all look great and the styles are matched perfectly, but you just don\'t feel like you have the same amount of control you have over other characters. Some of these canned animations consist of six or seven different moves and all you can do is sit there and watch. Not all of the characters have these sort of moves so this isn\'t a huge complaint, but I would have liked it better if I had more control over some of the wrestlers.

The Create A Wrestler (CAW) mode is back and better than ever. There are more parts available than ever before and now you have the option to morph the face of your created wrestler in order to get them to look exactly like you want them to. There are sample CAWs that range from aliens to exotic looking humans to WWE superstars who weren\'t included in the game such as Jamie Noble and John Cena. Also, some WWE superstars who aren\'t in the game are especially easy to make in CAW mode. All you have to do is put in all of the face parts that are the same number. Scott Hall\'s face parts are #7, Mick Foley is #11, and Tommy Dreamer is #16. There are several other superstars available this way as well. Of course, it is still up to you to give them the right clothing, but at least the faces are already done for you. There are also 58 pre-made move sets that are specifically made for certain real world wrestlers. Rey Mysterio Jr. is move set #18, Goldberg is #5, and Sergeant Slaughter is #58. There is a lot of fun to be had with the CAW mode besides making all of these real world wrestlers, though. I managed to make Goku from DBZ, Spider-Man, Solid Snake, myself, and all of my friends fairly easily. The only problem with the CAW mode is that there doesn\'t seem to be any way to give your created wrestlers teeth. They smile and \"talk\", but they don\'t have any teeth so it just looks like a giant pink hole in their face.

There is also a mode that allows you to create your own animation. Fighting, running, walking, winning, and taunt animations can all be completely customized. I made a pretty basic animation that consisted of the character banging his head and raising his hand and rocking out. Another animation I made was just completely goofy. The legs moved around like the character was dancing a jig, the arms flew around like windmills while the hands turned in the opposite direction. You can use this mode to make animations as funny or as realistic as you want. It is fairly easy to use, and is well worth it to completely customize your CAW.

The graphics in Shut Your Mouth are improved over Just Bring It in just about every way. The wrestlers are made using double the amount of polygons that were used for Just Bring It and it shows. The faces are very detailed now and the bodies have an overall smoother look to them. The female wrestlers are also a heck of a lot better looking than they were in JBI too. A lot more curvy and feminine looking than the horse faced cross dressers that were in JBI. The animation is also very smooth and looks great.

The arenas that you wrestle in are also much more detailed than before and there are eighteen different sets that represent Raw and Smackdown as well as all of the different pay per view events. You can\'t go into the crowd like you could in JBI, but that isn\'t a very big loss. The crowd looks better than before and has a pseudo 3-D look. The backstage area is modeled after Madison Square Garden and offers fourteen different areas to fight in ranging from the boiler room to the parking lot. In a great effect, the weather is different in the outside areas depending on what time of year it is in season mode. In the winter, there is snow on the ground, but the rest of the year the weather is pretty clear. Overall, the graphics are detailed, smooth, and look great. There are some instances of clipping around the ring ropes and some problems when two wrestlers of different heights square off, but these are problems that plague almost every wrestling game and aren\'t something that is likely going to be fixed any time soon.

The sound is the only area where Shut Your Mouth doesn\'t drastically improve over Just Bring It. The commentary, which was absolutely horrible in JBI, has been redone with JR and the King instead of Tazz and that assclown Mitchell Cole. JR and the King don\'t say nearly as much as Tazz and MC did and what they do say is a lot more relevant to the action and to storylines than before, but there still isn\'t nearly enough of it so you\'ll hear the same things over and over and over. Luckily, you can turn off the commentary when it really starts to grate on you. In a nice touch, there is now a ring announcer that announces the matches and then introduces the wrestlers complete with their name, weight, and hometown. Some of the wrestlers also recorded a few things, but nothing too huge. You\'ll hear Ric Flair say \"Whoooo!\", Booker T call you a \"Suckah\", and The Rock ask \"If you smell-la-la-la, what The Rock is cookin?\". The sounds of wrestling are also very good. Punches and kicks and chair shots and body slams all sound realistic and help the great graphics and animation to make these moves seem like they are very painful.

The music is another aspect that is vital for a wrestling game to get right. Almost all of the entrance music you hear on TV is included in Shut Your Mouth. The only wrestlers that don\'t have the right music are the Hardy Boyz and Maven. Everyone else has the right music and it sounds great. I got goose bumps the first time I watched Hogan\'s entrance to \"Voodoo Child\" by Hendrix. Alternate themes are available for some characters as well. \"Real American\" is included for old school Hogan fans and you can also listen to Kurt Angle\'s music with or without the \"You Suck\" chants. The Raw and Smackdown theme songs, performed by The Union Underground and Marilyn Manson, are also included in the game. The music that plays during matches is the typical blaring electric guitar found in most wrestling games. Other than the commentary, which is still pretty crappy, the sound in Shut Your Mouth is great.

A few technical issues have also been fixed in Shut Your Mouth. In last year\'s game, the load times were unbearably long. The load times in Shut Your Mouth are much quicker. Another problem with JBI last year was that it took over half of a memory card just to save your game and it took about two minutes. This year, the game only takes up 228 kb and saving and loading your data take only a couple of seconds. The long load times and huge save files made Just Bring It a pain in the butt to play, so it is with great joy that I can say Shut Your Mouth fixed these problems and allows you to get into and out of matches in mere seconds instead of minutes.

Overall, WWE Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth is the most enjoyable wrestling game I have ever played. There are a few areas where the game can be improved, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. The graphics and sound are top notch and the gameplay is as solid as ever. The reversal system and improved submission system make the game a lot deeper and a lot more strategic than previous Smackdown games. I know what a lot of people are going to say and I do realize that No Mercy on the N64 did all of this first, but Shut Your Mouth simply does everything better. This game oozes WWE out of every pore and no matter what your opinion of the current state of WWE is you will still enjoy this game. Just like every other wrestling game, Shut Your Mouth is an excellent party game. Up to six people can play at once and whether you are a fan of WWE or not, it is pretty hard not to enjoy beating up on your friends in such a zany, over the top exhibition. Shut Your Mouth is a must buy title for fans of the Smackdown series and is definitely worth checking out for even the most die hard No Mercy or Fire Pro Wrestling fan.

Eric Qualls (12/01/2002)

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