Thursday, 22 February 2018

GAME REVIEW: WWE Smackdown - Shut Your Mouth - PS2

Released: October/November 2002


WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Maven

I've been looking forward to spending some time with WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth for some time now, not because I had any preconceived ideas about what the game may be like, nor because I had such a good time playing WWF Smackdown!  Just Bring It, but for another reason entirely: 

This particular game comes from a time when I wasn't watching pro wrestling at all.

You see, whilst I do consider myself a life-long fan of this weird and wonderful world we call the professional wrestling industry, there was a time in the early 2000s when watching grown men roll around in their underpants was the last thing on my mind.

Funnily enough, that time period just so happened to coincide with the period of my life when I discovered girls and alcohol and rock 'n' roll concerts. So whilst the likes of Brock Lesnar, the Smackdown Six, and the ill-fated Invasion angle were all dominating TV screens, I was out getting drunk and mostly failing to get any action.

So I've got a lot of catching up to do, which is one of the reasons why I started Retro Pro Wrestling in the first place, and the reason why I'm so looking forward to playing a game that will give me some insight as to what WWE was like during our time apart.

Still, you're not here to read about me, you're here to read about WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth, so let's get on with that, shall we?

First Impressions 

As you'll tell from the image above, we're playing with the European version of the game here, so we've got a vastly different cover from the one you're probably used to if you're in North America. 

Still, as far as I'm aware, that's the only difference between the two versions, meaning we should be on the same page for the rest of this game review. 

As is the norm with wrestling games, we get a brief opening clip featuring clips of the WWE Superstars at their most athletic and menacing best, all soundtracked to Marilyn Manson's 1990s anthem, The Beautiful People. 

As intros go, this manically frantic opening lacks the dramatic feel that Just Bring It had, but it's still the perfect way to introduce us to what would be the first Smackdown game since the World Wrestling Federation lost its battle with the panda people and became WWE. 

So far, so good. 
   

Graphics 

As I've said before in these pro wrestling game reviews, I'm not the most serious gamer in the world, so things like graphics aren't high on my list of priorities when deciding what to play.

Still, even as a novice gamer, I can immediately notice a stark improvement in the way that this game looks compared to its predecessor. 

Equally as noticeable is the difference between graphics in each part of the game, too. 

Fire things up, and you're presented with menus that are as distracting as they are horrendous, with a huge Smackdown! logo flashing in the background as though determined to give you a seizure. 

Start a match, however, and things get instantly better. 

Photo-realistic detail on every wrestler, combined with the vibrant, polished sets and locations make the whole thing look tremendous. I may have missed a good few years of WWE game releases, but so far this is the best-looking one I've ever played, and that includes Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 for the X-box

Based on looks alone, I was already falling in love with this game, and that's before I got to the entrances. 

Entrances 

To familiarise myself with the gameplay, I picked a random exhibition match in which I was X-Pac taking on the Immortal one himself, Hulk Hogan.


The game was released during the brief tenure of WWE's version of the New World Order. That means that 'Pac and his good buddy Kevin Nash both get a super special nWo entrance that just looks awesome.

Much like the original nWo intro, we cut from shots of the nWo video to black and white shots of the Clique members walking to the ring in a presentation that is undeniably impressive. 

Curiously, Shawn Michaels comes to the ring wearing an nWo t-shirt but doesn't have the music, whilst nWo leader Hogan is an interesting mix of nWo and Red and Yellow. 

He struts to the ring wearing the tights and feather boa ensemble that was such a big part of his post-millennium character, all whilst Voodoo Chille plays him to the ring. 

Those are my favourite entrances and made me instantly fall in love with the game, though in fairness, every Superstar gets an impressive-looking entrance that perfectly replicates the way they'd enter the ring in real life. 

Roster 

The nWo aren't the only new additions to the roster.

As the first WWE game to be developed in the wake of WCW's demise, we get a number of characters that old-school, Attitude-Era fans might best remember from Turner Land. 

Lance Storm, Hurricane Helms, Diamond Dallas Page and Booker T are all present and correct, as is the one and only Nature Boy Ric Flair, who plays a prominent role as Raw General Manager (opposite Vince McMahon as head of Smackdown) but also appears as a playable character. 

On top of all the names mentioned so far, we've also got a deep roster which includes all the heavy hitters like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker and Kane, plus a supporting cast of midcarders, making for what I believe to be one of the broadest selection of playable characters to date. 

Along with Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, Jazz, and several other notable figures make their gaming debuts here too.

Over all, the roster selection is a strong part of the game, appealing to fans of all types of Superstar.

Match Types 

Much as with Just Bring It, WWE Smackdown! Just Bring It features an agreeable choice of playable match types. 

Single, tag, and six-man options all come as standard, though if you're looking for something a little more extreme, you can take your pick from all of the following:
  • Hardcore (general go-anywhere-use-anything)
  • Cage
  • Elimination
  • Hell in a Cell
  • I Quit
  • Iron Man
  • Ladder
  • Last Man Standing 
  • Lumber Jack
  • Slobber Knocker (how many opponents can you beat in a set period of time) 
  • Special Referee
  • Street Fight
  • Submission 
  • Table
  • TLC
  • Three Stages of Hell
As far as I can tell, the lumber jack option is a new addition to this game. 

A nice touch also comes in the form of the cage match, where you're able to choose between the classic 'Escape The Cage' rules, or normal pinfall and submission rules. 

I can't claim to have played all math types, but the ones I did (TLC, Hell in a Cell, Street Fight, tables) were all very enjoyable and added a new dimension to the same old, standard singles match. 

Hell in a Cell, in particular, is greatly improved. If you remember from Just Bring It, the cage was attached to the ring and not only made it difficult to see what you were doing, but also meant you couldn't recreate one of the most fun parts of any Hell in a Cell - brawling around ringside and tossing your opponent into the cage. 

This time, you can do just that, and it looks great, though there are a few hilarious glitches, such as if you try a move too close to the edge of the cage (when you're on the ceiling), you simply "slip" and fall off, bouncing off on the way down in a gloriously-funny, over-the-top fashion. 

On a completely different note, count outs have been completely removed from this game, so even in a normal match you can brawl around ringside and up the entrance way as much as you like. Just don't use any weapons in a normal match - Earl Hebner will show no mercy and quickly disqualify you. 

Game Play


Speaking of our friend Earl, he's at it again in this game - always getting himself in the way of the action and taking more ref bumps than your average Dusty Rhodes booked match. 

Hebner's awkward presence does create some interesting cluster-fucks, particularly in multi-man matches when one of the AI grapplers will get confused and start beating the ever-loving crud out of the referee. 

Still, Hebner is not as in-the-way as he was in WWF Smackdown! Just Bring It, so  I suppose that's only a good thing. 

On another positive note, the controls are the same as in the previous game, so there's no steep learning curve to endure. 

If you can remember that X is strike, O is grapple, and so on, you can pretty much pick this one up and start winning matches straight away.


Interestingly, the square 'reverse' button isn't half as sensitive as it was in the previous game, and often doesn't work at all. 

Whilst it's true that it was a little overly sensitive in the last game, it did result in some pretty sweet-looking spots, whereas now it's just an annoyance. 

That aside, actually playing Shut Your Mouth is a hugely enjoyable experience, especially when you master the timing of things and intuitively know when to strike, when to grapple and, yes, when to button-mash like mad to regain control after an opponent begins a beat down. 

Create a Character 

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Maven
Create a Character is always one of my favourite parts of any pro wrestling game. I just like the idea of creating a brand new character and setting off on a journey towards the title (more of which later). 

So you can imagine how happy I was to see that this mode has been greatly improved upon since Just Bring It. 

Your bespoke superstar actually looks like an actual human being now and not some horribly disfigured creature, whilst the array of costumes and accessories are not only numerous but also of a very high quality. 

Speaking of costumes and accessories, there's a whole bunch of stuff here that would allow you to create a number of wrestlers not featured in the game, even those who had nothing to do with WWE at that point. 

For example, there's the mask of Japanese legend Hayabusa and the complete outfit for Jushin 'Thunder' Liger (it's cleverly disguised in a different colour, but you can edit that and have your very own Liger character). 

Elsewhere, I found Sting's Crow attire, and -my favourite thing of all- a 1996 New Rockers costume. 

I can only assume that this is alternative attire for Al Snow, because there's actually a lot of alternative attire here, particularly for Kane and X-Pac. 

In the end, however, I ignored all of that and went back to my own usual character - CJ Scholes. this time I gave him the Ragin' Angel nickname that I bestowed upon Axl Diabo back in Just Bring It. 

Season Mode 

With my character all ready to go, it was time to put him through his paces en route to the WWE Undisputed title. To do that, you enter season mode, which is a remarkable improvement on the lacklustre 'storyline' offering from Just Bring It.


Instead of a few short vignettes and a couple of matches, Shut Your Mouth offers a comprehensive two-year storyline, complete with a brand split.

When I played the Created Superstar, we began with Linda McMahon explaining to us that there's about to be a draft, with twenty superstars picked on the show and the rest being picked in a lottery afterwards. 

However, the Undisputed Champion (Undertaker at the time I began) and Stone Cold Steve Austin were both ineligible to be drafted and could wrestle on both brands - Undertaker presumedly to give everyone on the roster a fair crack at the title, and Austin for vague 'contractual' reasons. 

You then set about trying to make a name for yourself by competing on Sunday Night Heat where Maven -of all people- takes a liking to you and saves you from a beat down by a wrestler who takes umbrage with you for no given reason.

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Maven
Maven even offers to teach you "a thing or two" despite admitting that you did better in your debut match than he did.

After teaming with Maven, you're allowed to either form a proper tag team with him on a regular basis, team with the guy you've been feuding with, pick a manager, or just carry on aimlessly for a while.

This variety of options does enhance the appeal of Season Mode greatly, and though I experimented with a few different routes, I eventually settled on picking a manager, at which point Stacy Keibler offers her services. 

Win a few matches with Stacy in your corner, and you're then attacked by another wrestler who says that asking her to manage you was "his idea" - after some back and forth, you end up in a match with the dude - Winner Takes Stacy.

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Stacy Keibler
Beat him, and it turns out that Stacy says you don't need her anymore, and you go onto Smackdown without her. 

From there, it's a King of The Ring tournament win and on to face the Undisputed Champion a Vengence. 

The awesome thing is that the storyline doesn't simply end when you win the title, you keep going, and not just with random defences either. 

Immediately after defeating Kurt Angle for the title, I ended up being courted by Raw GM Ric Flair and asked to join his brand. After leaving Nature Boy hanging for a few weeks, I eventually gave him my answer by attacking him. I couldn't very well join Raw after all, it would upset new best friend, Al Snow

And that's another wonderful thing about this season mode - you can wonder around seriously detailed and vast backstage area, interacting with other characters you meet en route. 

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Linda McMahon
In the course of my story, I not only got pally with Maven and Stacy Keibler, but I also pissed off  The Undertaker, had Reverand D-Von begging me for money for his D-Von Building Fund and upset an already bad-tempered Jazz by asking her about Trish Stratus. 

Fortunately, though, I did make friends with good ol' Al snow, who -I've got to admit- at first glance I thought was Bradshaw. 

All that being said, other storylines are equally as enjoyable, especially when they recreate actual events which took place during that time period. You could, for example, relive the introduction of the New World Order into WWE, or experience what it was like to be Hulk Hogan or The Rock during their legendary match at Wrestlemania 18. 

Unlockables 

Playing through season mode wins you a number of unlockable items at certain key points, such as when you win a title or compete at a PPV. 

However, rather than winning a whole bunch of unlockable stuff every time - you're presented with options and have to pick, forcing you to choose between things like new tights for Lance Storm or access to the King of the Ring arena for exhibition matches. 

There's a huge amount of stuff to unlock, which really helps you enjoy more game time, as you go through multiple seasons with multiple characters to unlock everything there is to offer.

Needless to say, reality beckoned and I didn't get to unlock absolutely everything, but I'll certainly let you know when (if) I ever do. 

Music and Sound 

All the wrestlers ahve their usual entrance music with a few notable exceptions. My good buddy Maven, for example, comes out to the ring like a jobber with the Smackdown Beautiful People entrance and you have to unlock his actual theme later on down the line.


Meanwhile, custom wrestler music is also of a great quality. Sure, there's some weird and some terrible cuts in there as there was with Just Bring It, but on the whole, the 'generic' entrance music is as good as anything you could hope for from Jim Johnston himself.
In case you're wondering, I gave CJ Scholes 'Track 18' which sounds like a Slipknot demo in the best possible way.

The best part of although, is that there's no Micahel Cole & Tazz

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Michael Cole & Tazz
Well, there is. The duo who did such a horrible job of the commentary on Just Bring It appear in the game conducting a weird, Abraham Washington Show type interview segment, but they don't speak, which is a blessing. 

Instead, the commentary is handled by Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler , and though it isn't perfect, it is minimal, meaning you hardly ever hear the two except for when they call out certain moves. The Side Russian Legsweep seems to be a favourite call of JR's, as does calling Lance Storm an idiot for some reason. 

Lasting Impression

It's difficult to express in words just how much better WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth is to the earleir WWF Smackdown! Just Bring it Game. 

From the smoother gameplay to the improved, photo-realistic graphics and that incredibly-immersive Season Mode, there's a hell of a lot to enjoy here. 

OK, so I may not be the world's biggest gaming fan, but even I can appreciate that Shut Your Mouth had to be -up to that point- the best WWE wrestling game ever released. 

Even now, I can see me playing this one for a long time after this review goes live. I just hope me and Al Snow are buddies by the time I'm done. 

Thanks for reading. For more reviews of retro pro wrestling games, shows, and more, follow RPW on Twitter or like the Facebook page here.

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Retro Pro Wrestling

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