Time to play the game!
Finally, the WWF has come back to the console! WWF Smackdown! Just Bring It marks THQ's third entry in their series of excellent WWF games, and their first for the PS2. With an unobtrusive story mode and virtually nonexistent load times, Just Bring It! is an exceptional addition to an exceptional series.
First of all, the game looks great. In fact, a friend glanced at the screen and demanded that I "...stop watching that wrestling bull$#@! and play some videogames." When I informed him that I was playing a game and not watching a broadcast, he merely asked, "Can I go next?" I said no.
The computer generated superstars look just like their real life counterparts, right down to specific body language. Motion-capture technology is nothing new, but watching Stone Cold stagger after taking a shot to the grill is so realistic it's almost eerie. When you consider that such attention to detail was given to over 40 diverse characters, you can't help but be impressed.
Further, the specific look for each TV show and pay-per-view set is accurate. The arenas look huge and the various wide screen monitors placed here and there actually work, giving the virtual fans in the cheap seats a view of the action. Throw your opponent over the barricade and watch those same virtual fans scramble out of harm's way.
Still, the polygons are a little...flat. Considering that most wrestlers have bulging biceps, these guys all look kind of soft and doughy. The lack of cuts and grooves takes away the whole 'chiseled adonis' look.
The gameplay is relatively unchanged from the previous Smackdown! games. While the control scheme is easy to grasp and intuitive, simple commands on the controller translate into some incredibly complex and violent moves onscreen. The use of one button for general defense adds great realism. Pressing the button allows you to counter punches, leap over stationary opponents, reverse holds, and even baseball-slide under the ropes.
WWF Smackdown! Just Bring It has nearly forty bazillion different match types with enough customizable rules and stipulations to keep the action from getting stale. While you still can't skip the dialog, Just Bring It's Story mode is a quantum improvement over the previous games in the series. In the Story mode you guide your superstar through a season on the WWF roster. Titles can be won or lost, and lots of secrets can be uncovered regardless of whether you win or lose. This time around, the backstage intrigue and drama that unfold throughout a WWF program is confined to your character. Wheras in Smackdown 2 you had to sit for ten minutes at a time with an inactive controller waiting for the storyline to deal with your character, now the action you see backstage or otherwise only involves you.
Recently the WWF's roster nearly doubled when they acquired ECW and WCW talent during the Invasion storyline, but because of timing and legal reasons, these "Alliance" members aren't officially included in the game. THQ did, however, include the most incredible create-a-character mode ever seen on a console, so the only thing preventing you from creating omitted characters is laziness. The possibilities of this mode are practically infinite. You can make a grappler that looks JUST LIKE YOU. Or him. Or even him. I made a Shawn "The Colonel" Sanders and beat the crap outta him all weekend. The abundance of options is almost intimidating. Over 70 pairs of eyebrows? 'Nuff said.
Rounding out this game is commentary by announcers Michael Cole and Tazz. The play-by-play and color commentary have been missing from THQ's WWF games, and now we know why. The voices are so poorly executed, it seems that they were tacked on as an afterthought. The ringside statements are at times nonsensical, confusing, and pointless. The vocal inflections and intensity (or lack thereof) are mismatched and inappropriate. It sounds like they recorded a statement and then cut and pasted it back together 8 or 9 times differently, then played it back at random.
Also, the wrestlers have no vocal cords. I would have liked to hear my fighter actually talking while he holds a microphone, or at least grunt when struck as opposed to reading captions.
If you really want to hear an opponent scream, then grab a friend and head over to the multiplayer mode. You can wrestle with as many as four players at a time in a variety of matches. Enjoy 1-on-1, tag team, four-man tag teams, huge eight man brawls, cage matches and more. The fun only escalate when you're bouncing a live jabroni around the squared circle.
Besides the silent wrestlers and the not-so-silent announcers, the only thing wrong with this game is the pacing. The matches seem to go on just a bit too long, but that's to be expected when you're opponent cheats (hey, it's wrestling ). Take out your frustration on the ref, but don't worry, he won't disqualify you. Remember, in the WWF, the rulebook is just another weapon.