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     " If you think THQ and the WWF are going to let this cash cow ever die, think again. "

      Title: Smack Down: Just Bring It by THQ

      Format: PS2 Wrestling

      Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

      The Hype: Now the venerable Playstation wrestling series from THQ makes its first PS2 appearance. With 70 match types, thousands of moves, and commentary from Michael Cole and Tazz, the game promises more wrassliní fun than you can shake a stick at. Pick your favorite wrestler and walk them through the expanded storylines. Even create your own wrestler with the multitude of options available. So, does this one put us in a sleeper hold, or is it a full on slobberknocker? Letís find out.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: The graphics for this game make the expected leap from the Playstation Smack Down 2 and they make it well. The wrestlers have never looked better. Some characters, such as the Rock, look incredibly realistic. The audience is still comprised of Cardboard cut outs, but at least theyíre good looking cardboard cutouts. They no longer look completely blurry and indistinct. If one isnít paying close attention, one can almost believe they look like real people. The mats and background areas are serviceable, if not gorgeous. Still thereís very little can do with the squared circle, so itís not a huge deal. 4 out of 5

      Sound: Iím going to start with the music, as the music is great. The kind of hard pulse pounding stuff youíd expect to play symphony to your havoc in the ring. In addition, THQ managed to get the rights to all of the superstarís music. Which means that Limp Bizkitís "Rollin" is the Undertakerís theme (as it should be). Heck, Fred Durst is an unlockable character for crying out loud, so theyíve got all the right music for all the superstars. Theyíve even included a few original pieces for the created superstars. Unfortunately most of that sounds like video game credit music, but thatís okay. The physical sounds are just fine. Thwacking, and smacking, as they should. The game's real auditory low point comes from the commentary by Michael Cole and Tazz. As one might expect itís not only a little off, itís downright terrible. Not a single battle went by where Tazz didnít tout its greatness. "ThisÖ tag team matchÖ is great", "ThisÖ singles matchÖ is great", "and this gang probing is great". It never stopped! Iíll place blame where itís due; a lot of it can be placed on the guys splicing together the voice clips and writing this stuff up. Unfortunately text does not properly convey how stilted and off the commentary really is. They call the moves with relative accuracy; they just sound ridiculous saying anything else. Luckily, you can turn off commentary. 3 out of 5 (-2 if I was only taking the commentary into account)

      Game Play: What youíve got here, son, is some old fashioned wrestling mayhem. The game play hasnít changed much since the first gameís inception. Beat people up long enough to put them in the one, two, three. Of course, there are a myriad of match types to sling some moves around in. Ranging from table matches to last man standing. There are a couple of new match types this time around, as well as some newer characters. Some contract interference kept them from getting some of the newer wrestlers from the recent "Invasion" storyline, but theyíve sneakily included some moves and design parts that will allow the clever creator to make their own RVDs, etc. The Create a Wrestler, speaking of which, is extensive. Almost insanely so. I mean do you really need 98 eyebrow parts? Seriously? A nice touch is the nickname for your fighter, so that the inept announcers have something to call him. There are a few control quirks here or there. For example, you select two types of groggy grapple moves, groggy 1 and groggy 2. Due to the way the game has you interact with characters though, youíll almost never see your groggy 1 moves. Which means donít put the cool ones in there. The biggest blow the game gets is from a lack of a true career mode. Instead you just go through the story blurbs (more later). This really steals the gameís feel of continuity. Instead itís just you going through the same story bits over and over. This can get stale. Still the baseline for the action remains just as fun as it always has been. And itís really about the wrestling anyway, right? Well, not entirely. 3 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: How much can you do with a square with ropes along the edges. Well, you can give the mat different faces. That about covers the variety of mats. The environments on the other hand fare pretty well. Your arenas go from Pay per view to Raw to Smack Down (with the new Smack Down with giant fist unlockable). And of course youíve got all of the wonderful back halls to run through. The environments are relatively interactive. You can put people through desks and tables nearby (although the interface to do so has become far clunkier in this game). A neat new feature is the ability to run into the audience for a fight. Of course watching the audience move aside is like watching somebody blow on a bunch of paper cut outs, they kind of breeze aside. I suppose itís the thought that counts here. 3 out of 5

      Multiplayer: Well, with weíre still at only four players, but weíve got a lot more possible characters on screen at any one time. The variety of match types and characters to choose from makes this a great party game. Unfortunately, the great diversity of having multiple players go through the career/story mode together has been lost in this game. Now only one player can go through at a time, and you canít even have multiple stories going at once. The game has lost a great deal of diversity. 3 out of 5

      Replayability: In order to get the World Wrestling federation Title, there is a specific path to follow. Following this path three times will unlock three different match types. This is the heart of the replayability. Unlocking the various moves, characters and parts that theyíve hidden. In a great move, THQ gave you a nice easy "hidden" reference screen to check on what you have yet to collect. It gives you a goal to work toward, and a reason to go through the scripts another time. For those who want to unlock all those devastating hidden moves, this game has a good amount of replayability. Although between the other resident monkey and myself working the controls we managed to unlock everything within a week and a half of infrequent play. Once youíve unlocked everything, the lack of a career mode will keep you from coming back to the game again. It just ends too quickly. 3 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: One of the best and yet disappointing parts of this game is the story mode. In this newly enhanced story mode, you get to watch your wrestler make choices and beat downs in the ring. There are some cool moments, like trash talking on the mic to the current championship contender, then later proclaiming "I was just messing with Ďem". Or saving poor Spike Dudley and Molly Hollyís budding love (an event punctuated with a brutal table match, of course). Unfortunately like many WWF matches itís all scripted in advance, and there are only so many scripts you can follow. There are a total of maybe 15 storylines that you can follow. If you want storylines that actually differ from one another, that brings the total down to 6. Of course all of the Ďstoriesí follow your selected superstar on his way to WWF fame and glory, as he or she goes after one elusive title or another. Of course, once you win that title, youíre boned. No more story for you. Nope, any time you enter with that character all you get to do is defend your title for one match. Thatís it, and then the story ends. All this potential, all gone to waste. Itís enough to drive a sane man to X-Pac fandomÖ 2.5 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: THQ knows a good thing when they make it, and havenít changed the control scheme for the game since its inception. All that means is that if youíve played the previous games, you can step right in. This of course means that the instructions are virtually useless. Remembering what moves are where is still the biggest chore, especially since the instructions donít include a move list for wrestlers (Why break a three game tradition?). For veterans, youíll be in and kicking ass in no time. For newbies, youíll be in and kicking ass in some time. The game is still as user friendly as always. 4 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: Some of the graphics to be found here are incredibly beautiful (of course, theyíre the ones in the opening movie). For the most part I donít think this is really pushing the limits of PS2ís capabilities. The game takes 4,173 KB of memory card space. The biggest problem with the last game, Know Your Role, was the horrendous load times. Just Bring It eliminates those. The game loads up in about no time flat. What it doesnít do swiftly is save. Now it takes forever to save a game. And when youíre prompted for saving after pretty much every match, every option change, every breath you take, every move you makeÖ You can imagine the save times build up. 3 out of 5

      The Verdict:


       All this potential, all over the place. This game is simply oozing with potential. If they had simply given us an ongoing story mode, instead of the cut and paste stories, this would have been an amazing game. Instead, itís just another sequel. The game took an amazing step forward in graphics and options available. Then a huge step back in storyline. We donít need to play Ďfrog in a wellí here people. Hereís hoping for better next time around (and if you think THQ and the WWF are going to let this cash cow ever die, think again).

      The Good: Same old familiar gameplay, incredibly better character models.

      The Bad: From bad commentary to bad story mode implementation.

      The Overall Ugly: Buy it for the wrestling. If you buy it for anything else, youíre going to be sorely disappointed.

      What it's Worth: $30.

Buy it direct from Amazon.com

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