Before reading Dale's review, I was going to give WWF Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role an equal rating to which I gave WWF No Mercy on the Nintendo 64. I felt both games had awesome innovations in their own right, but both were also marred by inexplicable technical flaws that kept them from reaching gold status. Well, after reading Dale's review and considering some of his points, I must admit that I had a little change of heart and felt compelled to lower my rating on Smackdown! 2. The game definitely has major issues that I needed to emphasize more.
In terms of what's good, Smackdown! 2 has an amazingly diverse Create-a-Wrestler mode and a terrific option that allows players to setup their own tag-teams or staple of wrestlers, (which resonates through all the play modes). The gameplay is faster paced and more consistent than that of No Mercy (no marathon or lope-sided matches). Yes, the graphics and animation seem outdated, but I wasn't as bothered by it as Dale was. After prolonged play, the look and feel of the title has a way of growing on you.
I also had a fondness for the never-ending randomized Season mode. I had an absolute ball setting up a "GameCritics.com" tag-team with Dale as my partner and my girlfriend as my manager. I had no problems making the characters resemble our likenesses, and I was rolling when Dale's digital alter ego would automatically make surprise entrances and interfere on my behalf during my singles matches. Where the Season mode really shines is in the multiplayer department. Anywhere from up to eight player-controlled wrestlers can jockey against one another for ranking position and championship belt contentions. For multiplayer wrestling fans looking to setup their own fantasy-style wrestling league, look no further. Smackdown! 2 is the answer to your prayers.
So it's rather unfortunate that despite having some killer features worth looking over, Smackdown! 2 has some equally significant flaws that can't be ignored. These game seemed riddled with buggy-like behavior and perhaps like Dale suggested, the title was rushed. Difficulty-wise, the computer is way too easy. The wait times during CD loadings and computer match simulations can be excruciatingly unbearable (especially when you have to simulate whole venues worth of matches without being on the card!). Rankings during the Season mode don't seem to be accurately reflected by actual wins and loses. The type of matches during the Season mode, while entirely randomized, still seems horribly limited at times. Matches always seem relegated to the same singles, triple threat, and tag-team setups while the more interesting table, ladder, casket or steel cage matches occur only on a rare occasion. Then for some strange reason, the developers thought it might be fun to exclude lowly ranked player-control wrestlers from some entire venues during the season. This meant that I was not on the fight card and had to slowly simulate a whole days worth of matches without having to look forward to a match of my own. This happens way too often in the one-player mode when you start a new season or join a new rank,and it's really inexcusable.
The final things that really bothered me about Smackdown! 2 are the stories and antics that take place during the Season mode. Interactive storylines in the genre have been making the most significant strides over the last couple of years (mostly thanks to the original Smackdown!), but the one in the sequel is pretty weak. While it's great to see the whole process randomized, which keeps things fresh for long periods of play, that randomization comes at a heavy price. That price is that the stories and relationships need to be kept fairly one-dimensional in order for it to work. So it's great that you never know who is going to be the one attacking you in the parking lot, but it's also bad because you know that the feuding only runs skin deep and doesn't get seriously deep in terms of the soap opera-ish multi-layered cartoonish drama that pro-wrestling is known for. This certainly doesn't take the feature to the next level like it should.
For Smackdown! 2, the developers have gone back to the drawing board and included some truly amazing features and options, but at the same time, the features also seems to suffer from plenty of flaws and bugs. It's a shame because if the developers took the time to iron out these problems and polish its play modes, this would undoubtedly the front runner for wrestling game of the year. As it stands, Smackdown! 2 is an excellent multiplayer title with some weighty problems that will undoubtedly drag it down to also-ran status.
As for me, as stubborn as we game critics are, let it not be said that we are too rigid to change our minds. It doesn't happen too often, but I found Dale's criticisms of Smackdown! 2 to be convincing, and he certainly swayed my judgement.
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