WWF Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role (PS1) Review

When Smackdown! 2 came out, all I was interested in was the impending release of No Mercy on the N64, so even though I played it once or twice around a friend’s house, it was “quick and arcade-y” and just “not as good”. While that’s still true, the following year (or two… possibly longer) I brought it cheap and had a good laugh with a friend doing the endless career mode together. Turns out having a quick and simple control style and a bit of a weird and funny career mode can do wonders to cover any flaw… for a while. Let’s take a look!

Background:

I would but I can’t help looking at the size of your torso compared to your arms…

WWF Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role was released in the US on the November 21st 2000, then December 1st 2000 in PAL territories. It was then released as “Exciting Pro Wrestling 2” in Japan on the 25th of January 2001.

The roster is based on early 2000, which is among the best periods of the promotion’s history. I will mention that some wrestlers are unlockable but had to then be made via the CAW mode, but they count in my book as it’s not just their appearance but also their entrance video and music too.

It features Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker, Kane, Mankind, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Edge, Christian, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Bubba Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley, Chyna, Trish Stratus, Lita, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, X-Pac, Tazz, Test, Albert, Al Snow, Big Boss Man, Rikishi, Bradshaw, Faarooq, Bull Buchanan, Crash Holly, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, D’Lo Brown, Essa Rios, Taka Michinoku, Funaki, Gangrel, Steven Richards, Val Venis, The Goodfather (not a typo, but his Right To Censor persona…), Grandmaster Sexay, Scotty 2 Hotty, Hardcore Holly, Viscera, Tori, Ivory, Jacqueline, The Kat, Debra, Mark Henry, Steve Blackman, Gerald Brisco, Pat Patterson, Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon.

It also featured the game debut and sole game appearance of the Mean Street Posse, Pete Gas, Rodney and Joey Abs, though even then they’re only in as part of the CAW slot unlockables I mentioned…

Gameplay:

Rikishi vs. with-hair Kurt Angle. This screenshot sure does screen “2000”!

The gameplay hasn’t changed much, which makes sense given how short a time the release was between this game and the previous one! You have a grapple button and a strike button, pressing them by themselves or with different directions will have you pull off different moves, and then there are finishing moves you can earn and execute. You have ground moves, running strikes, top rope moves, all that stuff you’d expect from a wrestling game by this point, but once again it feels like it’s on fast-forward, with you and your opponent/s zipping about the place, instantly getting up off the ground with a tumbling role after being hit by a move… it’s very odd. You can still brawl backstage as well, which you’d think would be a standard feature going forward, but… well, it isn’t. For a while. Anyway…

There are lots of different game modes on offer, but some of them are over in a flash. You have tag, three and four way matches, plus stipulations like cage, table, submission, I Quit, guest referee, plus the debuts of the casket match (which, if memory serves, never returns…) the Hell in a Cell match and the Ladder match. Now this all sounds good, but the table and ladder matches can end within 30 seconds thanks to the speed of the game and there being no gimmick or meter to pad the match out, the casket match involved the ability to pick the casket up and hit people with it as it was just an object in the ring, and the Hell in a Cell match was just a cage match with a roof on top, rather than anything resembling the actual structure. Obviously console limitations and all that, especially for the HIAC match, but it’s worth mentioning that the great match line-up possibly wasn’t all that great in practice…

What was great, in a… bad way, was the Season Mode, which saw you get booked on shows and PPVs and random storylines would unfold. It could be played with up to four other players, and was a good laugh due to how weird it often got, but after a while me and my friend stopped getting booked on shows for some reason so we had to stop, which was a shame… the fit of laughter we often got into when yet another person is mysteriously found unconscious backstage with the same bit of music playing was well worth the five second matches…

As for other modes? Well, exhibition matches obviously, plus a full Create-a-Wrestler mode this time, instead of the pre-built body parts mode from the previous game. It’s not the most detailed, in fact War Zone had more options, but it was a move in the right direction! There were a few other Create-a modes as well, like manager and stable (which was literally “assign someone a manager” and “put a few people in a stable”, which didn’t need to be its own mode, but hey-ho) and the Create-a-PPV, which we’ve seen in the Acclaim games beforehand, where you make a card and then play through it. So there is quite a bit to do, if you don’t tire of the gameplay side of things…

Graphics and Sound:

X-Pac refereeing a Kane match could mean trouble for Austin, depending on when exactly this game was set…

Once again it won’t surprise you to hear that the graphics are very similar to the previous game, with the same blocky models and painted on attire/face, all very of-the-era. The arenas are colourful, even if it’s pretty much all the same arena with just the show / PPV logo in the centre of the canvas as an indication of what show you’re on, and I appreciate a good camera flash, even if that doesn’t really happen in wrestling to that degree, even in 2000… Also, entrances are once again the wrestlers walking towards the camera in an empty void and doing a few poses with their entrance video being the only background…

Sound is fine. Crowd noise is good, the background music is generic as hell but does its job, and most people have their entrance theme (apart from the Undertaker), so it’s all good. No commentary either, which when you hear the commentary in the next Smackdown! game you’ll be happy hear…

Thoughts Then:

I can still hear the “someone has been attacked backstage!” music just by looking at this screenshot…

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I didn’t play Smackdown! 2 much when it came out, but a year or two later I played it a fair amount with a friend. It’s funny in a “isn’t this a bit crap” way and I do appreciate a good random career mode over the heavily scripted ones we got later.

Thoughts Now:

No Kane you’re supposed to put Undertaker IN the casket, not smack him over the head with it!

In 2021 Smackdown! 2 is just a quick, fun novelty to play a few matches on and then stop. Even the weird and random career mode has been perfected by the MDickie games, so that more unique part of the game doesn’t even stand out any more. Still, at least it’s not actually bad, per say, just very floaty, quick and a bit odd…

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