If you've ever found yourself watching late-night television, chances are, you've come across at least one advertisement for Backyard Wrestling. The franchise has made a name for itself by marketing compiled footage of average kids emulating their favorite hardcore wrestling superstars by beating each other senseless with barbed-wire-covered baseball bats, fluorescent light bulbs, and steel chairs in their backyards, basements, and practically anywhere else they can find a tall object to jump off. Earlier this year, Eidos Interactive, along with development team Paradox Entertainment, announced that it was working on a new wrestling game based on the Backyard Wrestling franchise, called Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home. But rather than using a roster full of random, generic characters, Backyard Wrestling features a number of wrestlers from rap group the Insane Clown Posse's own wrestling federation, the JCW, including Rude Boy, Sabu, Mad Man Pondo, and the ICP themselves, Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with early PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions the game, and we spent some time checking out the game's primary single-player mode, known as the "talk show mode."
The talk show mode is effectively the game's story mode. In it, you will begin by choosing from one of the game's initially available wrestlers--most of the wrestlers in the game are locked, but they can eventually be unlocked in this mode. Once you've chosen your wrestler, you'll be treated to a cutscene that features a fake talk show called Today's Topic. The subject of today's show is, of course, backyard wrestling and the impact it has on our society. Between each level, you'll see a new talk show cutscene, and each one basically sets up the situation for your next round of matches. For example, in one scene, a barbecue enthusiast complains about how he can't enjoy his backyard grill anymore because his brother's wrestling friends wreak havoc in his backyard and inadvertently knock him face-first into the grill--and once the scene is over, you'll suddenly find yourself wrestling in his yard.
Each available environment in the game serves as one level in the talk show mode. There will be seven levels in all: the aforementioned backyard, a truck stop, a meat locker, a strip club, a shopping center, the backyard of a mansion, and, eventually, the Today's Topic TV set. In each level, you'll be presented with three to four opponents you must defeat before you can advance. Depending on how much damage you sustain during a particular match, you may carry over those injuries into your next fight with your next opponent, so you'll have to be cautious and try to finish off opponents as quickly as possible. Beating any opponent for the first time unlocks them into the rest of the game. Aside from the primary goal of beating all of your opponents to a bloody pulp, you'll also have some extra goals to complete in each level. These extra goals include beating an opponent within a set amount of time, breaking specific objects within the level, or reversing a certain number of an opponent's attacks.
In the time we spent with the talk show mode, we found it to be quite challenging. The opponent AI in the game isn't incredibly smart, but it does know how to keep you from steamrolling it. Since each level is littered with different goodies with which you can pummel your adversary, you'll often find yourself in a situation where you are the one being pummeled mercilessly with a blunt object. Enemies will frequently put you down on the ground, run to the nearest barbed-wire-covered 2x4 or steel chair, and chuck it at you from a distance to keep you from coming at them. You'll also find areas where you can set tables or mattresses on fire, tall ledges you can either leap off yourself or toss your opponent from, and human hazards, like an angry stripper who will swing around and kick you in the face if you get too close in the strip club level and a blow-torch-wielding amateur mechanic who will likewise attack if you get within close proximity.
As far as graphics go, Backyard Wrestling is looking a bit better than it did the last few times we've seen the game. The levels seem the most improved, with better-looking textures and a lot more items to pick up and smash people with. The wrestler models look roughly the same, in that they aren't nearly as highly detailed as those in other wrestling games on the market, but they do animate decently, and they sport some pretty convincing rag-doll physics in appropriate situations. Between the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions, the Xbox version is definitely looking like the better of the two, though both versions look like they could use some more polish and some more detail. The versions of the game we played also finally gave us some insight into what the final soundtrack will sound like. The game features nearly 40 different songs, including tracks by such well-known artists as Rancid, the Dropkick Murphys, Anthrax, Sepultura, CKY, Andrew WK, Masters of Illusion, American Hi-Fi, Sum 41, Further Seems Forever, and, of course, the game's cover boys, the Insane Clown Posse, who have a whopping five songs on the soundtrack. Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home is currently on schedule for release on October 7.