Hands-on: SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth

Check out our impressions of the latest game in THQ's SmackDown series.

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THQ recently dropped by the GameSpot office to show off the latest game in the SmackDown series, SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth. The first thing about the game that immediately stands out is the substantial increase in detail in the character models. The wrestler models are made up of 3,000 polygons each and feature much more facial animation than in any previous SmackDown game--it's amazing to see the wrinkles on Hulk Hogan's face or Booker T's wide-eyed look as he gazes at his "five-time WCW champion" hand. In addition, the game's developer, Yukes, has been working steadily to add some special effects such as specular highlights, which will be used to mimic sweat on the wrestlers' bodies.

The general animation has also been significantly improved, particularly during entrances. Shawn Michaels does all his little dances, Hogan (complete with a feather boa) strums his air guitar and calls to the crowd, and DDP does his trademark diamond-cutter hand gesture. It's also worth nothing that THQ says there will be no problem with entrance music in Shut Your Mouth, so every wrestler will come out with the proper track playing. Kurt Angle's entrance even features the "you suck" chant from the crowd as his music plays. The improvement in animation also extends to the gameplay. From suplexes to pile drivers, the transition from one move to the next is nearly seamless, and it really makes Shut Your Mouth play differently from previous games in the SmackDown series.

The improved animation also lends itself well to the reversal system, which has been changed slightly. Instead of just pressing a particular button on the controller, you can hold the button and press one of four directions on the analog stick to perform a different counter. Moreover, not only can you counter basic holds, punches, and kicks, but you can also counter finishers. In fact, you can even perform another wrestler's finisher, so theoretically Hulk Hogan could perform a "rock bottom" during a match with The Rock.

As far as options are concerned, SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth has plenty to offer. Yukes has added some variety to the plain old one-on-one exhibition matches by allowing you to decide whether or not you want to attack the other wrestle while he or she is on the ground or just leave the ring after the match has ended. In addition to one-on-one matches, you'll have access to hell in a cell, steel cage, lumberjack, elimination tag, stages of hell, tornado six-man tag, and many more. But perhaps the most important mode in Shut Your Mouth is the season option. At the beginning of this mode, you'll have to go through the draft and decide which wrestlers appear on various WWE shows. For example, you can have Brock Lesnar, The Hurricane, and members of the NWO on Raw, and then place Hogan, The Rock, Triple H, and Kurt Angle on SmackDown. In addition, each wrestler will have an individual rating (with any created wrestlers starting out at the bottom of the rankings), which seemingly comes into play as the season progresses, as it will determine who you have matches with and whether or not you make it into certain pay-per-view events like WrestleMania. The season mode will cover the last year of WWE programming, so you'll see some familiar events such as the return of the NWO (without Scott Hall, who will not be included in the game) and the drama surrounding Stone Cold's draft decision.

There are approximately 15 backstage and special areas in Shut Your Mouth. You'll be able to fight inside The World (the WWE's restaurant complex in New York), out in the streets (which feature pedestrian and vehicle traffic), in the subways, and even on subway trains. Yukes has also added more interactivity with the backgrounds--pipes, boxes, glass, and other such objects will break when wrestlers make contact with them. A few improvements have been made to the weapons as well. You can actually use the fire extinguisher to spray flame retardant on your opponent, or set up a chair on the floor and perform a DDT, or a similar move, directly onto it. You can even ride the Undertaker's motorcycle around the ring. Unfortunately, you won't be able to fight in the crowds in the arenas, but you can perform moves off the barrier surrounding the ring. Some wrestlers can even execute special moves when placed in specific parts of the arena. For example, Rob Van Dam can perform the five-star frog splash off the top of the fist on the SmackDown set.

The create-a-wrestler mode has also been drastically improved. Yukes thought that last year's version was a little too clunky and difficult to navigate, so it's cleaned it up a little and added even more features. You'll be able to edit facial animations and body animations, morph different parts of the wrestler's body to your liking, and even place tattoos anywhere you want. When you're done creating your wrestler, the game will give you a special password that you can give to your friends so they can instantly create the same wrestler.

There will be commentary in the game, but it won't be play-by-play. Instead, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler will provide color-style commentary, giving information on the wrestlers in the ring and the current situation. They'll provide similar commentary during the cutscenes in the season mode to give the game a TV-style presentation.

Yukes has really made quite a few improvements to the SmackDown series with Shut Your Mouth, and if you're a fan of previous games, you'll notice these changes almost immediately. SmackDown! Shut Your Mouth is scheduled for release at the end of October. We'll have more on the game soon.

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