WWF SmackDown! 2 Hands-On

WWF SmackDown! 2 is the perfect example of how to make a successful sequel - improve upon the basic premise of the first game and introduce new gameplay elements without losing the look and feel of the original.

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WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role
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Fans of THQ's ambitious WWF game will be pleased to learn that its sequel, WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role, broadens the scope of the first game while it refines and polishes the elements that made it so popular. THQ recently stopped by with an early build of the game and showed us just how far along the sequel has come from the last time we saw it at E3.

WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role's mission statement is pretty simple: Take the high-energy action and humorous storyline elements from Vince McMahon's popular wrestling-based television series and transform that into a comprehensive wrestling game that delivers everything a hard-core WWF fan could ask for. The first SmackDown! game brought new ideas to the wrestling genre with its never-ending season mode and the first inklings of an actual plotline, and SmackDown! 2 plans to expand on these ideas. WWF SmackDown! 2 will feature more plot elements with new cutscenes that feature actual voice-over work from the WWF Superstars, and the season mode has been expanded and revised to include more matches, events, and pay-per-views. WWF SmackDown! 2 is also upping the ante with its slew of new gameplay modes, including the ladder match, hell in a cell, casket match, and the tornado tag team matches. The game will also feature enhanced create-a-wrestler and create-a-ppv modes, all new backstage areas, a roster of more than 50 WWF superstars, and of course, refined gameplay and enhanced graphics and sound.

Although the gameplay has not improved by leaps and bounds over the fast-paced arcade-like action of the original game, it's easy to see that the engine is being tweaked. THQ is working on collision detection, and it is also tightening the feel of the game. The wrestlers' movements are a bit more fluid, and there are tons of new animations to reflect new characters' signature moves. WWF SmackDown! 2 is improving the gameplay in more subtle ways: There will be brand-new modes such as create-a-manager, create-a-taunt, and create-a-sable, and you will be allowed a manager to aid you during matches.

It may be a little difficult to believe, but the graphics are looking even better than in the first game. New animations on the wrestlers and the arenas help make everything look and feel more realistic, and wrestler models that have a focus on detail really help breathe life into the WWF superstars. There are new, better camera angles, and the menus and presentation of the game really stand out. Unfortunately, the sound in the build we played was in its beginning stages, and it contained no commentary - only the occasional pound of the mat and the whap of a good blow.

WWF SmackDown! 2 shows that it's got the innovative spirit and technological advantages to become the premiere PlayStation wrestling game. With an enhanced plot mode, seasons, tons of gameplay modes, a huge roster, and elements never before seen in a wrestling game, WWF SmackDown! 2 is shaping up to be more than just another tired button masher.

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