Smackdown almost single-handedly revived my interest in gaming. it's still outrageously fun despite its lack of realism.

User Rating: 8.5 | WWF SmackDown! (Platinum) PS
I admit, it's going to be hard to write this review. Following the 16-bit era, I sort of lost interest in video games. In 1999, I became a pro wrestling fan, and in early 2000, I saw TV ads for the newest WWF game for the Playstation, WWF Smackdown. For some reason, I was interested in it, so I got a Playstation and the game. I loved it so much, that it almost single-handedly revived my interest in gaming. Reviewing it is hard because I have so much nostalgia for it. To me, it's like trying to review Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. But, I understand most people don't have the same love for this game as I do, so I'll try to review it in an impartial way.

WWF Smackdown was the first WWF game from THQ. The previous WWF games on the Playstation were WWF War Zone and WWF Attitude from Acclaim. Compared to those, Smackdown is much faster and has more fluid gameplay. It also has a much better grappling system and much better controls overall.

The controls in Smackdown are great. X is strike, Circle is grapple. Pressing either in conjunction with a d-pad direction will do a variety of moves. To do a strong grapple move, you have to knock your opponent down, and then pick him up. They'll be groggy, then you can do a strong grapple. Triangle is run. If you just press triangle, you'll run in the direction of your opponent. If you press it with a direction on the d-pad, you'll run in that direction. It works really well, and makes the running attacks very effective.

Square is counter. You can counter any standing or downed move, but you can't counter flying moves (you have to move out of the way). R1 is basically the action button. You use it to enter/exit the ring, tag your partner, and various other things. You climb the turnbuckle by either pressing R1 near it, or simply running into it. To do an Irish whip, you simply press circle by itself to start the Irish whip, followed by the d-pad, to send your opponent in a direction. Pinning your opponent is simple. Press down and circle while your opponent is down, or do a move that pins (like a German suplex). All of this works very well, and it's easy to learn and get used to.

L2 does taunts. R2 changes your focus from wrestler to wrestler (if there are more than 2 wrestlers in the ring). L1 is the finisher button. All you have to do is fill one Finisher bar (simply filled by doing moves or taunts), and press the button when your opponent is groggy and in the right position. Pulling off finishers in Smackdown is much easier than most other wrestling games. In fact, everything is easier in Smackdown. It's a very pick up and play kind of game. Almost like an arcade game, but deeper. There are no health bars in Smackdown or health indicators of any kind. This can lead to some matches ending kind of abruptly, but I actually prefer it.

As I mentioned before, Smackdown is much faster than previous wrestling games. The biggest reason why it's faster is because a lot of the time when you knock your opponent down, they get back up immediately, sort of like a fighting game. Some people find this annoying, but I think it makes the game move so fast that it makes it more fun, and unique, as there aren't too many 3D wrestling games that are this fast. The only thing is, it can make it a bit hard to hit groggy moves sometimes. They do stay down for a few seconds a lot of the time, making it possible to pick them up. But generally, they just get up much faster than most wrestling games. The entrances in Smackdown are kind of weird. Instead of actually walking down the aisle, the character just walks in front of his titantron video. It's simple, but it works.

Smackdown has a nice variety of match types. From simple singles and tag matches, to handicap matches, to hardcore matches, falls count anywhere matches (which are basically the same except in hardcore, you start with a weapon), steel cage matches and I Quit matches. WWF gimmicks King of the Ring and Royal Rumble are included, as well as 4-man free-for-alls (both one-fall and elimination-style). One of the coolest match types in Smackdown is Special Referee, which allows you to play as the referee. Count as fast or as slow as you want (or not at all), and even physically interject yourself into the match (in other words, beat the hell out of the wrestlers).

The roster in Smackdown is okay for a first effort. There are 32 wrestlers in the game. Most of the core roster members of the time are included, and some more obscure guys as well. Overall, the roster is decent. Unfortunately, the Create A Wrestler mode is pretty bare-bones. Appearance-wise, it only allows you to choose generic heads, upper bodies and lower bodies. The other customization stats work okay, but it's not worth much when you can't make a unique appearance. Also, there are only 4 slots for created wrestlers, a pathetic amount. Worse yet, when you unlock wrestlers in Season Mode, you actually have to use a Create A Wrestler slot to play as them. This is especially stupid because there are more than four unlockable characters, so even using up all of your slots, you still can't have all the unlockable characters, let alone have an original character.

Speaking of Season Mode, it was great for its time. Actually, kind of revolutionary for its time. It goes on forever, instead of just ending when you win the belt or after an in-game year. You can also change which character you're controlling any time, and add or remove characters from appearing in the mode. It also has cutscenes, which is a nice addition but they're very short, repetitive, have no actual dialogue, and don't actually create true storylines or rivalries. Overall, the Season Mode hasn't aged too well, but it's still somewhat enjoyable.

The graphics for Smackdown were amazing for PS1 standards. The character models aren't nearly as blurry as most PS1 games. The arenas look decent as well, although the crowd looks like garbage. Referees don't appear in the game, except in the Special Referee match. That's one bit of authenticity that's missing. But overall, the look of the game is great. The sound on the other hand, isn't the best. There's no commentary, in fact no speech at all. The music is fine rock music, but some people will probably really hate it. The smacking sounds are generic but get the job done. The sound is the weakest aspect of Smackdown.

Despite the weak Create A Wrestler mode, poor sound, as well as graphics and Season Mode which were great for their time but haven't aged well, WWF Smackdown still stands out as a revolutionary wrestling game. It birthed one of the greatest wrestling gameplay engines in history. It's still fun to play, and that's ultimately what matters the most. While many fans of wrestling "simulations" like the AKI games and Fire Pro Wrestling likely balk at Smackdown's more "arcade-style" gameplay, there's no denying that it's still outrageously fun, despite its lack of realism.

As for whether I'd recommend this game to modern gamers? Well, unless you're a collector and want it for historical purposes, I wouldn't really recommend buying the original Smackdown. Smackdown 2 came out less than a year later and it's better in almost every way. Then again, the first three PS2 Smackdown games improved on the formula even more. As a collector, and as a huge wrestling fan, I'm glad I own all five of the "Smackdown" games. But if you've never played the series and you just want to play the very best one, I'd recommend the peak of the series, Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain. Still, on its own merits, WWF Smackdown was a great wrestling game, and a phenomenal first effort in a game series that both quickly and steadily climbed in quality over its first 5 iterations.


Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 9
Sound: 6
Value: 8
Tilt: 10

Overall Score: 8.4