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WWE: Shut Your Mouth (PS2)

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Flowing manes of golden curly hair, revealing pink Speedos, plenty of makeup and oily men writhing on the floor, the fact that a large portion of World Wrestling Entertainment's fervent following consists of homophobic macho men is perhaps one of the world's greatest ironies. For those of you who have been living on a distant planet for the last decade or so and have not heard of WWE let me take this opportunity to welcome you back and fill you in on a game which, by all rights, just shouldn't be any good, but at the last minute manages to pull out a concealed chair and batter you round the head until you admit defeat and acknowledge it?s all round goodness.

There have been many previous attempts to port WWE to the gaming world but they have all been pretty dismal affairs. Slow unresponsive controls, a lacklustre move repertoire, dreadful gaming mechanics and most importantly just no fun at all. A couple of years ago though the Smackdown series came onto the market and for once provided a gaming experience which could begin to convey the world of WWE as it should be, and it's the third game in the Smackdown series which I will be reviewing here.

WWE is about showmanship and spectacle. Sure, there's the wrestling theme that runs throughout but the heart is bright, loud and attention seeking, and that's exactly what had been missing from every other wrestling outing, but WWE: SYM successfully puts you in the middle of one of the greatest gaming spectacles around, and it achieves this by doing exactly what it's real life counterpart does, variety. One thing you quickly notice about WWE: SYM is "choices". They're everywhere, at times it seems like the game is just option screen after option screen. At the heart of this option bonanza is the Create a Wrester feature. This is by far the best and most complete Create feature seen yet and at the beginning the choices available are overwhelming. Everything from the type of skin your wrestler has to the colour of their iris can be changed. There are sub systems in the main system, a face morphing feature which lets you play plastic surgeon on your creation, a clothes editor which lets you change the length, style and colour of hundreds of different clothing articles. I would go as far as to say that with enough patience and skill it would be possible to make a wrestler which resembles you to a frightening degree.

The melodramatic soap aspect of WWE is another part of the experience that has been ported successfully. The Season mode is essentially two to three years of WWE life. It takes the form of a branching storyline in which you will get to make dozens of choices and influences the show. Everything from alliances, vendettas, twists and turns will unfold throughout the years and at the end your character will have a personality of his own, a true virtual star. This is in addition to the perfectly recreated existing WWE personalities which have all their moves, speeches, theme music etc from the show.

And now we come to the actual gameplay. Each character has a rather hefty moves repertoir which can be broken down into strikes and holds. The system is similar to the Tony Hawks series in that there is a button for strikes (Kick tricks in TH?s)) and one for grabs (Grab tricks in TH's). Pressing the X button for example will produce one strike move whereas pressing X and down will produce another. This applies to each direction of the D-pad (Including diagonals). With grabs, the same system applies except that the opponent?s condition and position will provide different results. I could go on for a long time about the different possibilities with this combat system but let's say each character has around 60 odd moves at their disposal with the ability to customize each move from a selection on literally hundreds of throws, grabs, strikes and submission moves available.

So, is this a game for the WWE fanatic? I would say definitely, but it's also a game for any gamer who enjoys a beat'em up with a twist or wants a multiplayer experience which doesn't involve a battle of canned combos but rather latex clad mayhem.

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