As a relative newcomer to the virtual wrestling ring, Eidos Interactive brings us Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes The Neighborhood, a mission-driven ?local wrestler makes good’ brand of video game. Amazingly, this game is bad; not ?run like hell’ bad – but certainly too close for wrestling comfort.
The game’s premise is simple enough: create a character to compete through wrestling bouts in your local town with the eventual aim of winning a $1,000,000 cash prize. Berated by well-known wrestling personalities like New Jack, Insane Clown Posse, Masked Horn Dog, and with the inclusion of porn stars Tera Patrick and Summer Sanders, Backyard Wrestling 2 focuses on the best of the worst – and that’s where the game goes wrong.
Taking advantage of an undeniably simple format, like creating a wrestler, then wrestling, and becoming the champion of Backyard Wrestling seems to have been beyond the competence level of developers Paradox Entertainment. This is never more apparent than in their need to include porn stars, little known wrestlers and Andrew W.K. to promote the game to the masses. And, in all honesty, it’s hard to see whom the game is targeted for. Wrestling – check – I like wrestling. Porn stars – check – I like porn stars. And Andrew W.K. – check – I like rock musicians on crack. All in all, it seems a decent enough formula for a great game, but Backyard Wrestling 2 falls horribly short across many important areas.
The gameplay in Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes The Neighborhood is nothing short of atrocious for this era of gaming. One aspect you’d think gaming companies would get right (by now) is contact physics, and yet you’ll grapple and throw and perform moves through objects that aren’t interactive. Every game in the wrestling genre seems to have perfected it, but Backyard Wrestling 2 takes a definite step backwards in the collision area. With the WWE game franchises monopolizing the wrestling arena, one would figure that Paradox would have added a little something extra to their grappling system. Instead they give us impossible moves, minimal wrestling applications, and a counter system that requires you to guess what the game is thinking. Personally speaking, I realize the game is supposed to be ?hardcore’ and I should take it all with a grain of salt while playing, but Backyard Wrestling 2 frustrates no end. The AI seems almost telepathic and can counter your every action for a full thirty seconds before one of you actually manages to get a move off. One slight upside to the otherwise horrible gameplay are the Enviro-Mentals; specific places on the stage where you can inflict extra damage by slamming opponents into the environment. Though, as a feature, the Enviro-Mentals are neither new enough nor impressive enough to garner a great score, but they do make the game slightly more interesting. The mission-based system is an old way to teach people the intricacies of the game, but unfortunately the missions are damn near impossible at some points. On the other hand, though, some of them are insanely easy – it all evens itself out in the end I suppose.
Graphically the game’s backgrounds are pretty enough; not high end, Call of Duty graphics, but satisfactorily passable. However, from the outset, one noticeably substandard thing about the graphics is how poor the character models are. Admittedly, I didn’t expect Dead or Alive quality here, but the images used for the game are unacceptable – especially this late in the PS2’s lifespan. The game seemed to perk up a little during the Enviro-Mentals but, considering how seldom I actually used them, short of finding out where each one was, it isn’t nearly enough to garner a decent graphics score. Of course, most fighting games in this day and age include breakable backgrounds. Throwing an opponent through some construction supplies to reveal the porta-potties behind them holds your attention for a while, but quickly becomes repetitive and dull. Fortunately the frame rate in the game stays constant throughout with only the occasional glitch here and there.
One place the game stands out is musically, specifically the soundtrack. Hitting every musical genre short of country, the musicians you will aurally enjoy include: Andrew W.K., Dropkick Murphys, Murphy’s Law and Kool Keith. It literally spans the entirety of music. One of the best aspects of the game, and all other game developers should take note of this, is: If you don’t like a song, you can hit the select button to change it. It’s absolutely brilliant. Personally, I am not a huge fan of rap, so when Kool Keith chimes in with his 1 ? cents, I quickly tapped the golden select button on my controller to bring up some Dropkick Murphys. Pay attention game designers, we want this stuff in our games, especially if you are going to mix genre’s of music. However, and no big surprises here, but the game once again falls short in all other sound categories. Paradox Entertainment seem to have perfected that ?hurled human body through a crate box noise’ and subsequently they use it everywhere – even when you aren’t being power bombed through a crate box. The voice acting is horrible throughout unless you’ve managed to make it through all the challenges whereupon you get a little animated segment with voice acting from popular Backyard Wrestling personalities. This particular voice acting is decent and ?almost’ worth listening to, if you like hearing Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope from Insane Clown Posse say “biatch!” a whole bunch of times. Also, the lyrics of the songs haven’t been edited and the voice actors seemed to have been given free reign to say whatever came to mind – so, if you’re a parent, you have been forewarned that there is an abnormal amount of strong language in this title.
Value is a relative term normally. It’s different for each person, but not in this case. The only convincing reason to purchase this game is as an alternative to a lobotomy (Ouch! – Ed). The game has no true replay value short of collecting the inane pieces of costume you unlock after gaining a new championship belt, as well as the purchasable full-motion video movies of each Backyard Wrestling personality in action. The character creation throughout the game is pretty well set in stone and massively underdone when compared to the established WWE titles. There are very few moves to choose from and the costumes are a joke. By spending the money won from matches, you can unlock accessories for your wrestler, but there isn’t really any worthy reason to do so. The graphics aren’t good enough for you to care, and the little extras you purchase don’t make all that much difference to the experience.
After only a few short hours with Backyard Wrestling 2 most people will come to the conclusion that there are better games out there to spend their money on. The game doesn’t have any redeeming qualities to make it a worthwhile purchase – though there are certainly worse titles on the market. If you’re done with WWE Raw Vs. Smackdown and are really, really, really bored, then rent Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes The Neighborhood for a night; you will duly realize just why the WWE has a stranglehold on all things wrestling.