While WWE SmackDown Shut Your Mouth isn't anywhere near completion, it's still worth noting that the E3 demo on display should have "SmackDown" in very big letters and "Shut Your Mouth" in small ones. In other words, this is presently what you call an incremental improvement -- while there are certainly new wrestlers and new features in the game, as our first preview indicated in some detail, you are still not going to mistake this for anything other than a SmackDown game. It's a SmackDown game with Rob Van Dam in it, and a pretty neat rendition of RVD at that, but it's still SmackDown.
As I say, though, RVD is pretty cool. He's got a great set of animations for kick combos and pointless flippy-floppy stuff, including a snap headscissors and a funky victory roll into sunset flip combination. His top-rope maneuvers are very good as well, with a legdrop, twisting senton, Five Star Frog Splash, and several others. It's as faithful a replication of his moveset as Hulk Hogan's arsenal is completely nonsensical. If someone can send me legitimate proof of Hogan performing a leapfrog at any time in his career, I'd love to see it. Or, well, no, I wouldn't, but the point stands. The designers have to do something with all those move slots, though.
Some of the animations for signature maneuvers are still a little clumsy, though. Booker T, one of the other new wrestlers in the demo (RVD, Hogan, Stacy Keibler are the rest), has an offense that's very tricky to make credible in real life, and the Yuke's animators are apparently having a hard time making his opponents sell his kicks properly. Strike maneuvers like the axe kick and sidekick don't look very good when matched to the present sell animations, although Booker has some grapples into strikes that still look alright.
There seem to be more moves that link into other moves in Shut Your Mouth now, ones that set up subsequent grapple maneuvers. It looks like certain attacks leave a window where you're still partially grappled, leaving an opening to perform another move. It's more or less like moves that result in grogginess, although it takes potential errors in positioning out of the equation.
Object interaction has been beefed up in a couple of ways. There's better collision detection for international object shots, and new grapple maneuvers with objects as well. For example, grappling with a chair does a DDT on a chair, or a better-placed chairshot with a new camera angle. Another good addition is one-shot table prep -- grapple while holding a table and you'll lay your opponent on top of it in one smooth motion. Ladder grapples are presently limited to slams on the ladder, although the possibilities for that and many other object maneuvers are considerable. The throat-shot the Undertaker performs in the trailer movie is an obvious one, but many others come to mind: Rolling Thunder, the Van Daminator, the old Pillmanizer maneuver, a ladder sandwich whack, and so on.
In general, foreign object behavior is more versatile and simple. Setting up a table in the corner for an Irish whip or something like Tazz's table suplexes is easy to do. Multiple characters can ascend the ladder, and it's apparently possible to pull off nonsense like the Walls of Jericho atop the ladder if you can manage such an improbable setup. You can also interact with the rails, running along them or jumping off to perform aerial maneuvers (like the Hardy Boyz rail-run).
Outside the rails, the crowd in the ringside sections is now finally 3D. The models aren't all that detailed, but it's a definite improvement on the old flat bitmap people. That's the most obvious graphical upgrade, although the character models do look, as we say, incrementally improved. Some facial expressions and features are distinctly better, though -- RVD in particular has a well-defined face. The animation is a blend of old and new, with some that are very recognizable (the old dizziness animation is definitely held over) and some others that are new. The selection of reversal animations has improved, including a very funny Hogan reversal. Instead of just blocking a punch, he takes it, no-sells, and does the old Hulk-up/"Ah-ah-ah!" finger-pointing routine.
Which is just fine, providing you like Hulk Hogan. We'll refrain from editorializing in this instance (or rather this paragraph, since we did plenty of it a little ways above). We also don't have a lot to say at this point regarding the game's ancillary modes, since the demo is limited to single and tag matches, with TLC thrown in for the fun of it. We'll certainly follow this game plenty more in the future, though, since we know all you kids dig it so much. Look forward to it, and check our preview if you haven't yet.
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