Xbox Review - 'Backyard Wrestling 2: TGtN'

by Kris Graft on Jan. 21, 2005 @ 12:23 a.m. PST

Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes The Neighborhood places gamers deep in the heart of Small Town America. Backyard Wrestling Inc. has announced "your town" as the location of its first live pay per view. They've put a million dollars cash prize on the line for the wrestler who's got what it takes to destroy every obstacle in their way to the main event and ultimately the unified BYW championship.

Genre: Fighting / Wrestling
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Paradox
Release Date: November 16, 2004

Let’s lay one thing out on the table right from the start: Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood is the video game equivalent of being struck in the crotch with a cinderblock. This sequel builds upon the shaky foundation of its predecessor by adding more moves and more recognizable characters. However, the core gameplay is monotonous, the A.I. is anything but “intelligent,” the collision detection is inexcusably inaccurate, the graphics are wrought with glitches, and the audio is weak. With excellent wrestling games such as WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain and Def Jam: Fight for New York out on the shelves, it’s a mystery why anyone would even consider BYW2.

As with most fighting or wrestling games, BYW2’s story serves only as a backdrop to explain why a few freaks are beating the snot out of each other. The career mode outlines how Backyard Wrestling Inc. has offered $1 million to whoever can win the three local tournaments, and eventually the championship. Lame CG cut scenes move the story along, and offer well-deserved breaks from the actual game.

There are only two game modes in BYW2: career and exhibition. So, when you get bored with these two modes, you might as well pop in Def Jam: Fight for New York, because variation isn’t this game’s strong suit. There’s little motivation to keep trudging through the tedious career mode except to earn more money to buy new clothing and accessories for your character, or video clips of wrestlers. Part of the career mode is made up of goal-based matches which require you to perform certain moves a set amount of times, or defeat an opponent in a specific way. You also take part in tournaments, which, when completed, unlock new areas to fight in.

The actual gameplay is so simple and easy, that you only need to play it for about an hour before monotony sets in. The main reason things get so old so fast is because the A.I. is so stupid, you can consistently win matches by doing the same moves over and over. Computer-controlled opponents often run around aimlessly, as if they forgot why they were in a makeshift wrestling ring in the first place. Perhaps these wrestlers consumed too much mercury from broken fluorescent lights.

Your wrestling battlegrounds range from actual backyards to offices and restaurants. There are plenty of tables, countertops, and other tiers to jump from, in order to smash your enemy from above. Much of the environment is destructible, and debris and other objects can be used as weapons. Unfortunately, your arsenal is poorly balanced. Some weapons are completely useless due to the slow attack animation that goes along with the weapon. The cinderblock and chainsaw, for example, are so slow to use, and leave you so vulnerable to attack, it’s recommended to stick with your fists and feet. On the other hand, the pool skimmer and barbed-wire baseball bat can easily wreak havoc on the incompetent A.I. The inclusion of weapons was a nice thought, but so was the jockey underwear you got in your Christmas stocking. In other words, a good idea doesn’t make up for poor execution.

A turbo meter builds up as you fight, and gives you the ability to perform certain moves, such as counters, dashing, and cinematic super moves. The attack counter, which is an extremely easy way to override an opponent’s grapple, uses up most of a full turbo meter. While easy to execute, this special counter can’t be used again until your meter refills, which is a good measure that keeps some balance in the gameplay. A full meter allows you to perform a super move, which is a particularly brutal, drawn out attack. The meter adds a slight amount of depth the gameplay, but it’s the same thing you’ve seen in Capcom fighters that are several years old.

There have been a few additions to BYW2’s fight system that probably should’ve been included in the first game. Submission holds, counters, and blocking made it to the sequel (additions that the instruction manual refers to as “groundbreaking”). Submission holds work well enough, and when activated, the players are prompted to mash any button in order to either prolong the hold or escape from it. Standard counters that don’t require the aforementioned turbo meter are almost complete guesswork, as the player not only has to time the counter, but guess which corresponding button to press in order to perform it successfully. Blocking works just fine, although you could probably get along fairly well without using it very often.

The most touted new feature of BYW2 is the ability to perform an “Enviro-Mental” attack. This involves you dragging your opponent to a designated area, such as a fence, wall, or stove, and pressing a single button (again, almost too simple). This activates a sequence in which you use your surroundings to bash up your competition. Some are kind of cool, such as when you throw a guy onto a hot stove in a fast food restaurant, or smash his head with a car’s trunk lid. It would’ve been more rewarding if it took any amount of skill to perform one of these attacks.

One of the main flaws of BYW2 is the atrocious collision detection. Very often, attacks that obviously miss the target cause the intended victim to react as if the attack was landed successfully. For example, you can be standing on an upper tier, your feet level with your opponent’s eyes, and if you swing a weapon way over your enemy’s head, you’ll land the attack. The opposite also happens, and your attacks won’t connect, instead passing through your opponent. Sometimes, wrestlers float in midair when they’re supposed to be slung across the shoulder of their opponent. Also, you’re not able to grapple another character when they’re dazed. Instead, your arms just pass through them when you try to initiate a grapple. There is no redemption for collision detection as bad as this, especially in a game that is based on things colliding with one another.

Multiplayer is only available for up to two players. Although the game was originally going to be Live enabled, the feature didn’t make the final cut. Really, multiplayer just offers the option to suffer alongside a friend, which may help ease the pain.

The graphics are slightly better than the first BYW. Still, the environments and character models are not up to the standards set by other recent wrestling games. The wrestlers often pass through walls, fences, and other objects. The pre-made fighters are more detailed than the custom wrestlers, so at least fans can recognize the likes of Violent J, Ruckus, Vampiro, and Madman Pondo, to name a few. Oh yeah, and there are a couple of playable adult film stars.

The sound effects are just plain weak. A successful hit, whether it be with a fist or an office chair, lacks “oomph.” BYW2 has many moments where the aural impact just doesn’t match the visual brutality of an attack. The soundtrack is licensed, and attempts to push the “hardcore” attitude of the game. The selection includes all kinds of rock and hip-hop styles, with songs from Darkness Falls, Kool Keith, Saliva, and Murphy’s Law, among many others. You have the option of turning off songs you don’t want to hear, or you can play your own ripped songs from your hard drive.

Again, with wrestling games such as SmackDown! and Def Jam available, BYW2 is not the best choice. The only exception to this is if you’re a huge hardcore wrestling fanatic who doesn’t care about tedious gameplay, dumb A.I., bad collision detection, glitchy graphics, and weak audio in a video game. Your money would probably be better spent on spandex shorts, an old folding chair, and a burnt out fluorescent light. The adult film star and evil clown that grace the box may pique your curiosity, but it’s best to resist, and avoid this one altogether.

Score: 4.0/10

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