In early 2000 THQ decided to try out their first WWF game for the Playstation console, as they’d only ever produced WCW games on that console, which didn’t turn out well at all. But with WWF – and Wrestling in general – going through a new-found boom period thanks to the ‘attitude era’, they seemed to find their feet with a new – fresh – younger roster of Superstars, and changed the way Wrestling games were developed. No longer were they small low-res characters with very little detail on them, now we’re getting full detailed (for the time) models, with proper titantron video’s in their entrances, which is something we’d never had on the n64 due to it being on cartridge rather than disc.
THQ managed to do something Acclaim didn’t – simplify the controls. No longer did we have to press 5 button combo’s like 80’s fighting games such as Mortal Kombat, now we had a simple grapple system, which made playing seem more like fan, rather than a chore as we didn’t need to pause the game every 60 seconds to see how to bust off a bodyslam.
WWF SmackDown had it’s flaws, and almost seemed like a demo for WWF: SmackDown! Know Your Role which came out about 6-months later – crazy by todays standards! But it was a great base for future titles. The roster was pretty small next to a game of it’s era like WWF No Mercy, but that game albeit was very fun, had very low quality Superstars.
Gameplay wise, there was quite a handful of new match-types we’d never seen before, like “I Quit” & “Special Ref”, both of which has only just been brought back for WWE’13! There were no table’s, or ladder matches in this version, they were all added for the next title. But for what we got, it was a great game that had me – and friends – spending too much time on it.
The Create-a-Wrestler wasn’t the greatest in the world, as we could do so much more in even older game’s like WrestleMania 2000 on the n64, but it done it’s job. It wasn’t advanced in the slightest, and all you basically done was pick a pre-made head, body, legs, all of which were from actual in-game characters (and some custom lookalike’s for Jeff Jarrett, Hulk Hogan, and even some random robots… not too sure why?) we couldn’t even preview the moves for our movelist back then either, so you had to play a match to see which move you wanted. Speaking of moves, you could “name” your finisher… as cool as that sounds, there wasn’t actually any commentary in the game, instead when you hit your finisher during the match, a nameplate would show up at the bottom of the screen. Sounds cooler than it actually was.
Season mode was nothing too special, although it did have some random cut-scenes – all of which had no voiceovers. Or if you created your own Superstar, you’d have to take him through a ‘pre-season’ first BEFORE you’re allowed to do the actual season mode. A list of unlockables are parts to create Ivory, Albert, Mideon, etc. But with very little CAW slots, it was nearly impossible to create everybody you unlocked parts for along with CAW’s of yourself and all your friends.
There were Championships, and rankings. But they weren’t anything spectacular. Infact it wasn’t until SmackDown 2: KYR that the feature came into it’s own. If you were #1-5 in the rankings, you could fight for the WWF Championship. So for example if Triple H was the Champion, then before his match started you could decide to put his title on the line or not. They were a lot more refined in the next instalment, but it was a pretty good start for a first game.
All in all, the game was a big success and started off one of the biggest gaming franchises of the 00’s, keeping the tag-line of The Rock’s famous catchphrases up until late-2003 for Here Comes The Pain. But SmackDown 1 was only the begining, as 6-months later we got a much bigger game, full of new match types and a plethora of new Superstars!
Keep checking back for part 2!