Reviewed: February 8, 2005
Released: November 16, 2004
I really had no idea what I was in for when I decided to take on this review. I typically steer very clear of anything having to do with wrestling, and when it involves wrestling based on an extreme video series sold on late night TV my confidence isn’t fortified.
But this year was different. I had the chance at last year’s E3 to sit down with the lead designer and talk about this new version in great detail. He explained how they had listened to the gaming community with regards to their complaints and wishes for a sequel and had taken great care to include those “requests” into Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes The Neighborhood.
The game takes place in “your town” where the Backyard Wrestling association has just announced they are looking for new wrestlers and are putting a cool million in cash on the line if you can rise from nobody to somebody and become the new BYW champ.
This sequel is packed with loads of new features as you face off against more than 20 crazy characters including Insane Clown Posse, New Jack, Tera Patrick, Sonjay Dutt, Vampiro, Supreme, Pondo, and Messiah just to name a few. The physics engine, cleverly dubbed, the "Enviro-Mental Gameplay Engine", has been tweaked to allow for a lot more interaction with the environment and devastating damage.
The first step is to create your own wrestler using the new and improved Create-A-Wrestler System (catchy name). You can construct any body type then tweak the variables including hair, tattoo, face paint, and clothing. The level of detail here is much better than last year but still pales in comparison to anything found in Tony Hawk or Def Jam: Fight for NY.
You have several wrestling modes to choose from but single players will likely want to dive right into the Quest for the Belt, the career mode of Backyard Wrestling 2. Here you will fight in a series of ongoing and increasingly difficult matches as you work your way up the ladder.
You’ll start off fighting locals then move onto major celebrities as your rep and bankroll improve. As you advance through the career mode and win matches you move up in ranking and switch to new “neighborhoods” with new levels, each with their own unique challenges and clever construction.
Fans of the original BYW will appreciate the new additions to the combat system that now include submissions holds and body part specific damage, plus a new defense system that allows you to block attacks.
The combat is pretty intense for a wrestling game thanks mostly in part to the integration of the environments. Normally, wrestling games are pretty boring as you grapple and break holds and try to flip and pin your opponents. Here, there is nothing stopping you from beating down your opponent with anything you can lay your hands on, and I mean ANYTHING.
This ultimately leads to some killer finishing moves that rival the Blazin’ Moves of Def Jam, but these moves are also extremely easy to initiate making them more like a regular move than a special move. And since these moves are the only reliable way to do significant damage, you will end up using them as often as your power meter allows.
Combat works out really well with only a few basic inputs required from the player to perform basic attacks and moderately complex combos. There is no way to customize the controls so you had better like, or learn to like, the default setup.
While the designers made a valiant and sincere effort to improve upon last years game, a lot of core gameplay issues still snuck through between all of the feature additions. Collision detection is iffy at best and you will get grabbed when you “appear” to be in the clear. This really becomes an issue in flying tackles or engagements from variable elevations within the level. There is also a realism issue with the fact that a petite porn star can lift and toss around a burly rapper.
Multiplayer is limited to two players on a single system. While the concept of tag-team or battle royal matches is appealing the lack of Xbox Live support makes this something to go on the wish list for the next installment.
The visuals have definitely gone up in quality since the last game. The environments are incredible with so much detail, both subtle and obvious. The various levels are designed with loads of objects and multiple tiers that you can use to perform flying attacks.
What the character models lack in complexity and textures they more than make up for in animation. These guys (and gals) look great as they move around and interact with each other and their environments. There isn’t a lot of superficial glitz or special effects to be found. This is just a very raw and primal experience.
With a cast this insane I was expecting a lot of trash talk but instead I got a lot of repetitive one-liners that got annoying pretty fast. The only thing worse than what they were saying was how they were saying it. Not a lot of “feeling” in these readings.
The soundtrack rocks and rocks hard with plenty of licensed tunes that you will either love or hate. There are tracks that cover Rock, Metal, Punk, Hip Hop and Electronic, so hopefully you can find one or two tracks that you like.
The Quest for the Belt will take anywhere from 8-10 hours which is just about how long it takes to perfect your wrestling skills. Of course, these environments are so detailed and so interactive that you could fight in them multiple times and never fully explore their total lethality.
Xbox Live was originally intended but removed before the final release so you are left with a two-player versus mode, which will offer up some additional gameplay time. The only thing better than beating up on the computer is beating up on your best friend.
Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes The Neighborhood is a marked improvement over the original game, at least in features and level design, but ultimately there have been just too many other games in the same or similar genre that edges this one out in overall quality.
If you are a hardcore fan of Backyard Wrestling then by all means check out this game, but anyone looking for more polished wrestling or extreme fighting experience can probably find something better in any of the other offerings currently available.