Reviewed: December 2, 2003
Reviewed by: Travis Young
There is something terribly wrong with today’s society and thanks to an ever-growing group of demented sadomasochists and Eidos we get to experience a lifestyle that is normally reserved for the likes of folks you would see on Jerry Springer or MTV’s Jackass.
Backyard Wrestling: Don’t Try This At Home is the latest variation of wrestling games to arrive for console systems. Based on what was once a niche following of WWF-wannabes that has since grown into a small empire, Backyard Wrestling has increased in fame and popularity thanks to a series of violent home videos and controversial exposure on TV and radio talk shows.
As a sports writer/enthusiast I get to cover a lot of “real” sports that are more about athletic skill and prowess and not necessarily how much pain a person can endure or how long they can function with three quarts of blood sprayed over the backyard. Needless to say I was quite skeptical when I approached this title despite my editor’s assurance that this was a “fun game”.
After nearly two weeks of semi-continuous gameplay I have to admit that Backyard Wrestling might not be the most socially relevant or morally redeeming game in my PS2 library but it’s one helluva fun ride and one of the most requested party games when I have my group of rowdy friends over for a night of gaming.
Backyard Wrestling Features:
The concept of Backyard Wrestling revolves around impromptu matches in normal everyday settings. There are no rings, no refs, no ropes or mats. Instead, you fight in a truck stop parking lot, a strip club, and even a few “backyards” including a ritzy doctor’s mansion. The levels are massive and loaded with fully interactive elements, so if you can see it you can likely smash it or use it as a weapon. The levels are also vertical so you can often climb ladders to reach new heights and perform those devastating body slams you see on TV.
Combat is brutal and fairly complex considering the nature of the game. There are three meters you need to monitor; jump, strikes, and slams, plus the health bar. These meters work independently based on the moves you are doing and will help you determine the best attack or combo.
The move’s list is staggering with more punches, grabs, throws, and kicks than many other more serious games. These can all be strung together in some impressive combos for ultimate damage. One unique aspect to this game is that momentum has been figured into the damage calculation. This is a great feature since you spend a lot of time running around the levels and if you can combine a body slam with a full-on run toward the opponent you can send them flying for extra damage.
There is also a challenging counter/reversal system in place that allows you to negate any single attack provided your timing is perfect. This is a nice system that keeps players and the computer from executing endless series of attacks until you are dizzy or down for the count. The downside to the system is that it is almost too easy to break a grab or throw move. After a few dozen matches I learned to not even attempt a grab or throw unless my opponent was already dizzy and defenseless. The other downside is the reversal system also makes it nearly impossible to pin your opponent. I ended up going for the KO 99% of the time – besides, it’s more fun that way.
Despite the “wrestling” attitude and even the name, Backyard Wrestling plays more like a fighting game than a WWE title and will likely appeal to fans of that genre more than those looking for an authentic wrestling experience. Even so, there is a great deal of wicked fun to be had here.
Backyard Wrestling has several modes you can choose from including a career mode that is cleverly disguised as a Talk Show. This mode allows you to participate in a series of matches that are interspersed with Jerry Springer-like video clips. It’s disturbingly authentic. You can also play in traditional Survival and King of the Hill modes, and a primitive Create-A-Wrestler mode lets you personalize the game.
Backyard Wrestling is perhaps the single most violent game I have played on my PS2 since my bootleg copy of Thrill Kill. The blood is plentiful and paints the landscape a bright crimson as your fighters smash and bash each other with a selection of makeshift weapons that can only be described as “evil”. Even when the blood isn’t spraying the landscape the physical bone-breaking animation of the moves will have everyone in the room groaning.
The PS2 version has a few issues with graphical quality. There is some shimmering and plenty of jaggies and the textures aren’t that detailed, especially the characters, but this is more than made up for with the excellent animation. The camera does a good job of tracking the action but there can be some framerate issues when it tries to circle around to capture a new angle. There are a few nagging clipping problems where fighters (or parts of fighters) will pass through objects or other fighters, but for the most part the presentation works very well.
As you might expect from an ultra-violent, trailer-trashy game there is an amazing and diverse selection of hard rock spanning almost two decades. Chances are if you like this game you are going to love the soundtrack, and what’s not to love with groups like Anthrax, Machine Head, Biohazard, and of course The Insane Clown Posse, who have somehow managed to become the cultural ambassadors for Backyard Wrestling. Good choice!
Sound effects include the anticipated moans, groans, grunts, and oomph’s you would expect from the violent action taking place on the screen. Everything sounds just as painful as it looks which is no small feat. There is even some impressive voice work thanks to many of the real wrestlers lending their quips and taunts to the project. The dialogue during the Talk Show mode is simply hilarious, especially if you are a closet Springer fan.
With more than 20 wrestlers and hundreds of exciting and painful moves to learn and experiment with Backyard Wrestling will provide you with countless hours of violent fun. Once you finish the Talk Show mode you might not jump right back in, but the multiplayer fun will make this a hit at your next drunken bash.
The $49 price might be a bit hard to justify for any but the most diehard of fans, so you may want to rent or wait for it to drop to $29, which shouldn’t be long in this diluted holiday season.
If you were a fan of Backyard Wrestling before the game then this title was made just for you. If you enjoy ultra-violent games like Tenchu or Thrill Kill then you will definitely want to play this game.
Backyard Wrestling: Don’t Try This At Home is a fun diversion that will let you exercise those demons of frustration after a hard day at work. And unlike the video series, you can finally ignore the warnings (and even the sub-title) and finally “try this at home”.