Eidos managed to plumb the depths of the gaming with last year's Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This At Home, and to just about everyone's surprise, they announced that they were working on a sequel not long after the release of the first game. Who knows, perhaps they spent a lot on the license and felt the need to recoup costs?
There Goes The Neighbourhood starts off in much the same way as Don't Try This At Home did - with lots of extremely brutal video footage of backyard wrestlers putting themselves in mortal danger. As enticing as watching people being powerbombed from scaffolding through multiple barbed-wire-wrapped tables is, it's a bit of a worrying sign when an action/fighting game won't actually show you the underlying game engine as part of its intro sequence. As with last year's title, there's a solid reason for this - There Goes The Neighbourhood's in-game engine is, frankly, an embarrassment. It's undoubtedly better than the engine in Don't Try This At Home - primarily because the wrestler models are bigger and there's an expanded move set that includes submission moves and a blocking system - but it's still somewhat like saying that having a nail hammered into your head is preferable to having twenty of them slammed into your skull by a drug-crazed gibbon, if you follow me.
Like its predecessor, it'd be fair to say that There Goes The Neighbourhood is somewhat light on game modes. You've got exhibition matches - strictly one on one affairs, without a hint of tag or even six man matches that just about every other wrestling game can manage - and a career mode that manages something amazing. You see, last year's Backyard Wrestling title had a poor career mode, but at least it was short, and the cutscenes - built around the running gag of a talk show - were funny. There Goes The Neighbourhood's career mode is, to sum it up in one word, tedious. The premise isn't terrible - the people behind Backyard Wrestling promise a million dollars to whichever backyard wrestler can rise above the rest, with the action taking place in your very neighbourhood. The execution, however, is plodding, hampered by unclear mission objectives, enemies with AI in the negative numbers and a collision detection system that's so laughably bad it's painful. Sure, Don't Try This At Home had many of those problems, but as mentioned, it was at least short - you'll have to fight through many, many more moronic enemies to finish the game's career mode, unlocking new videos and many ludicrous create-a-wrestler parts along the way. Very, very few gamers will have the patience to fight their way through each and every mission and challenge - but that's fitting for a title that virtually nobody should buy in the first place.
The real problem with Backyard Wrestling - both this game and its predecessor - is that while you're capable of some truly stunning moves - grabbing an opponent on top of a roof and performing a spinning piledriver onto the concrete carport some twenty metres below, for example - there's absolutely no sense of real damage. Each and every move - from a slap in the face to the aforementioned piledriver - do a tiny amount of damage, and it's only certain sequential moves that will stun your foes for any length of time. You've also got a devastating special move that's easy enough to reel off, but that's just about it for truly punishing moves. To add insult to injury, there's a number of moves that lack sound effects - there's little worse than unleashing what should be a spine-crushing move, only for the title to go silent, lessening what puny impact it already had.
As with its predecessor, there's a smattering of well-known names in There Goes The Neighbourhood; in fact there's a better range of types who might even be called wrestlers, from ex-ECW stalwarts New Jack and The Sandman through to Tera Patrick and the two members of the Insane Clown Posse, Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J. If you're a fan of the ICP boys, you'll no doubt be thrilled to know that they also contribute to the soundtrack, as does Andrew WK, another hidden choice.
If there's one area where There Goes The Neighbourhood does solidly improve on its predecessor it's in the create-a-wrestler department. You're no longer limited to around half-a-dozen set models with minor colour changes - now you can create male or female backyard grapplers with a small selection of clothing options; as you progress through the tedious career mode, you can buy new CAW parts, although there's a solid emphasis on the wacky over the traditional. So, if you were hankering to create Hunter Hearst Hemsley or Hulk Hogan in a backyard arena, you're out of luck. Really, just about anything would have been better than last year's game in this department, and it's still way below what we'd expect from any other wrestling game.
Just to clarify here, if you're having trouble seeing where we're going with this review - Backyard Wrestling: There Goes The Neighbourhood is a game that virtually nobody should buy, and only the most die-hard wrestling fans should even rent - and even then, only to really show how much better the competing fare from THQ is. With Backyard Wrestling: There Goes The Neighbourhood, Eidos has claimed a rare double - it's developed and released the two worst wrestling titles of this generation, hands down.