WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 Review
The first wrestler on the PSP is a worthy port of the acclaimed PlayStation 2 game, but its value is somewhat dubious to those who already own the original.
- Gameplay is completely intact, and just as superb as it was on the PlayStation 2
- Tons of different modes, including ad hoc multiplayer and the new general manager mode
- some of the best graphics you'll find on the system
- great voice work from the wrestlers
- plenty of creation and customization options.
- Collision detection is still periodically problematic
- artificial intelligence definitely has its dumb spots
- general manager mode feels more like a starting point for better things in the future than a fully fleshed-out mode
- Long load times and bad minigames are really the only things that differ from the PS2 game
- No online play.
Released earlier this year on the PlayStation 2, WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 got the acclaimed wrestling franchise back on the right track and delivered some of the best wrestling gameplay of this generation. As is the way of things nowadays, SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 is appearing on the PSP in the form of a pretty straightforward port. Impressively, this version includes basically every single fundamental feature of the PlayStation 2 game, and it suffers no setbacks in control or gameplay whatsoever. The presentation holds up its end of the bargain too, featuring graphics that are quite impressive for the PSP's capabilities, and there is very little of the audio missing. So if you never bothered to grab the original game when it hit last month, then the PSP version is just as worth looking at as its console counterpart. But, if you did buy the game on the PS2 already, there's really not much here to convince you that you should buy the same game twice. The scant collection of mediocre minigames that Yuke's has included to try to give the game its own, exclusive content are pretty much worthless, and the loading times inherent to the PSP version make certain features, such as the create-a-wrestler mode, a real chore to deal with. Still, for those who simply want a version of this year's best wrestling game to take with them on the go, SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 on the PSP fits the bill nicely.
WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 is very much a Yuke's PlayStation 2 wrestling game. That is to say, if you played any of the developer's earlier games, this one isn't going to throw you for a loop. What it will do is show you a number of key refinements to the gameplay that help it emulate real-life wrestling (we use the term loosely, of course) better than any game before. For one thing, SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 introduces a measure of ring psychology to the proceedings. Don't worry; you don't have to plan your spots or your finishes or anything. What's been introduced here is a pair of systems that track your wrestler's stamina, as well as his or her momentum, in the match. Stamina drains a number of ways, though mostly through pulling off and being on the butt end of big moves. Momentum is built by playing a more interesting match, one that will get the crowd thoroughly behind your wrestler.
The combination of these two systems leads to more logical and slightly more methodical matches. You can't get away with just pulling off lengthy strings of weak moves to survive, but you also can't just toss power move after power move at your opponent without draining your stamina. Therefore, you have to be smart, switching up between weaker and stronger moves, taking occasional breaks to regain stamina (which is done simply by holding down the select button), and playing to the crowd as much as you can. Both factors are visible throughout a match. When your wrestler's stamina is drained, he or she will double over in exhaustion. Your ability to pull off a finishing move is directly tied in to the momentum meter. Building it up to its peak will let you pull one off or even store one for later--though finishers delivered at any momentum level other than the peak one won't do as much damage.
SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 also manages to differentiate the unique styles (or lack thereof, in some cases) of the many WWE superstars. Whereas in the past, grappling attacks were relegated to the same four categories for every single wrestler, now each wrestler is assigned four of seven available categories. From within the game's move editor, you can assign them power, speed, technical, luchadore, brawler, martial arts, and old-school categories. The one constant for all wrestlers is submission grapples, which is always assigned no matter what. But the remaining three categories can be divvied up however you like. There's also a fifth grapple category that determines what kind of wrestler you are, a heel or a face (in lay terms, a bad guy or a good guy). The moves are appropriately different, with the heel moves involving a lot of cheating and cheap shots, and the heroic moves staying well within the rules. Apart from the categorical changes though, this is very much the same type of grapple system the series has used over the last couple of games--so while things like trying to figure out who has what types of moves might take a bit of getting used to, fundamentally it should be familiar to you.
Believe it or not, the list of crazy additions to the gameplay engine does not end there. There are lots of little ancillary additions too, similar to some of the stuff Yuke's added last year, such as the prematch minigame. A couple of wrinkles have been tossed into the specials system. For instance, you can now steal an opponent's taunt by pressing the special button and hitting a taunt at the same time. Doing so completely drains your opponent's momentum. There's also an ability to play possum by countering a ground attack in combination with pressing the special attack button. This rolls your opponent up into a particularly sneaky pin.
SmackDown! vs. RAW even includes a deeper array of match types to keep you busy, on top of everything else. All the usual suspects are front and center once again, including cage matches, hell-in-a-cell matches, table matches, TLC matches, elimination chamber matches, first blood matches, and all the rest. New to the roster are fulfill-your-fantasy and buried alive matches. Fulfill your fantasy is the effective replacement to the always-lame yet always-included bra-and-panties matches, featuring exclusively the WWE divas. This one is equally silly, letting you choose outfits for the ladies to wear and asking you to pull off these goofy fantasy moves (most of which involve pillow fights, spanking, and other forms of titillation).
The buried alive match is an interesting addition; the whole strategy of the match is to drag your opponent out of the ring, down the aisle, and to a mound of dirt near the stage area, where a coffin is set up. Any wrestling fan worth his salt will know where this goes from here, and the mechanics of getting your opponent into that coffin and the lid shut aren't half bad (though somewhat frustrating at times). Ultimately, the buried alive match is a worthwhile addition, though the fulfill-your-fantasy match probably could have been bypassed altogether. But more interesting than these are the improvements to existing matches, like the cage match, for example, which now features an exit door and a much better method for emulating the struggle of climbing out of that cage. Ladder matches are better too, with multiple ladders available and a new brawling system that lets you duke it out with your opponent while both of you are on the ladder. Great stuff.
- Player Reviews: 137
- Game Universe:
- WWF Raw (XBOX, 32X, GB, GG, SNES, GEN),
- WWE Crush Hour (GC, XBOX, PS2),
- WWF Royal Rumble (GEN, SNES, DC),
- WWF War Zone (N64, PS, GB),
- WWF Attitude (DC, GBC, N64, PS),
- WWF European Rampage Tour (AMI, C64),
- WWF In Your House (PC, PS, SAT),
- WWF Super Wrestlemania (GEN, SNES),
- WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 (PSP, PS2),
- WWF King of the Ring (GB, NES)
- Offline Modes:
- Number of Players: