WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw Review
SmackDown! vs. Raw is a fun, full-featured wrestling game that brings some neat gameplay additions to the table, but you won't be able to shake the feeling that it isn't living up to its potential.
- The new mini-games are a cool addition to an otherwise great gameplay engine
- Superb wrestler models and arenas
- Create-a-belt and create-a-PPV modes are excellent additions
- Create-a-wrestler is as good as it's ever been.
- Online mode lacks any depth or lasting appeal
- Shortened, simpler season mode that lacks the open-endedness of its predecessors
- Wrestler roster has been cut significantly
- More than a few artificial intelligence deficiencies.
Since the year 2000, THQ and Yuke's WWE SmackDown! franchise has been steadily chugging along on an annual schedule. Save for one slight disappointment in WWF SmackDown! Just Bring It, the series has also continued to improve year after year, finally culminating in easily the most impressive effort to date in last year's WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain. Yuke's has had a tough act to follow with its next sequel, considering how polished and well put-together its last game was--unfortunately, it just wasn't quite able to pull it off. WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw is the sixth installment in the highly popular series, and it's also one of the most marginally changed iterations of the series. Despite being the first WWE game ever to offer a full roster of WWE voice talent and the first North American-released wrestling game to feature online play, neither of these features live up to their potential, and the other random gameplay upgrades just don't feel like a significant enough progression for the series.
Let's start with those gameplay upgrades of which there are at least a few worth mentioning. Nearly all of the gameplay changes made to this year's game are assorted ways to try to capture the proper flow of a real match. Nowhere is this more exemplified than in the little in-match minigames. At the beginning of a match, you'll frequently find yourself faced with a stare-down contest, a test of strength, or a shoving match. These are all controlled by specifically timed button presses that appear onscreen. In the stare down, you simply have to press X at the right time and you'll get the always important first strike. In a shoving match, you'll be presented with a meter that looks almost exactly like the kick meter from Madden NFL 2005 and it works pretty much the same as well. The meter swings upward to signify power for your shove, and then it swings back downward, challenging you to hit the X button at just the right time for maximum effectiveness. There's also an exact copy of this meter for the ever-popular chop battles you tend to see during real matches, which have been translated here very nicely. As well, you'll encounter a new spanking contest (strictly for the divas, of course). These little games can be turned on or off in the game's options menu, but we didn't find them to be intrusive, and instead thought they added a little more flair to the matches. That's flair meaning "style," not flair meaning Ric Flair. If you want to add a little more Ric Flair to your matches, yes, he is a selectable character.
There are also a couple of new meter systems. The first is a new way to reward players for playing characters according to their personalities. The wrestler will have a meter that sits beneath his special move meter that will signify what he is--either a good guy or a bad guy. If you're a good guy, you can build this meter up by playing to the crowd, taunting and performing high-risk maneuvers and such. On the flip side, heels are boosted by using weapons, complaining to the ref, using cheap tactics, and just about anything else you can think of to make the crowd hate you. The boon for filling up your meter depends on your personality. Good guys are rewarded with a manner of invincibility that causes your attacks to do more damage and prevents you from being attacked. Heels, on the other hand, are given a special low-blow move that actually does as much damage as your typical finisher. This is an absolutely great way to represent how different types of wrestlers play to the crowd, and it also provides an additional boost of authenticity to the in-ring action.
The other new meter is specific to the Royal Rumble match. Essentially, Yuke's has reworked how you throw opponents over the top rope during this match, which is to provide each participant with yet another onscreen meter that displays how close that wrestler is to being tossed. You still pretty much toss opponents over the rope the same way (by Irish whipping them near the ropes), but they won't go out that easy; they'll instead hit the outside apron and you'll have to immediately start striking or grappling with them to push them out. An additional wrestler can even come over and help you try to knock the other one over. Fundamentally, this is a cool idea, but the implementation isn't quite right. For starters, the animation while you're grappling with the guy doesn't look like anything you'd ever see during a real rumble match. Furthermore, with up to six guys in the ring at once, the combination of the life meter and ring-out meter ultimately equates to too many meters on the screen at once, and it becomes very distracting.
While SmackDown! vs. Raw does a great job of providing you with all sorts of minigames and meters to play with, it doesn't really change the core gameplay in any major way. There's nothing here as earth shattering as the new grappling system, which was implemented last year. Certain changes that were made in Yuke's GameCube wrestling title, WWE Day of Reckoning, didn't make it over into this game, like, for example, that excellent weight-balancing system (though this game does feature its own new weight system--albeit not as impressive of one). Generally speaking, the game plays just like its predecessors during matches, save for the few new additions and one very notable flaw--the artificial intelligence. The AI is downright brain-dead in certain situations. Scenarios involving weapons tend to be the worst; on more than one occasion, an opponent delivered a wicked chair shot to our superstar, only to end up idly standing over our downed wrester, seemingly incapable of following up until we stood back up. Opponents will also frequently botch Irish whip moves badly, and they just don't seem to be capable of properly taking advantage of situations that would seem to be in their best interest. Cranking up the difficulty does fix some of this, but overall, the game just feels easier than it ought to, and you can thank the AI for most of that.
When it comes to features, no one feature has been more touted than SmackDown! vs. Raw's online functionality. Ever since the proliferation of online console gaming, wrestling fans have been chomping at the bit for the chance to go at it in the broadband-based squared circle. Now, three years after the first online game for the PS2, THQ and Yuke's have produced an online wrestler--albeit one that features an online mode so bare bones that you'd think you had traveled back in time to 2001 when online first hit the console. To call this online mode disappointing would be a hefty understatement, as there's barely enough here to qualify as an afterthought let alone a real feature.
- Player Reviews: 208
- 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:
Competitive, Team Oriented
- Online Modes:
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
2 Players Online