WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 First Look

The PS2 grappler comes to Sony's handheld and we've got a first look at the game.

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WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006
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Ever tried to fit a wrestling arena full of 250-pound men in your back pocket? It's not an easy task, yet that's exactly what THQ and famed wrestling game developer Yuke's are attempting with WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 for the Sony PSP. Game producers dropped by the GameSpot offices yesterday to give us a sneak peek at the game, one that looks remarkably similar to its big brother on the PS2.

We're reading Ric Flair's biography right now. Something tells us Space Mountain has enough stories for two or three biographies.
We're reading Ric Flair's biography right now. Something tells us Space Mountain has enough stories for two or three biographies.

THQ has chosen SVR 2006 as its debut on the PSP for good reason. The PS2 SmackDown! series has been a bona fide hit for several years now, and last year's original SmackDown! vs. Raw game pushed the envelope even further, adding online play to its stable of features, which included a massive authentic roster and more game modes than you could spit a chunk of apple at. The PS2 version of SVR 2006 takes things to the next level with a host of new features, practically all of which will be well intact on the PSP game as well. But what are the key differences between the PS2 game we've seen glimpses of and the brand-new effort on Sony's handheld? Let's take a look.

First and foremost, Sony's Wi-Fi capabilities will be on display thanks to SVR 2006's wireless ad hoc multiplayer, which will let up to four players take part in matches that range from simple tag to more complicated bouts such as cage matches and "hell in a cell." Multiplayer will also be supported in SVR 2006's handful of PSP-only minigames, the details of which we couldn't pry out of game producers despite our most vicious chair shots. We also learned that there will be a PSP-only unlockable WWE legend in the game. But, even in the face of our most underhanded double-teaming tactics, the THQ folks kept mum.

The choice between which version of SVR 2006 to buy won't necessarily be an either/or decision, however. Thanks to some cool game-sharing capabilities between the PSP and PS2 versions, there appears to be some compelling reasons to pick up both games, including the ability to share season data. Using this feature, you'll be able to synch your PS2 and PSP careers and take your season mode game on the road with you, and then synch up once more after you've returned. But that won't be all. We also love the ability to share characters, championship belts, and unlockables between the two versions (bringing that as-yet-unnamed PSP WWE legend to the PS2 version and vice versa), as well as the ability to share created characters with other players.

Along with these PSP-centric features, one of the best things about SVR 2006 is how similar it looks to the PS2 game. When it comes to the WWE superstar models, there is very little difference between the PSP and the PS2 games, as they look fantastic on both platforms. The game producers told us that the only place where polygons have been removed from the game is in background elements such as the crowd. The wrestlers themselves look great and move at the same speedy clip that they do in the PS2 game. Don't take our word for it, though--check out our exclusive direct feed of the game here and have a look for yourself.

Booker T is undefeated when playing the staring game against his left hand.
Booker T is undefeated when playing the staring game against his left hand.

All the match types and modes found in the PS2 version will be in place on the PSP game when it ships later this year, including the story-driven career mode and the popular create-a-wrestler tools. The control scheme will also be familiar to fans of the PS2 version of SVR 2006. The lack of a second shoulder button won't affect things too much. Strike and grapple reverses will still be tied to the shoulder buttons on the PSP, but in order to store a finisher, you'll need to press the shoulder buttons together (as opposed to the L1 and L2 buttons on the PS2 game). Targeting will also change slightly--in the PSP game you'll use the square button and right trigger in tandem. Stamina will play a big part in the PSP game, as expected, and you'll still be using the Select button to catch your breath during downtime in the match.

All these game modes and graphical sheen come at a slight cost, however. Match commentary from the likes of Jerry Lawler, Tazz, Michael Cole, and good old J.R. has been removed from the PSP game in order to save space on the UMDs. Considering the general lackluster flavor of most wrestling games' commentary, we figure this is a pretty even trade. In place of the play-by-play are some standard hip-hop and rock tunes that fit well with the WWE's edgy feel. Also, the customizable 3D locker room that's found in the PS2 game's season mode--one that you could decorate yourself--will be replaced in the PSP version with a static locker more akin to previous versions of the console game.

Ripped from today's WWE headlines: Triple H vs. The Nature Boy.
Ripped from today's WWE headlines: Triple H vs. The Nature Boy.

WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006's upcoming PSP debut is notable both for its similarity to the PS2 game on which it's based, as well as the crucial differences that set it apart. If the developers can deliver a solid wrestling experience along with that typical WWE flair, SVR 2006 for the PSP should turn out to be a fun handheld wrestling experience, as well as a game that nicely complements its PS2 counterpart. We'll have more SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 for the PSP as we approach its holiday release, so stay tuned.

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