WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 Minigame Hands-On
THQ's popular wrestler is debuting on the PSP. We go hands-on for a final look at the game.
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The recently released WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 for the PlayStation 2 turned out to be one of the best wrestling games of this console generation. When word got out that a portable version of the game was due for the Sony PSP in December, fans wondered just how much of the PS2's features and impressive graphics would need to be scaled down when it came to developing the game on the PSP. As we've found out in our recent hands-on, the answer is: not much. In fact, when it comes to SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 for the PSP, it isn't really a question of what has been taken out, it's what has been added.
Not everything that was found in the PS2 version is making it to the PSP game--just the most important bits, like game modes, match types, and playable wrestlers. All of these central features will be found in the PSP game, including, most notably, the season mode (complete with full voice work) and the GM mode. Also, the control scheme feels instantly familiar when you're in the ring. You'll still be striking with the X button, grappling with the circle button, blocking with either the left or right trigger, and regaining your stamina by holding down the Select button. PlayStation 2 SmackDown! 2006 owners will feel right at home on the PSP version. So what has been cut? First, the commentary by the likes of Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole, and Tazz is not found in the PSP version. Furthermore, the 3D locker room that is in the PS2 game has been replaced with a more simplified version of the locker room, where you'll be able to visit the WWE Shop Zone, improve your wrestler's attributes, and so on.
New additions to the PSP game include, perhaps most importantly, the ability to share your season and roster data between the PS2 and PSP versions. This means you'll not only be able to share created and unlocked characters between both versions of the game, but you'll also take your GM mode progress or season mode on the road with you. Next up for the PSP is a trio of minigames that should act as a fun diversion for you when the action in the ring has gotten a little stale. There are three minigames to choose from: a WWE-themed version of No Limit Texas Hold 'Em poker, a Eugene airplane race, and a WWE trivia game show.
Texas Hold 'Em poker is exactly what it sounds like: the popular televised brand of poker starring any of more than 50 WWE superstars (including announcers such as Michael Cole and good old J.R.). Up to six WWE characters can play at the table and as many as four of those characters can be controlled by real players via the PSP's ad hoc wireless capability (the remaining characters will be controlled by the CPU). You can assign artificial intelligence tendencies to any of the CPU-controlled players--from careless to clueless, and from aggressive to cautious. In addition, as each round continues, you can express emotion for your character--pleasure, anger, perplexity, or calmness--in an attempt to psych-out your buddies and take home the big pot. Any money you win playing poker can be used in the WWE Shopzone for unlockables, which is reason enough to try your luck.
The Eugene airplane race has you taking control of everyone's favorite mentally challenged grappler as he makes his way down the ramp, around the ring, and, ultimately, into the ring. As he runs down, Eugene will be attempting to balance himself by holding his arms straight out to either side. Your goal will be to keep Eugene as upright as possible, while navigating him around the tricky obstacles that surround the ring, such as sledgehammers, tables, and chairs. You control Eugene's balance by pressing left or right on the D pad in order to keep him on his feet. In multiplayer races, the player with the best time to the finish line will be the winner and will collect a small amount of WWE cash as spoils.
The final minigame is the WWE Game Show, a trivia game that plays a lot like the timed trivia contests you find in sports bars. For each game, you're given 10 questions that can range from identifying a particular WWE superstar by his or her finishing move to identifying a wrestler's entrance theme. As the clock ticks down, incorrect answers are eliminated, and the earlier you can answer the question, the more points you will win. Unfortunately, the game show doesn't award you with cash for good performances. But with more than 500 questions found in this mode, it should keep you busy when you want to test your WWE brainpower.
The final piece of the PSP puzzle for SmackDown! 2006 is the wireless play. Of course you'll be able to play the arcade minigames via ad hoc, but wrestling fans are likely to spend more time with their friends wirelessly getting their grapple on in the ring. You can play singles and tag matches (though when playing tag matches with just two players, both players will be matched on the same tag team). The performance of the game seemed to operate fairly well, with only minimal spurts of lag. It must be said that some of the timing-based games, such as that used when escaping the sleeper hold, were more difficult to pull off when playing wirelessly, if only because the timing is so crucial during those moments and any lag at all is that much more noticeable. Still, when it comes to trading blows in the middle of the ring, or rocking that perfect German suplex, SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006's wireless play should be a welcome addition to the handheld game.
We're a little more than a week away from the release of SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 for the PSP and expectations are running high based on what we've seen. Stay tuned for our full review of the game next week.