THQ and Yukes’ WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2006, released in late 2005 for PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. It is not just another wrestling game it actually defines the genre. Thanks to lots of improvements and tons of new options. It’s not the perfect wrestling game, but it’s close. Players don’t have to be a wrestling fan to appreciate the challenges put forth in this excellent title.
Blazing a Trail
There’s no use slamming the old wrestling games. This is new territory. Where we often try to caution you about annual sports titles and how little they improve year-to-year, suggesting players wait out a season or two until some major changes have been implemented, WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2006 is ripe for the picking. If there is a better wrestling game on the market, we’ve yet to see it.
Pushing You to Your Limits
This game is a lot more challenging in many respects than its predecessors. The AI has been tweaked, but it’s still a bit of a disappointment as the characters tend to perform in too similar a style. The AI is definitely more difficult to dominate, but gamers can change that by adjusting the various difficulty sliders. The trouble is that all of the AI characters are affected by those changes, so they still don’t feel all that differentiated from one another. At least you have the various multiplayer modes to look forward to.
Strategy must be exercised carefully in this game. There are a lot of decisions to make that require a lot of forward thinking. Instead of being able to keep the opponent under control with a couple of powerful moves, players will have to use varied techniques. Momentum and Stamina meters have been introduced to make the gameplay more realistic. If players use all of their top-level moves the character will eventually drain all their energy on the stamina meter.
New moves will make you want to experiment with the gameplay. There is a new sleeper hold, the ability to play possum, the Irish Whip, and grapple moves that are totally customizable for each character. The only grapple elements you’ll have to share between wrestlers are submission holds and dirty and clean grapples. Other grapple options include martial arts, power, speed, and old-school. Remember the Hulkster is a playable character and you’ve got to respect his old-school style.
High-Flying New Modes
WWE: Smackdown vs. Raw’s Season and GM modes let you see the world of professional wrestling from a different perspective than just watching it on TV. The GM mode is deep and contains a lot of text and menus, in the GM mode, the bottom line is ratings. Get the ratings and you’re earning big money. To do this you have to hire the best performers that you can afford. You’ll also have to script events and create rivalries to hype up your audience.
Character creation is much more comprehensive than it used to be not only can players customize each character’s grapples but there are also tons of physical options to choose from. Players can even trade creations with other players online.
Multiplayer modes can be accessed both on- and offline. Online, gamers can play against five other players while they can only duke it out with three others offline. From tag team to battle royale matches, the game doesn’t miss a trick–or a match. It even includes the Buried Alive match, where players have to wrestle the opponent out of the ring and into a waiting coffin.
Wrestling for the championship belt is the tour de force of Smackdown Vs. Raw’s online matches. Stats are recorded and stored for all players so they can check out the history of the players that you’re going up against. There are a few online omissions that would have really completed this game, such as a buddy list and the ability to communicate during matches, but there are enough new additions here that it’s hard to complain.
The characters are virtually photo realistic as this series gets closer and closer to graphical perfection. You won’t have any problem recognizing any of the wrestlers unless they are fabricated. The animations are graceful, which is especially impressive given the size of most of these wrestlers. Shots of the crowd make it appear as though you’re watching the real event on TV.
The voice overs are even better than some of the acting seen on an actual WWE broadcast, though the commentary leaves a lot to be desired. It tries too hard to emulate the excitement of the game rather than just being a component of it.
As excited as we were about last year’s WWE: Day of Reckoning 2, this game improves on much of what made that title so great. WWE: Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 is a wrestling game that requires a lot of strategy, thought, and precision. This series will only continue to mature and evolve, but what’s already here is worth the time and investment.