Your Yearly WWE Fix
May 30, 2008 – The WWE is one of the most successful franchises in entertainment history. Not only did it pioneer the art of live “sports entertainment,” but it is also a powerhouse on television and is on nearly every night. Recently, the WWE has been branching out into the wide world of video gaming. As a result, ever since the last generation the WWE series of games have been steadily improving. From the Legends of Wrestling to the Wrestlemania series, the market has literally been flooded with games based on the sports entertainment powerhouse.
The Smackdown! vs. Raw franchise is like the Madden of WWE games, and it is the only one to get an annual update (we’re not counting the Wrestlemania titles). Last year was rather big for the franchise, as it was the official jump to the current generation of consoles. However, each version of the game had some serious issues, and many started to doubt whether the series would be able to survive on the newer consoles. However, it seems the folks at THQ have been listening to the fans and are making some serious changes to the multiplatform release of Smackdown! vs. Raw. One of the biggest flaws across the console versions last year were the below average character animations and the poor A.I. The wrestlers felt clunky in the ring, and opponents were either insanely difficult or entirely too easy to beat. However, THQ is promising this time the A.I. will be a truer reflection of a given wrestler’s actions in the ring. For example, Ric Flair will not move around in the same manner as John Cena (as was often the case in the previous iteration). Characters will also sport a larger amount of detail in the console versions and will look a lot more like real wrestlers instead of models with faces and muscle definition painted on.
One of the biggest upgrades across the consoles will be the revamped tag team mode. Any fan of wrestling will tell you tag team matchups are among the most exciting to watch, both live and on television. Now, the tag team matchup will be among the most exciting matches to play as well. Instead of tag team matches simply meaning two players will work cooperatively against opponents, players will now be able to interact and work as a team to conquer opponents. For instance, if you are out of the ring, you now have more options than just sitting and waiting for a tag. You can now help pump up the crowd to make your opponent’s concentration falter or distract the referee if your teammate is about to pull an illegal move. Of the new out-of ring moves, the most notable is the ability to do illegal assists. Yes, it is technically cheating, but anyone who watches WWE on television knows that those who cheats most, wins most.
In addition to the revamped tag team mode, there will be substantial improvements to the Create-a-Wrestler mode. You will now be able to create your own finishing move, using elements from existing ones. The story mode this time around has been redubbed the “Road to Wrestlemania” mode. It will feature unique storylines for each major character as they overcome personal and professional hurdles on the way to the big event.
Because Smackdown! vs. Raw 2009 will be a multiplatform release, there are many special features each specific console will feature. The Wii version of the title is probably getting the most significant feature upgrade with the inclusion of online gameplay. Although the Wii isn’t known for its online capabilities, it is great to see the online feature is being offered. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game are also getting new online features in the form of downloadable content. The folks at THQ have largely kept mum on what exactly this downloadable content will entail, but my best guess is it will included expanded past and present rosters, story elements, and perhaps some vintage arenas.
On the handheld side, there are also quite a few substantial updates. The Nintendo DS version is getting a major overhaul and is being developed by an entirely new team. The rock-paper-scissors approach to the finishing move is completely gone, and control will mainly utilize the D-pad and face buttons. The story mode will also feature a more RPG-like experience where you can interact with different wrestlers and upgrade their personal stats. The PSP version looks like it will mirror the console version of the game rather closely, although there is no word yet on if the PSP version will have online capabilities like its big brothers.
Smackdown! vs. Raw 2009 is looking to be a vast improvement for the series. It got off to a rather bumpy start on current gen consoles, but it looks like the series is catching up rather quickly, bringing the franchise up to speed. So, if you’re a WWE junkie and were a little anxious about how this year’s Smackdown! vs. Raw title might turn out, there is definitely some good news for you. This entry in the series looks to improve upon most of last year’s major issues, and you can bet that, no matter which version you are interested in, there will be many enjoyable hours of gameplay. So, are you ready to rumble?