WWE Smackdown! vs Raw
Release Date: 11/02/2004
Another year, another Smackdown game. THQ and Yukes are back with the sixth game in this long running series, and possibly the last WWE game that we will see from that team. The last Smackdown game provided some much needed change in gameplay that helped turn around what looked to be a slowly stagnating series after Just Bring It and added a little more depth to the game without losing the fast pace of the other Smackdown games. How does Smackdown vs Raw compare?
The story mode has been overhauled from last years title. Gone is the ability to visit different backstage locations, customize shows, have more than one created wrestler in season, and some of the open ended feeling from the last game. But you are never left off of a show several times in a row either. From the start you will see one of a couple of openings depending on what your susperstar ranking is and throughout the season there will be a couple of different branching points depending on whether you win or lose a match, but no matter what you do the story will always guide you back to a couple of specific plot points. Here Comes The Pain also did this to some extent though there were generally a couple of other options available as well. The story mode is not nearly as inflexible as the recent Wrestlemania game for the Gamecube, but overall it feel like a step back for those that want more choices with the direction of their wrestler.
Two new create modes have been added, Create-A-Belt and Create-A-PPV. You can customize a title using money that you have made in the game through the season mode or from challenges that you can defend against another player with another memory card in the Create-A-PPV mode. You cannot defend a title against the computer or in exhibition. For the Create-A-PPV mode you can create up to eight matches with created and default wrestlers or select from a list of premade PPV’s that are copies of previous WWE PPV’s from over the last year.
The same match modes from the previous game return in full with one addition: The Parking Lot Brawl. Molded after a match that happened between John Cena and Eddie Guerrero on Smacldown the match pits you and an opponent in a circle of cars. While it may not seem like that much different from a usual Street Fight or a Hardcore match, the Parking Lot Brawl is fun for one big reason, the amount of interactivity with the cars in the parking lot. There are several areas of some of the vehicles that you can throw another wrestler into, on top of, or put through.
The Create a Wrestler mode has received an upgrade… I think. They streamlined the creation mode so that it would be easier for new fans of the series to create a wrestler, at least that’s what I’m assuming their intentions to be, but I had more difficulty creating anyone to look close enough to their real life counterparts. Considering that this Smackdown game has a smaller roster than the last one this is sort of disappointing if you are trying to recreate someone you left out, like the Hurricane for example since they didn’t even bother including his mask or tights in the creation mode.
New to the series this year is the online mode. This mode has been highly advertised and given as a reason to buy the game, if the online mode is one of your biggest reasons for buying this game….then don’t buy the game. It sucks. There are only two online modes, a one on one match with no stipulations and bra and panties. That’s right, out of all of the modes to add into the online game they put in bra and panties over Hardcore or Last Man Standing or basically any other kind of match. Come on now, how many people honestly buy the game even play the bra and panties matches offline more than once or twice? Also, the online interface is a fairly shitty set up. You can choose to create a profile or go in anonymous, choose from a difficulty level and room to play in. There is no ranking system, leagues, or anything else. Plus several of the people in the ‘Easy’ rooms are those that have overpowered created characters to the max and are just searching for new players to easily beat, of course with no ranking system you have no way of knowing this till you are actually in a match. There is very little slowdown over a broadband connection though, most noticeably occurring in the chopping minigame.
Overall the story mode is less open, but is still pretty decent and doesn’t keep you wondering if you will not be booked on the next show. The Create a belt and PPV options are good addition but it kinda sucks that you can only defend a belt with another player who brings over a memory card, and other than the belt option there isn’t much more of a reason to create a PPV except to manage a couple of matches in a row. Anyone remember the rating thing that you got after creating a PPV in Smackdown 2? I miss that. Create a wrestler has changed in my opinion for the worse since there wasn’t much added, just restructured in a more frustrating way for anyone used to the old system. Online is just not worth it.
The best looking wrestling game available. All of the wrestlers in the game have received a 40% increase in polygons and look nearly photogenic to their real life counterparts on everything from tattoos to minor facial expressions during their entrances. The animation of the moves is done extremely well with many of the wrestlers having their own animations for the same, such as Undertaker and Kane having different animations for the chokeslam since they have slightly different ways of chokeslamming wrestlers. The arenas look even better in this game as the more of the crowd has been given a 3D makeover and the people in the rows nearest to the ring given more detail than in the last game. They still look really blocky in comparison to the wrestlers but you will not really be paying attention to the audience very much during a match. The entrances are done well with the legends this time given a complete entrance and not just riding a mini-ring down the ramp.
Sadly most of the backstage areas are gone with there just being one very large backstage area. While this area has many different areas that you can interact with I miss all of the backstage areas available in the last game.
9/10 (for a PS2 game)
The biggest thing you will notice in the games season mode is that every single wrestler has had the voices recorded and will actually speak in the game. But first close your eyes (well don’t since you have to read this, but bear with me) and imagine that you are in a large empty warehouse with lots of echoes. Now imagine that there is a clamp over your nose and you’ve been punched in the throat a few times and are trying to read from a script. That is how most of the wrestlers in the game sound. Bring back the text! It is seriously painful to sit through most of the cutscenes.
Commentary is back! Now I remember why it was gone in the first place! Honestly, sports games have been able to do a pretty decent job with commentary, so how come there has never really been a wrestling game with good commentary? I don’t know which one is worse, the silence of the last Smackdown game during matches or the overly repetitive junk commentary in this one. Either way, just put on a CD or get a friend who sits around doing his own commentary during Raw and let him yap on. You know the kind of person I’m talking about.
The music is a bunch of inoffensive mix rock, rap-rock, and rap that you will probably get tired of and ignore the fourth time you hear it while creating a wrestler or doing a couple of matches in a row.
The control is mostly the same as from Here Comes The Pain with a few tweaks. Grappling is still initiated by pressing a direction and circle together to lock up. There are four different types of lock-ups Power, Submission, Signature, and Quick, once in one of the four lock-ups you can press a different direction and circle giving you up to 16 different options for what move you want to pull off. Now it is a little bit harder to counter Power and Submission grapples since it will take your character a second longer to lock-up with the other wrestler, making it sort of like how the more powerful grapples are done in the AKI games. Striking is still done with X, square is the action button to get in or out of the ring, pick up weapons and so on, triangle runs. L1 is to use a finisher, L2 and R2 counter strikes and grapples.
A number of other smaller improvements have been made. Mini-games have been added in to help simulate the flow of a real much, like a stare down or push off before the match begins and a chopping contest as a default turnbuckle move. While some people might like these mini-games, I hated them. Instead of adding to the flow I thought it broke the flow of a match up when you have to go from focusing on winning the match to trying to keep up in a Madden kick-off style chopping contest. Luckily you can turn most of them off. The submission system has been improved to include a new type of submission. Some moves will bring up a meter on the person in the move that will move back and forth, if they stop the meter in the right part they will either get out of the move or reverse the move. During the time that they are in the submission hold the person applying the submission can press X repeatedly in order to cause more damage. Tag Team matches are also better now that the taunt button and the help button are different, and you can choose whether or not your partner specifically attacks the guy in the ring or his partner on the apron.
A great addition to the game is the ability to play as either Face (good guy) or Heel (bad guy) in regular matches. If you choose to play either side you will have to try and fill ammeter by doing either Face or Heel moves. As a Face you will taunt for the crowd, do high flying maneuvers, etc and as a Heel you have to do lowblows, and cheating in order to fill the bar. If you are a Face and punch someone in the nuts then it will bring the mter down and vice versa. Once full you are able to activate the clean and dirty moves by flicking the right joystick, as a Face you will have a couple moments of invincibility and will do more damage with finishers, as a Heel you will be able to perform a low blow or other type of move that will be as effective as a finisher that you cannot be disqualified for.
If you have played Here Comes The Pain before just crank it to the highest difficulty level right from the start. Even then you are likely not to lose one match, unless you are using a created character with virtually no stats. If you haven’t played HCTP then it will take you about an hour before you start winning every match. One of the biggest complaints that I have had with the entire series is that the AI is too easy and Smackdown vs Raw does nothing to change that. Tag Team matches in particular are almost a joke since you can easily dominate the other team on any difficulty. The game does become harder with each difficulty level as it will reverse your moves more often and will even reverse finishing moves, but overall every difficulty level faces the problem that the AI’s reactions to different situations is the same no matter what character or difficulty level. Sometimes it will just stand there waiting for YOU to do something. On the hardest difficulty level. Something is just wrong with that. With another person is where the game truly shines since the actual grappling system is pretty balanced.
Season mode does become progressively more difficult with a created wrestler because every created wrestler starts with virtually no stats. Unless you jump out of season mode to spend money to boost these stats the created wrestler will start getting raped in hardcore and submission matches.
The new clean and dirty system is almost perfectly balanced however. It takes longer to fill up the Face/Heel meter than it does to get a finishing move, but since the Face/Heel supermoves are more powerful that is how it should be.
Smackdown! vs Raw tries harder than some of the previous games to add a lot of replayability to the single player game with Smackdown! challenges to try and complete for more money to spend in the Shopzone. The challenges have different difficulties assigned to them with some you can only unlock later on, but the easier ones are things like ‘Do two finishers in one match’ and so one. You can view the unlocked challenges at any time.
Online adds a little replayability….very little.
The limitation of different branches in the season mode take away from some of the replayability of that mode, as well as the ability to customize the rosters. Even if I got the same storylines in Here Comes The Pain I liked to just make a roster full of created ex-ECW or WCW guys and play through it. The Create a Belt and PPV modes are great additions for those looking to get their multiplayer games on. Though there are a couple of additions to the single player game Smackdown! vs Raw is too similar to Here Comes The Pain to add to much to single player longevity.
The previous Smackdown game changed several aspects of gameplay and added several new features to the overall game. There have been a couple other wrestling titles with Create a PPV and Create a belt features, with the most original feature being the online mode which is ultimately disappointing in its lack of options.
If you are a wrestling fan and liked the other Smackdown games this game can be highly addictive just to play through all of the different matchtypes with all of the wrestlers in the game and to see what you can create. Personally though as a fan of the series, this game just felt too similar to the last one which I played to death and that really killed how much I wanted to replay this game.
Lots of fans. Well known series. Not much competition . Good advertising campaign. You can just smell the appeal. Of course not everyone likes pro-wrestling, and of those that do not everyone likes the Smackdown! series. But what else is really a serious competitor in the wrestling genre right now?
Recent legal issues between the WWE, THQ and Yukes leads to the question of whether or not this maybe the last Smackdown! game that they create. If it is their last game they created a very good wrestling game. At the same time I’m glad if this I their last Smackdown! game. They’ve pretty much proven that at this point there is not much that they can do to improve the core game other than to add some small tweaks to the game here and there. I’d love to see what another development company could to with the series, even AKI has made changes in their usual engine with the recent Def Jam fighting game.
This recent game just proves that though a solid wrestling game, it is also stale. It is time to see what someone else can do with it. Just please not Eidos or Acclaim.
Overall Score: 64/100
Final: 6.5/10 – Good, but rent before you buy at full price