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WWE SmackDown! vs Raw 2009 review

AT A GLANCE
  • Creating elaborate finishers
  • Doing planchas to the outside
  • Finally using steps to enter ring
  • Hell in a Cell cage too small
  • Erratic commentary
  • Some weird facial expressions

Remember the 24/7 mode in last year’s SmackDown? It applied exactly the same storyline, whichever character you chose to play as, and there was as much emphasis on events away from the ring – from practicing your mic skills to attending autograph sessions – as there was on the wrestling itself. It lost sight of the fact that SmackDown vs Raw is, at its core, a fighting game.

All of which is addressed in the much improved Road to WrestleMania option in this year’s installment, which replaces the bloated 24/7 experiment. It focuses on just the three month period leading up to WrestleMania and offers only a limited choice of grapplers: Triple H, The Undertaker, CM Punk, John Cena, Chris Jericho and the team of former tag champs Batista and Rey Mysterio, which allows two people to play the mode cooperatively. Each WWE ‘superstar’ has their own specific storyline, which includes alternate endings and TV-style presentation (at the end of each week’s Raw or SmackDown, there’s even an authentic WWE copyright notice).
 
In practice, each Road to WrestleMania involves around 15 matches or confrontations, with cutscenes between bouts. In addition to standard one-on-one contests, you’ll get involved in a variety of tag team and gimmick matches. Complete optional goals (such as winning a match in under 2min 30sec or gaining victory by submission) and you’ll be rewarded with unlockable content, including extra characters and create-a-wrestler move sets. Although you’ll be able to complete each character’s strand in two or three hours, it’s a much more focused experience. What you lose in choice compared to 24/7 is made up for by it being far more tightly scripted and engaging.

For single-player action that allows you to play as any of the game’s characters (including created wrestlers), there’s a Career mode in which you have to face progressively tougher opponents en route to title shots and winning the various championship belts. The Create options have been expanded to include a new create-a-finisher mode, a brilliantly executed system that does exactly what it says. Up to 10 animations can be linked to invent brand new match-enders. You can either give the new move a name or, if you pick from the pre-set monikers, it’ll be supported by the commentary. Some of the names – such as Kenta Kobashi’s Burning Hammer – will be familiar to die-hard fans, although we’ve no idea what a Beldigo is.

The fighting styles of SmackDown 2008 have been replaced by enhanced fighting abilities, which is a far less intrusive system. Unfortunately, the commentary still irritates more than it adds to the atmosphere, with a lot of repetition and moves often being called long after they take place. The pre-draft teams are featured, so Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler still commentate on the Raw matches, for instance. And a lot of the usual SvR niggles are still there. For the huge range of moves available, the interface still means that you often feel as if you’re simply stringing together a set of animations (some of which have been in the series for years) as opposed to actually controlling your character. And the AI goes haywire at times: during one match, our opponent tried to pin the referee!

Once again, SmackDown vs Raw 2009 is an example of evolution not revolution. It’s an improvement over its predecessor and, as ever, the sheer wealth of content is staggering. For anyone who already loves or loathes the series, this won’t be enough to change their mind either way. But SmackDown hangs on to its title of king of the ring.

Oct 31, 2008

More Info

Release date: Nov 09 2008 - PS3, Wii, PSP, Xbox 360, DS, PS2 (US)
Nov 09 2008 - PS3, Wii, PSP, Xbox 360, DS, PS2 (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3, Wii, PSP, Xbox 360, DS, PS2
Genre: Sports
Published by: THQ
Developed by: Yuke's Company of America, Tose Software
Franchise: WWE
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

14 comments

  • MrSam71 - November 4, 2008 4:38 p.m.

    "wrestling is gay. i hope it will shut moff. it is so fake. go die wrestling" Nice to see there's such a great argument against the franchise, i'm sure they're quaking in their boots. ;)
  • berner11 - November 4, 2008 2:04 a.m.

    wrestling is gay. i hope it will shut moff. it is so fake. go die wrestling
  • eastsider - November 1, 2008 7:23 p.m.

    This Is The Game I Really Want
  • drprofessor - November 1, 2008 6:28 p.m.

    Wow two idiots in a row. Nice. I don't personally like wrestling but wrestling games have usually been a fun way to kill some time with friends whilst drinking.
  • joabbuac - October 31, 2008 6:45 p.m.

    ummm first
  • gamerajack - November 10, 2008 10:14 p.m.

    BEST GAME EVER HANDS DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • XBOX180 - November 2, 2008 6:24 p.m.

    GOD I MUST GET TIS GAME
  • The-Dance-O-Matic - November 2, 2008 12:24 p.m.

    Sounds Good...
  • GoldenMe - October 31, 2008 10:08 p.m.

    DURRRRRRRRR........ Wrestling.
  • Malikin71 - April 23, 2009 3:56 a.m.

    hockey more though go nucks
  • battenfelder - February 21, 2009 9:35 p.m.

    geez why does everyone bash wrestleing because its fake? nearly every show on television is fake. by the way great game but im a little pissed they didnt include GM mode in this years instalment. love the create a finisher too. solid 8/10
  • Hayseyboy - January 6, 2009 10:42 p.m.

    most shows are fake, its called entertainment, surley you dont sit around watching documentaries all day. anyways, the game looks like a good addition to the svr series
  • WouldYouKindly - July 17, 2009 11 p.m.

    Every time someone tells me "You know wrestling is fake?" I kindly rattle off this list: The Office The Simpsons CSI Smallville Psych Burn Notice Madmen 30 Rock My Name Is Earl Family Guy Also, I hope they put GM mode back in for '10, I never play it all the way, but it's a cool mode.
  • Malikin71 - April 23, 2009 3:56 a.m.

    i love wrestling

Showing 1-14 of 14 comments

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