WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2006 review

How come this feels just a tad too familiar - again, asks PSM2

Evolution, not revolution. That seems to be the maxim of Yuke's. For, as Alan Partridge once said, "We evolve, but we don't... revolve."

So while Smackdown vs Raw 2006 is better than last year's outing, the improvements are more tweaks, prods and licks of paint rather than huge changes to the game's foundations, in the same way as SvR 2005 was largely a spruced up version of the previous year's game.

Whether that's a good or bad thing is kind of up to you.

But first, what is new? There're the additions to the roster, of course.

There's Carlito, the Caribbean native who wanders down to the ring with an afro, an apple and a Hawaiian shirt, which isn't a stereotype in any way.

There's the improbably-muscled Chris Masters. There's Heidenreich, but Heidenreich is rubbish. And there're loads of others though, sadly, the game comes just too early to include the awesome Ken Kennedy. Such is life.

There's a management mode and there are new match types, like Bar Brawl (in which two wrestlers beat each other up in a pub, for no apparent reason, and you can't even get a nice Lambrini) and Buried Alive.

There are also new stories for season mode. And, most importantly, there are several adjustments to how the game actually plays.

The biggest change, and the one that we voiced concerns about back in PSM2 66, is the stamina meter.

Pull off a few power moves - slams, suplexes off the top rope - or just run about a lot without stopping, and you'll suddenly find your big, hard wrestling Adonis collapse to his knees with exhaustion, like Paula Radcliffe busting for a slash.

Then you'll have to retreat to a safe distance and hold down Select for a few seconds until you've recovered.

Now, you can look at this in one of two ways - as a realistic (insofar as WWE and realism go together, in other words, about as much as Bernard Manning and salad) interpretation of competitors getting their breath back, or as an annoying intrusion.

It depends how accurate a recreation of the 'sport' you're after. Us? We'd say that this is meant to be a game not a bleedin' simulation. It's not Madden, it doesn't need to be 100% faithful to the subject. Ho hum.

Other new tweaks are basically simple improvements to what was already a very solid control system. Once your momentum meter is full, you can opt to use your finisher there and then, or store it up for later.

Store it, and it's likely to be less powerful because your wrestler will be a bit more knackered - but so will your opponent so, although it'll be less powerful, it could have more impact.

Escaping submission moves won't always simply involve hammering at buttons like before - sometimes, you'll have to stop a marker on a power bar, in a Tiger Woods style.

Of course, the more exhausted your man - or woman - the more difficult this becomes. And there's a neat section right at the start of every bout, in which you can stare down or test your strength against your opponent by tapping buttons in a Bemani fashion.

So there you have it. It's last year's game, basically, with minor improvements in gameplay, a dodgy stamina system and some astounding presentation.

The character models are ridiculously impressive, especially during each wrestler's opening sequence when they're given the opportunity to flex their muscles and generally show themselves off. The poseurs.

It's excellent, and if you're a wrestling die-hard, you'll want to get it. But if you're not, we can't honestly say that this is different enough to last year's outing - which itself was hardly radically different to the previous year's - to be a must-have.

It's a good, solid beat-'em-up but, to keep us interested, a revolution really is in order next time.

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2006 is out now for PS2 and will be released for PSP on 9 December

More Info

DescriptionAdds even more realism and interactivity to the series.
PlatformPS2, PSP
US censor ratingTeen
UK censor rating16+
Release date14 November 2005 (US), 11 November 2005 (UK)