WWE SmackDown! Vs. RAW 2006 Reader Review
Difficult to review this - as most people will have made preconceived ideas about WWE long before thinking about buying this game. I know I did.
I enjoyed WWF for about 3 weeks a few years ago when I was very ill, and confined to my bed (a long story I won’t bore you with). One highlight of the day’s very boring TV was watching Mankind survive a brutal “Hell In A Cell” match – where he had very real looking tacks slammed into his body, before he was thrown onto a flaming table. It was great entertainment once you got over the “why is there a flaming table in a wrestling ring” question. I then got better, and WWF drifted from mind. It was all play acting with men-in-tights anyway.
Since then WWF has become WWE, but the premise is still the same: A soap opera with ladders, tables and chairs – plus a sprinkling of just-as-fake Divas. Also THQ has managed to create a successful franchise out of the WWE licence, and unusually for a game licence getting fair to good reviews.
WWE came back into my life via the PSP. After the multiplaying brilliance of GTA:LCS was exhausted at work, another multiplayer experience was craved. But after GTA the PSP launch schedule appeared to dry up. SOCOM wasn’t out for ages, and at that time I didn’t even know a PSP Syphon Filter game was planned. Then a chance “deal of the week” promotion in GAME caught my eye: WWE Smackdown vs Raw for £19.99 with a further £2.50 off. I checked the back of the case, and saw that it allowed four people get in the ring to deliver some pain – and I knew it had to be done.
Two things we need to establish: 1)WWE is not a sport, it’s just pumped up dudes performing – deal with it. 2) WWE on PSP has very L O N G loading times – deal with it.
If you can’t deal with these facts, step out the ring now, this is not for you. However, if you are willing to take a little step back, and let the game wash over you – you are in for a great ride. There is so much packed in here, it’s no wonder the UMD struggles to find anything. You have; a season mode - with two full stories (RAW and Smackdown), a raft of challenges you can complete in exhibition mode, a whole range of match types – including backstage brawls, a big roster of current and unlockable ‘legends’ characters – plus you can make your own. And that’s just for the single player. Add on top of that the goodness of multiplayer madness, and you certainly won’t feel short changed.
Which is all well and good, but how does it play? Once the game has loaded up, very well. The Smackdown engine has been refined over many games, and the reliance on the D-Pad means that it is idea for the PSP setup. Control is easy, and you have perform a number of amazing moves in very little time. ‘X’ is strike, ‘O’ is grapple, etc – with the shoulder buttons providing you the ability to block and perform your finishing moves. The action itself is very fluid, with the PSP only stuttering briefly from time to time. It’s clear to see who you are, and which wrestler you are currently taking on – even in a 20 man Royal Rumble (although only six wrestlers are on the screen at any one time)
Before long you’ll find yourself in a fatal four way “buried alive match” against the Rock, Triple H and Hulk Hogan – and serving up a can of whoop-ass to whomever gets in your way. You’ll be working out how best to take out the ref, so you can grab that steel chair from under the ring so you can deliver some serious damage. But most of all, you’ll be having a lot of fun. As lightweight as the WWE is, it is entertaining – and this is reflected in this game. It’s captured the essence of what is appealing about WWE – and from that point of view, this is one of the best use of a licence that I’ve seen.
The multiplayer is very fluid, and allows for a lot of scope for fun found in the single player game. The main benefit being you can smash a steel chair into your friend’s face and get away with it. Not as easy and accessible as, say Mario Kart or GTA:LCS, in the multiplayer scheme of things, but still very enjoyable none the less. I would say I’ve racked up a fair few wireless hours on the game – more than enough to justify the asking price.
One last footnote, is that the game links up with the PS2 version of the same game. This is one of the few times where this functionality is actually used in a positive way. You can play the season on the PS2, load into the PSP, play a bit more of the season, then upload it back when you return home. Excellent stuff, and finally we get a glimpse of the PSP truly being a Playstation Portable. Also, the stuff you unlock on the PSP machine can be ported to the PS2, and vice versa. A nice touch if you happen to have both games for pure WWE overkill.
So overall, a packed UMD that maximises a lot of the PSP’s potential in a way that many games have ignored. Not everyone’s cup of tea – and the loading times are unforgivable. Get over that, and it’s a surprisingly good game. If you don’t agree – then let’s settle this …. IN THE RING!
7 / 10