Review by NotoriousT_V2

"Tons of Potential, But Does it Fall Flat?"

I think it's safe to say that most fans of the Smackdown! series were rather disappointed with last year's installment. This year was supposed to be the year the game got back on track and re-established it's self as a consistently dominant series. Personally, I thought this game had all the potential in the world. And it did. Unfortunately it didn't even come close to fulfilling it...in my opinion of course.

Graphics
This is the area where the game excels. The detail gone into the superstars is quite impressive. Wrestlers such as Batista and John Cena are really well done and the graphics really display their muscle definition in amazing ways. The faces are nothing to frown upon either. However, it seems that there was some bias involved when creating the mid to lower card wrestlers. They're not nearly as detailed as the champions and although it's not that big of a deal, it seems rather lazy and unnecessary. I guess their reasoning behind that was they assumed not as many people would be playing as the less popular wrestlers but it still seems rather lazy to me.

Other than the wrestlers themselves the graphic levels are varying at best. For example, the championship belts look good when they're around the waist of a superstar during his entrance. But when a belt is raised in the air after a victory, its just...meh at best. The straps are too stiff and show absolutely no sign of gravity. Actually, a lot of the belt's detail is sacrificed when not in a cutscene or entrance. The attires, although some outdated, are done quite well and I haven't run into any big problems with them. It's a different story with the cutscenes. The cutscenes could have been amazing if there weren't a ton of minor mistakes. Things like the belts going through their owners skin, the lackluster selling of the moves, and some of the animations (Such as Austin's spastic seizure-esque head shaking) are some of these minor problems. Yes, they're minor, but when you add them all up it gets ridiculous.

Sound
This is one of the worst aspects of this game. When you first pop in the game and you're browsing the different menus, you're greeted by some of the most unpleasant sounds you can possibly imagine. Not only are the songs vomit-inducing but there's a small number of them. This leads to hearing the same thing over and over and over again until you're forced to mute the TV to keep your sanity. When you're actually participating in a match-up you almost beg for the return of the aforementioned "music." The commentating is revolting. Their "conversations" are repetitive and are usually cut short because a new set of one-liners is activated by one of your movements. It's just brutal. One of the first things I suggest doing is turning this off. Trust me, your sanity is at stake hear.

The voice-overs have been improved. But that's not saying much...at all. Sometimes they flow well but most of the time there is unnecessary stalling in between sentences that really just kills the moment. And some of the superstar's voices just sound awful (IE Kane). Throw in the fact your CAW only has 5 voices to choose from and you're pretty disappointed. The in-game sounds are pretty good. The only flaw there is some of the punches and slaps sound too metallic...or something.

The entrance music isn't even that good. At times it seems to just drone off along with the crowd noise. It's weird. Also, they took away all of the original music and left you with the aforementioned menu music. Again, the removal of those themes just seems really, really unnecessary.

Season
Season mode this year is pretty good. There is about 2 years worth of storylines and none of them are too ludicrous. If the voice-overs and cutscenes weren't so lacking, this mode could have been even better. But aside from the aforementioned problems, Season Mode comes with some baggage of it's own. For some reason, every other match is a tag match. Why, I don't know. And every "rivalry" is started in almost the exact same fashion. It gets kinda repetitive after awhile. Also, there has been some rumors of problems with the champions in season. Things like more than one person holding a belt. I've never encountered this so I can't confirm it.

Season mode is going in the right direction though. The storylines don't repeat as often as they used to and there are some character specific storylines that should keep you interested with this for quite some time. It's not bad at all really, it just suffers from the problems in other areas of the game. I actually prefer the newly added GM Mode which seems to be popular. It's pretty self-explanatory. You take control of the GM of either Smackdown or Raw and make it your own. You book the matches, make the rivalries, decide the champions, etc with your ultimate goal being to better your counter-part in the ratings battle. It's something fresh and it's well-done.

Gameplay/AI
Ugh. That is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of those two words. It really is THAT bad. The AI has not improved but I think has merely gotten worse. For some reason the developers thought that smarter AI meant having it reverse every other move. This doesn't make the game more challenging, it just makes it more frustrating. It's stupidity doesn't stop there. Don't even bother with any match involving a ladder. It'll be a waste of your time. At the start of the match, the first thing the CPU opponent will do is slide out of the ring and grab the ladder. He'll go on to set-up the ladder and climb up it in a matter of seconds. It just acts like you aren't even there. This makes it disgustingly easy to win ladder matches, especially when two ladders are present. So now that TLC and Ladder matches are completely void, maybe the Elimination Chamber will be better? Not really. For some odd, odd reason the CPU feels it necessary to break-up pins and submissions. Huh? Wouldn't you want the other wrestlers to be eliminated ASAP? And again, it's stupidity does not stop there. Instead of actually wrestling the match, the CPU would rather climb the chambers every 15 seconds and sporadically jump off. EC is just not even worth playing anymore. Don't even get me started on tag matches either. For no apparent reason whatsoever your opponent has some need to exit the ring every 10 seconds. This can lead to even more frustrating times as the illegal man likes to be overly aggressive. This sometimes leads to him grappling with you for 10 seconds and you get counted out. This also sometimes happens with managers which is just annoying. And to just throw more nonsense onto the pile, your tag partner would rather see you lose the match than come in and save you. It's annoying just thinking about it. The new Buried Alive match is ok. Sometimes it gets a bit time-consuming but other than that it's displayed pretty well.

The newly instituted momentum meter is rather pointless in my opinion. I don't personally like being able to store only one finisher. I find that to be just..well pointless. Also I don't like the fact that your stored finisher won't be as effective as if you were to hit your finisher right when your momentum meter fills up, especially when your momentum meter fills up rather quickly. The stamina bar is a good idea but it can definitely be improved on but this is reasonable seeing as how this is it's first year. I think it will evolve into a great feature some day. The lackluster AI strikes again, however, as they don't feel it necessary to regain their stamina when they're in the orange to red levels.

Finally, the new grappling system is just bad. I thought I hated it because I wasn't used to it but now I see that it's just bad. It just doesn't feel right. The new button layout for the irish whip just doesn't seem necessary. Although I love the new 'power irish whip' I didn't really see the need to change it. Some people love the new layout and some hate it. It just feels foreign to me. Don't really know how to explain it.

Create-A-Wrestler
This mode is both good and bad. Finally, the CAWs are getting some respect and no longer look like absolute trash. Although they don't look like their in-game counterparts, they're definitely getting closer. Another long-awaited improvement is the fact that most of the attires no longer look 'painted on.' This is something CAW creators have been asking for for quite some time now. However, with the good comes the bad. The layout itself in CAW Mode is just annoying and time-consuming. Instead of having pages of 9 or so items that you would scroll through, you are now presented with this vertical bar that only really gives you a good look at one item at a time. I don't see the logic behind it really. It gets really time-consuming when you're forced to scroll through 100+ items just to find the one you're looking for. Everything just seems to be downgraded or unattended to. Like why the hell can we not have a glove on only one hand? That's just being lazy. And now, not only do you have a crotch blur but you also have a 'butt blur.' Why? It's little things like this that kill this game.

The newly added Create-An-Entrance is pretty awesome. If you take some time with it you can get some pretty amazing results. You control everything from your wrestlers' movements to the timing of the pyro. It's quite fun if you really sit down with it.

Coming into this game I was hearing all about the new moves we were getting, the new animations we were getting, and the quantity of moves we were getting. Well...what happened? While there are some new moves and a few of them look good a lot of these moves are pretty worthless. Most of the moves (new and reanimated) are just really stiff. There's absolutely no selling of them at all and that takes away from a lot of them. And some of the new animations are just flat-out awful. Look no further than the Showstopper. People have been asking for the past 2-3 years now for that move to be reanimated. Finally, it is and it looks worse then before. Also for no apparent reason they took out a lot of the moves. I just can't help but ask why? It just seems so (Here comes that word again) unnecessary. I was extremely disappointed with this aspect of the game.

Overall Impression
Disappointment. That word pretty much sums up everything. Too many times I caught myself asking "Why?" and couldn't find a logical answer. This game had so much potential. People were talking about it finally being the "No Mercy Killer" but in my opinion it's not even the best Smackdown! game. Here Comes The Pain was just more fun. It seems like they rushed this game and they shouldn't have. This could have been one of the best games of the year but instead it's merely average. And that's a damn shame....


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/05


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