Review by Lord Hugo
WWE Lays The Smaketh Down With This Title
Ah. Another Wrestling game. I hear me saying that quite often after every release. And wrestling games have been mired in mediocrity for a while. They've been entertaining to wrestling fans...but not many others. That changes with WWE Smackdown! vs. Raw 2006. For once I have friends who aren't wrestling fans that are willing to sit down and play. And that, in itself, tells you something.
Graphics - 8/10
The graphics, at first glance, are top of the line. The wrestlers look awesome, and their facial features and physical attributes are correct. The addition of some nice facial expressions was definitely a surprise. While it's no next-gen, it's obvious that from a viewpoint...this was one of the best looking games on the Playstation 2. Then you notice peoples hands, arms, or legs going through other peoples bodies on moves. That bumped the score down quite a bit. Nothing like putting your opponent in a headlock and watching your arm meld with his face. Hoo Boy. Ah well, one can't expect perfection from one year installments.
Gameplay - 10/10
The gameplay is the best I've seen since perhaps the first Smackdown! game. They give you a myriad of holds and moves that are easy to use and execute. Yet you can't have a small wrestler like Rey Mysterio chokeslam a behemoth like The Big Show. That was a welcome addition, I tell you. And in order to add a little realism to the mix, they added a stamina bar. So after a few running attacks, submission moves, or huge power moves, you'd have to charge your stamina meter. It added a bit of strategy. But the best part about this new addition is, if you don't like it, it can be removed in the options menu. Of course, what would a new wrestling game be without new wrestlers, matches, and venues...And they add quite a few. They also add "rewards" via trophies in the Locker Room section and points to unlock new wrestlers, costumes, and things to deck out that Locker Room. While mostly a novelty idea, the unlockable wrestlers was definitely a plus. The only qualms I have about this section is I wish they'd leave wrestlers from previous games in...whether they wrestle or not still. Want to play as the Dudley Boyz or Brock Lesnar in this new title? Sorry. Seems they were removed. What a bust. Let's not forget that the Create-A-Character is as robust as ever...And has allowed further modes to create entrances, pay-per-views, and titles. Wow...Just wow. But other than that, no further problems.
Story - 7/10
The story, in this games case, takes place in a Season mode for both Smackdown! and Raw. The season mode unfolds a story that follows a set path and uncovers a few story lines. The bad part? You get very few choices in the Season mode. They let you choose a match, or who you might side with...But never do you get to choose...say...A rivalry with one wrestler or contending for a Championship. That extreme linearity was a real turnoff to the Season Mode, and only makes them worth 1 playthrough each. A shame too, because they could do so much with the season modes.
Sound/Control - 9/10
The sound and control are quite nice, and had very few problems. I noticed sometimes that certain animations didn't appear, or weren't selectable. Which was disappointing...Especially that The Undertaker's sit up recovery wasn't available. But the entrance music was done correctly, as were the entrance animations and movements. So in the sound department, everything was, for the most part, superb. Control was also done quite well, with most moves simple to pull off. Only thing that was annoying was the reversal system. Sometimes it didn't give enough time to reverse, sometimes too little time, and sometimes wouldn't let you reverse even though the icon for a reversal was on the screen. If I can't reverse the move, don't show me the icon. That caused many annoyances that could lose people crucial matches. Also...the tag team play was just...unfair and cheap. Never seen wrestlers come into the ring that fast.
Replay Value - 8/10
The replay value for a game like this is very high, considering it thrives on its exhibition matches and 2 player modes. While the Season Mode is a nice diversion in your free time, it's nowhere near the meat of the game. The Create Modes add a lot of depth as well. It's something you and your friends can sit down and do, then see how those wrestlers do in a match. If you're more into a robust season mode, then this game is definitely not for you. But for everyone else, this is definitely worth a rental.
Conclusion - 9/10
While this game certainly will not cater to everyone, it is definitely a fun game to play amongst friends. It has so much value as a party game...and even as a play alone game. If you love wrestling, this is definitely "the" game to get. And even if you don't, you can have fun messing around in this game. There are just so many options that can change up the gameplay. It's definitely worth a rental, and at its lower price now, worth a buy as well.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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