Review by RKOLovesTacos

Reviewed: 03/01/07

An Improvement...

Well what can I say about SmackDown! VS RAW 2006? First of all, I will tell you that I spent months eagerly awaiting this game and watching wrestler's entrances and the whatnot. Nothing but good news seemed to come out of the FAQ pages listed on various gaming sites, with the exception of the new special system. I bought the game the day it came out, and canceled a doctor's appointment just to stay home and play it. I expected the game to be absolutely phenomenal, wondering how I would admit to myself that the game was better than No Mercy. And then I played it, tried every match, did a few seasons... Let's just say I've now got mixed reactions. Here's the basic overview:

GRAPHICS: 9/10 - They are almost absolutely dead-on in most cases, and makes you feel like you are actually wrestling as your selected performer rather than a dancing chipmunk (Shawn Michaels in SYM, HCTP, SvR) or an overly massive impersonation of the real thing (HHH in HCTP and SvR). Some wrestlers still pack a bit more muscle tone and mass then they have in real life, *cough* HHH and Kurt Angle *cough*, but all of them look pretty good otherwise. I haven't read many reviews that include this, but the pyro in this game SUCKS beyond all comprehension. SvR pyro was decent in most cases, but in 2006 it just took a big downhill drop. I know a lot of people wind up turning entrances off eventually, and it doesn't bother me too much, so it doesn't count against the overall graphics rating.

SOUND: 6.5/10 - I know the usual complaints about track selection ALWAYS come up for a wrestling game, and it didn't surprise me that this years selection was pretty bad. Here is another slight drop from last game. I thought a few of the songs in SvR were pretty good, like Firefly and Falling Apart, even When Worlds Collide. The rap music can definately go though. None of the new music is really too catchy and just gets annoying, with a lot of random screaming. Hell, even a couple of the rap songs have screaming. T

The entrance music for the game for most wrestlers is great. Perfect sound, titantron, etc. However, some of the entrances are drop dead quiet. I,E. Rob Conway, Sylvan, Shelton Benjamin, Christian, just to name a few. I've programmed some amatuer 3D games in my time, and it's not very hard to turn the volume up on tracks that need to be louder.

The match sounds themselves are also well done, as punces finally sound like punches and chops sound like chops, and a chokeslam on the mat doesn't sound like the wrestler who hit the mat was made of feathers. What happened to the sounds in the Elimination Chamber? I guess it's the glass and the steel floor this year that are made of feathers.

CONTROLS: 8.5/10 - Most of the controls are completely identical to the original Smackdown! vs. Raw game, however there are a few additions, those of which need to be addressed.

The new default grapple animations are good in most areas but there is one that just aggravates me. It's the "stand and look at each other and act like we're going for a test of strength and let's do it for an unnessecarily long time" grapple. For most, that's the power grapple animation. There is ABSOLUTELY no need for such a long animation like that. With the exception of Ultimate Warrior vs, Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania, go find me a match where every powerful maneuver began with a test of strength. It's unrealistic.

Secondly, the power irish whip is extremely annoying and virtually useless, as 1)It doesn't do a whole lot of damage 2) The computer tends to do it more often than grapple you (more on AI coming up) and 3)Even if it 'had' to be put in the game according to THQ and Yukes, why get rid of the one button whip grapple? In one match you don't use all twenty five grapples or need to at all to win the match. The sixteen that were present in the first SvR were perfect.

Another thing: the timing you have to counter a move being done on you is shortened EVEN MORE than last years. Normally when your opponent tries hitting you with the Pedigree or any other finisher, let alone any other move in general, you should have at least a second to counter the maneuver. IMO, the timing in HCTP was perfect. Now I have to TAKE the F-U or a random headlock or anything else five or siz times before I find out what the exact microsecond is to counter the manuever. Even the little guides under your wrestler's name are just a bit behind, and rarely help you at all.

One last thing, countering aerial moves is still way WAY too easy. True, aerial maneuvers are called high-risk for a reason, but even if you're playing a novice human opponent or even a normal-leveled computer player, they can still effortlessly counter the move without even thinking about it. This makes wrestlers such as RVD, is most cases Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Benoit useless unless you change their finishers yourself. In SvR I gave RVD the Ultimate Warrior Splash just so he could win a match against someone without DQ or a cheap roll-up 3 count.

GAMEPLAY: 8/10 - This more or less ties together with the controls of the game, being that the gameplay enjoyment factor depends on whether or not you can actually get a maneuver in. Overall it feels just the same as SvR, as previously noted. The flow of the match has certainly slowed down due to the the new stamina system (which I'm taking a liking to now). THQ and Yukes were actually RIGHT when they said that the match is more balanced now. There is one frustrating aspect though. It occurs when your stamina ber is in the red area but your momentum is maxed out. If you go for your special, you'll more than likely pass out right next to your opponent and also more than likely get a 10 count Double KO. If you store your special, more than likely your opponent is already up and ready to kick your ass. If you regain stamina, your momentum more often than not will likely drop and you'll lose your finisher opportunity. I'm not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, just something that bothers me from time to time.

Everything that was good about SvR's gameplay is basically in 2006, so there's no further need to explain that. However it seems that your opponents (AI or Human) seem to get up much faster than they did in SvR. Especially when you run at them when they're in the turnbuckle and hit sqaure, pushing them to the mat and launching you to the top rope. Even if your opponent's ENTIRE body is red and their stamina is low, they still get up before you can do the move or in a lot of cases even start to perform it.

Because of the graphical power being pumped through the game, there is a small amount of lag in six-man matches and Royal Rumbles, etc. Also, I've heard and read about people complaining about the increased loading times that 2006 has. For one, stop complaining. It won't change anything. Second, look at the graphical overhaul the game as gone through. That itself is pushing the PS2's limits. There's going to be a little bit more loading time because of it. The cutscenes for season are great and really get you into what's going on.

AI: 5/10 - This is truely where the game suffers. And do I mean SUFFERS!! Words can truely not describe how bad the AI is in this game, even the referee. I'm so baffled and angry with it I'm not even going to say much more about. There are plenty of other reviews for the game from players that agree with me I'm not going to waste much time. Just know to NEVER and I mean NEVER play a ladder match with a computer(s) if you want a challenge. They just climb the ladder and stay there. Thats it. And don't do an Elimination Chamber unless you have a multitap or two and have most if not all the wrestlers as human players. The AI will always ALWAYS break up your pin/submission even if you haven't touched them and they have to reason to go after you. And the referee gets in the way of mostly everything you try to do. Don't be surprised if a fair portion of your matches end with the referee DQing you because he walked in front of your punch intentionally. However, the referee isn't anywhere as bad as the wrestlers are. It's just one of those things that gets annoying every now and then.

COMMENTARY/VOICE-OVERS/ANNOUNCING: 7.5/10 - I'm putting the commentary,voice overs, and announcing in a seperate category because I believe music and sound effects to be the 'sound' and the talking to be just that. Talking.

The commentary from the four announcers is much improved over last year, with only a few instances of them calling the wrong action, etc. However, as with ANY sports game with commentary, it gets repetitive. I can't tell you how many times in one game in Madden I've heard John say "He got hit so hard he damn near had to take a taxi back to the stadium!" or "Look at this. He got his helmet right under his chin, and WHAM, he took him right down." Sure, the SvR 2006 commentary is even more repetitive than that, but still. It's the same for all sports games. And for God's sake; ease up on the "our brand is better" BS every thirty seconds.

The voice overs are for the most part well done, with a few minor exceptions. A handful of the wrestlers' voiceovers (and Eric Bischoff's) sound forced, as if they weren't trying to be their character when they did the voice-overs. Overall it's a great improvement over last year's. Jericho calls you an a**clown and Stone Cold acts JUST LIKE STONE COLD and Shawn Michaels is as brash as ever. I'm satisfied with it.

The announcing for the entrances and winning cutscenes are well done, Lillian Garcia and Tony Chimmel actually sound like they're announcing a match this year. Anyone remember Lilian announcing Kane's entrance last year "Blah blah weight.. *sigh*Kane*sigh*." The only thing that bothers me a bit is the pauses when you have a manager accompanying you to the ring and when you win a match. I know that the game has to cycle through the list of superstars to find the name and announce it, but with the rest of the game flowing like it does one would think that the announcing of that would too. Oh well, nothing's perfect.

FEATURES: 10/10 - The nearly endless list of match types is back once again, plus some pretty good additions too. The Bar Room Brawl is alright, and the two other backstage fights are pretty much just as they were last year. The Fulfill Your Fantasy match is this year's "let's waste some game space" match. Go figure. The 2 on 3 match is great, and I'm finally glad it got added in. I'm extremely disappointed in the Buried Alive match. It had so much potential to be great, and THQ and Yukes ruined it IMO.

I absolutely love GM Mode. To me, it is one of the greatest things to happen to a wrestling game. However, it's only really fun when you have a friend competing against you for Brand greatness. The computer tends to make all the right moves at the most convenient time, and it's a struggle at higher levels to stay in competition. Starting feuds, raiding the other show's matches, talking trash about the other show.. the list goes on. It will definately take less experienced players a while to learn how to work things. The only thing I wish they added was the cutscenes for the beginning of your show and that they ACTUALLY showed the promos for rivalries and hyping the PPV. Hopefully that will be in the next game.

The CAW/B/Es are pretty good. The belt creating is nearly if not completely identical to last year. The create an entrance is extremely limited and not worth anyone's time. I cannot believe that they butchered the create a wrestler so much. Sure, my wrestler can look life-like as if he was one of the normal roster, but what if I don't want that? I liked using my Hulk wrestler and my stone statue wrestlers in SvR. I don't see a reason to make a wrestler in this game, especially with many of the better moves from the other game missing.

I've never used the online feature on either game, so I won't say much about it here. I've never been an online play sort of guy. There are just too many ways to cheat, hack, etc. in online play. Plus, the extreme lag from bad connections and people randomly quitting just makes the game lose its fun factor. It happens with any game that goes online.

SEASON MODE: 8/10 - A much improved version than last year's. Although the stories are a bit short, there's just enough veriety and length to satisfy most people. And now that you can defend titles in Exhibition, you can just come up with your own season mode and play it out, or play GM Mode. You just won't have the cutscenes. And while they're nice, they're not totally needed. Personally, I've never done a large amount of seasons myself in any game. After a while, it just seems to be the same old thing. At least in 2006 there are character specific storylines.

REPLAYABILITY: 9/10 - I can guarantee there are certain things in the game you will play a few times and never play again, and then there are things you won't stop playing. It all depends on your taste. With the lack of a truely great CAW, you're limited to the main roster and using the same wrestlers over and over may or may not get tiring. But hey, at least a new game for PS3 is in the works, right? As with most wrestling games nowadays, I'll be playing this to unlock everything and get the full experience, even if there are flaws.

I reccomend this game to any fan of the previous Smackdown games or the Day of Reckoning fans. If you are a newcomer to the wrestling genre and/or to the Smackdown series itself, then you may want to try a demo or go to a friends house and play it before you get it. It's a pretty complex game.

Rent or Buy? Serious fans, buy buy buy. Casual fans or fans terrified of the new features, rent it. It doesn't hurt to rent a game.

OVERALL --> 8.0 (Not an average of above scores)

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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