Review by MikeSSJ2

"A good wrestling-game? Certainly, but not as perfect as it seems"

It's this time of the year again, and another game of the Smackdown-series has been released. Smackdown vs. RAW 2006 is the seventh installment, and by just comparing it to last year's game, you can already see quite some improvements.

Sadly, there are also quite some flaws that can't be overlooked, especially regarding the games AI. But more about that later.

Looking at the graphics, you can definitely say that these are the best we've seen in a wrestling-game so far. Most of the models are dead-on, and the arenas are well-designed, as well. Most entrances are quite accurate, as well, only missing some pyro or with the timing slightly off in some cases. Sadly, these graphics cause a slow-down from time to time, and you can tell that we reached what's possible with this generation of consoles.

All of the in-game wrestlers have their accurate music (with one exception in Stacy Keibler. But that's no surprise). Sure, some might say that Rey Mysterio has a new theme now, but he started using it about the time this game was finished, so it's quite understandable why it wouldn't be in.

The sound-effects sound realistic, too, although some things like the "falling on Steel"-sound in the Elimination Chamber-match have been removes.
Voice-overs have a much higher quality than last year, as well, and the commentary is improved, too, making the whole game feel more like a true WWE-experience.

On the downside, though, there is no more background-music during matches, and the "Original"-themes that have been in the last Smackdown-games have been removed, as well, leaving the player only with the in-game wrestler's music and the background-music to chose from when creating his own superstar.

A huge improvement over last year's season-mode, but quite linear and rather short. The quality of the cutscenes makes more than up for it, though, and you feel like watching an actual WWE-show.

For first-time players, the controls need some getting used too, and even veteran-Smackdown-players might need some time to fully get used to the new additions. Irish-Whipping, for example, now requires two buttons, which leads to you initiating a grapple from time to time without actually wanting to do that.

Overall, though, the controls are pretty much identical to last year's controls, which isn't exactly a bad thing.

Now this is where this game fails. The new stamina-system more often than not leads to easy victories over the CPU, because they're too dumb to recover it once getting down to an orange or red bar, and instead focus on attacking you, draining even more stamina. This happens even on the highest difficulty-setting.

Higher difficulty-settings also don't make the AI smarter, but only make them reverse more, which is more annoying than hard. You can adjust the AI-settings yourself using sliders, but those only determine the rate at which the AI reverses, as well.

Tag-matches have become almost unbeatable in some cases, because your opponent's illegal partners are now quite aggressive with their interference, while your partner, even when called into the ring, more often than not will just stand there watching you getting beaten down.

In Ladder-matches, the AI only seems to climb the ladder, without doing anything else, which makes it rather easy to win those matches now. And in Elimination Chamber-matches, CPU-opponents tend to break up every pin and submission.

With over 100 different match-types, a fun season-mode (for about 2 to 3 playthroughs) and the General Manager-mode in which you yourself take control of either RAW or Smackdown to lead them to the top sure adds up to quite some re-playability.

The ability to fight for Championship-gold in Exhibition against your friends, create new and old wrestlers with the Create-A-Wrestler-mode, and Online-play make that re-playability-value even higher.

Overall impression
Smackdown vs. RAW 2006 surely is a solid and fun game, but it also has it's flaws, mainly regarding AI and some more annoying than serious glitches. If you're looking for a good wrestling-game, this sure is what you're looking for. It's good, but because of the flaws mentioned before, it's certainly not the best wrestling-game. Is it the best Smackdown-game? Yeah, probably.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/16/05

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