Review by Drunky

"Each installment seems to improve upon the others, and this game is no exception."

*Note - I've played many Smackdown games, but did not play Smackdown vs. Raw, so if my review has discrepancies between the series in which SvR is not considered, please forgive me.*

Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 comes from a long line of WWE games, and it is probably the most advanced simulation wrestling game out there. The only problem is that while some aspects of the game surpass the predecessors, other parts are just a major letdown.

Lets start with the most impressive part of the game, the graphics. All the wrestlers look almost dead on with their real life counterparts, the cut scenes look simply amazing, as if they were pulled out of a WWE broadcast. There is a lot of detail put into the wrestlers themselves, and even the crowds look good. They are the most eye pleasing crowd in any Smackdown game, as long as you don't get too close. The cinematic effects from an eagles eye view shows a jam packed stadium full of fans, it looks very realistic. Then you get closer as you start to fight in the ring, and you can see that the crowds are a bit shoddily done. Given the sheer amount of people its understandable, but its distracting when you see a fan jump up and have his head disappear beneath another fans. Given this small drawback, the fat old man holding the “Diva Search Loser” sign makes up for it.

Given the flawless execution of moves the superstars are capable of, it seems like little attention was paid to certain popular moves. Take the Stone Cold Stunner, it just looks horrendous. Instead of dropping an opponent on his shoulder, you can see him drop him on the crook of his arm every single time. Undertakers Last Ride is also a disappointment, it looks like Undertaker is too weak to lift anyone and just simply drops them forward instead of breaking them in half. Then again these are only two moves out of a hundred or so, making this a very minor drawback. On the bright side, the detail in the Create a Wrestler mode is nearly life like. With enough practice you can utilize the hundreds upon hundreds of different parts to create nearly anyone imaginable.

The sound is nothing new or exciting, and doesn't seem to be changed from previous versions. You can still hear all the thumps of the ring action, the clanging sound of steel meeting skull, and even better the voices of the WWE wrestlers. The voiceovers are extremely well done, even if some of the superstars need to brush up on their acting. A few legends are missing their voiceovers making them unplayable in season, but that's minor considering the size of the roster and the amount of CAW's you can create for use in season. Even the lip movements seem to be in sync with the voiceovers.

The background music compliments the gameplay nicely, but you'll hardly notice it over the cheering of the crowd. It's quite a nice addition to hear the crowd react to your taunts, moves, and cheap shots. Even better is hearing the crowd chant “You Suck!” in unison when Kurt Angle appears. Some of the matches don't quite have the same effect though, such as the Bar Brawl. There is no background music, commentators, and you cant hear the fans at all. It takes away from the match when its played in utter silence except for the occasional thud as a body is thrown to the hardwood. The commentators for their respective brands are very entertaining, they banter back and forth and even have a humorous line or two. Sadly not all of the music is pleasing, with songs like Crush, Kill, Destroy, you'll probably want to spend as little time in the menus as possible.

On to the actual action, the sheer amount of matches and variants are incredible. Several classic matches like Buried Alive are in here, along with newer matches like Fulfill Your Fantasy and Bar Brawls. You can play with most, if not all, of the current WWE roster, and even some Legends such as Stone Cold, Bret Hart, and British Bulldog. The in-game action is similar to previous years games, but with improvements here and there such as the submission systems and the stamina system (which some feel only slows down the match, but thankfully you can turn it off).

On to the main attraction(s), the game modes. You can play in normal season mode, the all new GM mode, or PPV mode. The season mode has some great storylines, and you can play on either brand for a new set of storylines. Season mode does lack in one aspect, the ability to challenge for titles. The game allows you to make a few decisions affecting your future, but they always end up with the same result, a chance to wrestle for the Championship. They don't allow you to try and win other titles such as the tag team, Intercontinental, or hardcore belts. The season mode itself is rather short, so you'll only play around 15 matches each time. This is both good and bad, good because you can keep switching superstars and trying out new options, but bad because you'll go through the storylines faster.

The GM mode, a new feature in the series allows you to become General Manager for one of the brands. Your ultimate goal is to have a larger fan base than the other brand. To do this you are given the opportunity to draft your own roster, make your own matches, and start your own feuds. It sounds easy, because you can just get a bunch of top rated superstars and put them in Hell in a Cell every week. Sadly that's not the case, as you have to manage your money, keep your stars happy and more importantly, keep them from getting tired or injured. Every match has to be carefully chosen and the roster rotated constantly to keep the superstars happy and able bodied, This is a great addition to the game, and adds a unique challenge.

Speaking of challenges, there is an actual challenge mode feature. Not really a mode actually, but this list of challenges will vary by difficulty and give you certain tasks to complete. These tasks can be completed in either exhibition mode or season mode and will include things to test your skill. Such as reversing 10 grapples, breaking 4 weapons or just stealing a finisher. Doing these will reward you with trophies to add to your collection.

PPV mode is like the GM mode, but not as goal oriented. You can just make your own PPV and play it out. The other create modes such as Create a Belt allows you to create your own title to defend against other superstars. The Create a Superstar (CAS, or sometimes known as CAW), allows you to make your own wrestler in amazing detail, give them their own biography, and even assign them their own voice. This is a definite improvement over previous versions even if the learning curve is a bit steep. If you've never made a CAW before you'll need practice before being able to utilize all the features.

The online mode allows you to play with up to 3 other players online in a variety of match types, but like most other PlayStation2 games with an online mode, it suffers from lack of users. A huge lack of users. The lobbies are almost empty and glitched as well. Often you'll be forced out of lobbies, the lobbies will empty, and the number of displayed users will be wrong. Considering that and the lack of users, getting a game underway is hard. And if you do plan on playing this game of patience, you better have a good broadband connection. Even a little lag will cost you your match because you lose the ability to properly reverse moves, and the other players will always get the drop on you leaving you open and vulnerable.

Given the sheer amount of allowable customization, roster size, game matches and modes, this game is a definite buy. Renting it wont even let you come close to experiencing all the fun that's waiting for you.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/28/05

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