Review by DBean

"SmackDown vs. Raw 2006: Worth the $50 smackdown?"

After the small letdown that was SmackDown vs. RAW, Yuke's was forced to go back to the drawing board and come up with a game that offered more depth and challenge. While I will say that they were able to achieve this, it's arguable as to whether or not it's better than last year's version. Let's take a look at what was done right and what wasn't.

Without a doubt, the first thing you'll notice about the game are all the match types you can have. This is something that I find amazing as you never seem to run out of different match types to get bored with. The fact that many of these individual match types like cage have six different matchtypes makes sure that you will not be getting bored with this one any time soon.

New additions like Buried Alive and more types of Backstage Brawls have been added, but in many ways, they're similar to match types that were taken out of the SmackDown series back on the PS1 in the first place. Buried Alive is simply a casket match with a cutscene playing after you've won that buries your opponent alive. The Backstage Brawls are interactive and fun enough, but there's not a lot in the way of sound as there is no commentary during this match.

Speaking of sound, I question Yuke's decision to have no music in matchups whatsoever. . .instead taking the realism approach and having only commentary play during gameplay. I found that this became somewhat boring as you're liable to hear the same lines two or more times a match. If it were handled better, it would've been fine, but I just found myself wishing there was something playing in the background to keep things from getting stale.

The gameplay is an interesting mix of hit and miss here. I find that while the controls are smooth and that the multiple grapple styles are fun, the mechanical feel of certain unbreakable moves bogs the experience down a notch. I'd love to be able to break up stall suplexes rather than watch the move entirely. For crying out loud, the Aki engine on the N64 let you break up those kind of moves. Trying not to go into a tirade on the "glory days", this game does allow for a heck of a lot more to occur in matches, so SvR gets this part somewhat right, at a cost.

And that cost would be certain glitches that have come about in gameplay. For some reason, at certain points in matchups, the computer will find themselves getting sick of being beat down and go for an intentional DQ. This happened to me numerous times in season and exhibition modes and only made me ask why would they try something like this. . .especially when the times it occurred, there was no title on the line? The fact that you sell moves for three times that of your opponent doesn't exactly make me feel like I'm on fair ground with my CPU opponent.

So, what makes this game better than last year's, if anything? Well, like I said, this game has numerous options that its predecessor doesn't have. New to this year's version is GM Mode, which allows all wannabe promoters out there to build up their own 20-man roster and take them through an entire season, going against the other show's brand. I really liked this feature as it allows you to set up shows, feuds, and participate in the matches all the while. Add in simulation aspects like fatigue, mood, and popularity, and this makes for a rather fun and lengthy experience.

Season mode is around the same length as last year's version and while there are some fun moments to be had, I don't see many players giving each brand's season more than the once over unless you absolutely need to experience everything this game has to offer. It's fun, if somewhat unrealistic (Legends Tour storyline), so beat each brand's season mode once and unlock all the experience points you'll ever need.

In the end, I found myself questioning whether this game was truly better than the original SmackDown vs. RAW. There's a lot of polish on this engine, but it still feels like the same game. I would recommend a rental here as there might not be enough to get you interested in playing the same game you played last year with more options. Whereas 2004 brought about two solid games, 2005 brings two average games that try to hide their flaws unsuccessfully.

Gameplay- 7, I will never be able to get into those automatic moves that can't be broken up. That being said, I'm glad the A.I. from DoR2 was not repeated in this game, making for a more fun experience. Still, it could be improved, as opponents get up seconds after performing a move while it takes your wrestler nearly three times that amount at times.

Graphics- 7, The game seems to look great in cutscenes up until you see someone perform a move. Meanwhile, the in-game graphics do nothing to bring the score down as they definitely get the job done.

Sound- 6, I just can't give it a higher score than this. The commentary reuses lines from last year and there just isn't enough to keep me interested. Without any music during matches, this leaves you forced to either stick with the commentary or have no sound other than from the impact of moves and crowd chants. While the superstar voices are improved, it's still not good enough.

Entertainment- 8, Just like with DoR2, I found myself having a good enough time but it can be better. This game has more depth to it than last year's, but the overall experience still needs to be tweaked. There's still one too many glitches to my liking.

Overall (Online not taken into account with this review)- 7/10 (28/40, divide by four)

Note: I know I gave an 8 in my DoR2 review, but after experiencing the glitches and load times, my score for that would be a 7. Why is that relevant to this review? Because I thought last year's games were both 8s while this year's ones are just 7s.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 11/28/05

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