Review by Y2k super dog

Reviewed: 12/07/05

Another year, and another SmackDown! game.

This game easily surpasses how hyped up I have ever been for a wrestling game. Since the first few videos released on IGN, I knew I was going to purchase this game as soon as it came out. The question is, does it live up to the hype, or does it fall flat on it's face?

SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 is the 7th game in the SmackDown! game series. The most praised game, and perhaps the best SmackDown! game, Here Comes The Pain, has been used I guess as an average for American wrestling games, since 2003. However, does 2006 surpass all of it's previous predecessors?

I'll start off with the main part of the game. The gameplay. This year's gameplay is quite a bit different to all the previous SmackDown! games; the main reason being the new additions of the new momentum and stamina systems. The stamina system is actually evolved a little from Day of Reckoning 2, and by that, I mean that you can now regain stamina by simply holding down the Select button. I don't mind the new stamina system, but it can be a little frustrating at times. The momentum system however, is it neat addition, mainly because you can't use the same boring strike/grapple/whatever, over and over. A new addition fans have been asking for a long time has been exhibition title matches, and they got them. You can now defend default WWE titles as well as your own created belts. A good feature.

Other additions include a good amount of new moves. THQ claims 40-50% of the moves have been reanimated, but this is a bit of a lie, because quite a few moves have been ported from WrestleMania 21, on XBox. This being said, there has been a lot of new, much-needed moves added, but, there's still a good amount of moves that still need therapy. A few other new mechanics like the new sleeper hold system and the playing possum moves are quite cool, but can become very frustrating after a while, mainly because of the computer rarely ever, and I mean ever, actually lets his hand fall on the floor 3 times.

Previous modes including Create-A-Wrestler and Create-A-Moveset return, as well as new modes like Create-An-Entrance (Thank God they finally made the entrances full, instead of the horrible warping entrances.) Create-A-Wrestler, being one of the main modes of a wrestling game for most people, is good, but can be much better with a higher layer level and less blotching on old clothes. (Yes, there is still horrible blotching on many old textures..) Other than that, the movesets for the in-game superstars is really bad, and because of a lot of moves being removed, including good animations, it's even harder to make an above-average moveset for a superstar.

The new match-types like Buried Alive, a re-done Steel Cage match, and Fulfill Your Fantasy for Divas, are all solid, and nice additions to the game. The down-side however is quite a lot of previous matches are a lot worse, thanks to the horrible selling of moves. (Why didn't Yukes listen and fix up the selling, anyway?) This makes Ladder matches and the lot more annoying, especially online. Speaking of online, the online part of the game is substantially better than last-years game. Pretty-much every match-type is now playable, which is good, but there is still pretty bad lag, which makes any online game annoying, especially if it is lagging badly.

In the end, the main things that plague the gameplay are the glitches, no-selling, and certain previous match-types ruined by silly little game elements.

The season mode is good the first and second time through on RAW and SmackDown!, but after that, it is pretty-much the same story-line over and over. The voice acting has improved a lot, and the cut-scenes are a lot better. It creates a more realistic WWE experience, and you enjoy it at the same time. The season mode would have definitely been better if they had implemented more story-lines and made it less repetitious, even if they had to use text, it would have been a lot better.

Each year the graphics get an upgrade. This year is no exception. The character detail is a whole lot better, the arenas look more realistic, and larger, and even small things like the menus look quite cool. One bad thing about the better graphics is it is a bit jerky, should I say it has some frame rate drops, mainly in 6-player matches, offline even. This is the negative part about the PlayStation 2 nearing the end of it's lifetime.

A lot of the sounds have been recycled from Here Comes The Pain, which isn't a bad thing, but some of the sounds in a cut-scene in season mode are kinda bad, like when a wrestler is slammed down on the canvas from a Spinebuster or something along the lines of that. There's a new soundtrack this year, ranging from Rap to Rock, and I have to say, quite a few of the songs are really good. You just get sick of them after hearing them about 30 times.

I'd say you'd probably be playing this game from anywhere between 2 weeks until next year's SmackDown! (If there is one.) There's still lots of things to do once you unlock everything, including making your own belts, Pay-Per-Views, created wrestlers, and more. Online also increases the amount of time you'll spend on this, as it is good fun if you avoid the cheap guys. Heck, you can even make your own wrestling federation by using the Create A modes. The replayability for this game is pretty high.

My final recommendation for this game is simple. If you want a good WWE game, buy this. If you can't quite afford this, then pick up Here Comes The Pain, which is cheap now, and easily affordable. I still recommend renting this, even if you aren't much of a wrestling fan, but want something fun and long-lasting to play. All-in-all, I think this game deserves an 8. It surpasses all previous SmackDown! games in most areas, but doesn't quite surpass them all in everything. If you're still confused at the end of this review, simply rent it, and if you like it, then get out there and buy it!

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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