Review by Mykas0

"WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006-1 ?"

For all the WWE fans, this game has been expected for a while. New wrestlers, a new type of battle and some more additions may seem nice and appealing at first sight, but the dark truth behind the scene is certainly bigger than you may first think.

It all starts when you put the game inside your Playstation 2, and are confronted with the first loading screens. There's the usual one, where your definitions are charged to the console, and then the usual two introduction videos (one for Smackdown! and another for Raw) are seen. You try to start the actual game, accessing the main menu, and you get to see a loading screen. Seconds later, you see that there's a slight lag between screens, where you just get to see the background and no selections at all.

After bypassing such event, let's suppose you just feel like creating a new superstar. The Creation mode is there, as usual, but this time loading a superstar (as in "seeing how the look") seem to take up to one minute, time during which you can't do anything besides sitting back and wait. Oddly, you can't exit the screen while someone loading, making the access time to someone shown in an advanced position of the list just painful. The options available to create a character, their entrance, their specific moves, editing their stables and all that is easy and intuitive to do, and resemble the very same options available in the previous title.

The Creating mode is not the same thing that doesn't seem to have changed, with most modes resembling the exact same choices that you could pick in the previous game. A new match type, "Money in the Bank", is now available, alongside with improved matches for the older types. It is nice to see that Ladder Matches are now more realistic, with a player having less (and, unfortunately, a lot less!) trouble throwing the opponent out of the ladder, unlike what happened before. So matches even totally disappeared from the game, but those are the ones that you won't probably be missing, as they are Diva-specific ones.

Title Matches, as a menu choice, are also back, allowing the player to put a certain set of superstars fighting for any titles you want (once again, the type of matches where women and men can compete are restricted) at any given time. Another thing that older players may be familiarized with is PPV Mode, where you are allowed to create your very own PPV and chose all the matches that compose its card.

The online mode is back, but unfortunately that was something I wasn't able to try for this review.

About the Season Mode, one of the most interesting offline features, it now presents the player with a lot more storylines than before, even allowing you to pick up a major title after facing less than 8 matches. Then, depending on your current situation, your path will branch to a certain number of available storylines, making you defend your title or becoming a challenger to it. While all these things seem nice, the new additions make it a lot less interesting: apart from facing lots and lots of loading screens, the game seems to randomly take you to the locker room instead of always take you to the first day of the week screen, which is slightly weird. Besides, even if you're facing your very first day of the week and you pick "Start Week", you sometimes face events which are claimed to happen "later that night". There are even times where two of those screens appear after each other, making me wonder if this was some sort of a glitch or just there weren't any important events during the stated week.

I must also admit that not everything is perfect on the storylines, with some matches ending when they reach a certain point (for example, if you're reaching the title in a Ladder Match) or some sequences seeming to have premature endings, and making the player wonder "What? Is this it? What happens next?". Oddly, you only seem to get your answers from the locker room, which (apart from its usual stuff) now features a mobile phone (allowing other superstars to call you or simply text you messages), a free sample of the official magazine (with a single article that you can consult, usually related to what's happening to you) and a computer which is always connected to the front page of . This site sometimes provides you with valuable hints to what happened and what will happen next, alongside with allowing you to save your game, checking superstar's bios (everyone included in the game appears in those) or accessing its shop, where you can not only purchase new characters but also gain access to some of this game's bonus features.

Eventually, you may even reach a point where the storylines make no sense at all, with characters telling you to call them in order to make a decision when you have no way to do such thing, stables just magically disappearing and even big feuds staying unfinished for all eternity, unlike the previous game, where every storyline had its proper ending. Now, even your choices are severely limited, with only 2 or 3 of those being made in more than 10 hours of gameplay.

But not only of story lines lives a player, and the General Manager Mode also returns to this game. While the kernel of its gameplay continues mostly the same, there are some changes that heavily influence the way you play this mode, like the recent adding of Heat and Velocity as smaller backup shows or the possibility to hire people to help in your task of properly managing your brand.

They may even add whatever they want as modes or match types, but in the end everything is decided inside the ring. So, this year the game was fully changed, with the default controls (you can change them, but never put them exactly as seen in the previous games) being way different than the ones ever seen in the series. Basically, you now move your superstar with the left analog stick, grapple with the right analog stick and, as before, punch with one of the buttons. While it may seem simple, this new scheme allows the player to perform a lot more moves and actions than before, like holding a power bomb for some time in order to cause some extra damage. All the new techniques are also taught in 3 in-game movies, and you can finally use the ring and its surroundings in order to cause damage to your opponent, exactly as seen in the shows, but the announced ability of "fighting in the crowd" is not exactly true, since you just get to play in a closed area near the crowd, nothing else. Unfortunately, matches now end in a strange way, since a single second occurring between the ending condition for the match and the next loading screen, and this looks just plain bad and annoying.

However, when it comes to replay value, this game is just awesome. Featuring so many storylines, more than 20 different superstars from each brand and several different modes, this turns out being one of those titles that we can play for months. It seems weird that some superstars appear in the game while others don't, but at least all the major and most important guys are there. I must say that the game starts slow, but as soon as master the new control system you are fully prepared to enjoy it.

When it comes to graphics, one could think that they would be great, but the raise in quality after the last title doesn't seem that noticeable, with the superstars simply being more detailed than before. During events such as Kurt Angle's Ankle Lock, you can clearly see the sprites of both characters crossing each other in several points, which looks just bad.

The sound is clearly faulty, in this game. In the menus you can hear several songs that, while quite good, don't seem to have anything to do with the show. As for the matches, during those the crowd seems just awful and unnatural, unlike in the past year's installment of the series, and the hits and sounds made by the superstars are either not heard at all or simply odd, as they don't seem to fit in the action that was just performed. Even the commentators are worse than before, sometimes mislabeling the in-ring action and even talking about superstars that are in no way connected to the actions currently happening in the ring. Some types of matches, such as the "Parking Lot Brawl", don't even feature any kind of sound at all.

So, who should get this game? Mostly, people who are interested in WWE or simply want a new wrestling game, provided they can stand for massive loading sequences. In case you already have the 2006 version of this product, I strongly advise against buying this title, since the innovations are not worth it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 11/16/06

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