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WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2006 (PlayStation 2) artwork

WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2006 (PlayStation 2) review


"Wrestling’s not so much a sport as it is a way of life. I respect that. And I respect Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 because it perfectly emulates."



The trumpet blares, the crowd rises, the sparks fly, and he appears. Arms spread wide so the fans can bask in his glory. A red robe, a classic smile, golden hair that’s just a shade away from gray. He’s styles and profiles on his way to the ring, combing back his hair, inches away from reaching fans who want a touch of greatness.

He walks up the stairs, passes through the ropes, takes the microphone, and speaks:

"Charlotte, North Carolina! WOO!!"

Now, I live in Charlotte. And when I stumbled on Raw is War that fateful night, when I heard the Nature Boy Ric Flair give props to my town, his hometown, I was positively electrified. And hooked.

I love wrestling, and I understand why many don’t. It is fake. It is cliché. It is cheap, often exploitive, entertainment. But if you look past all that, you’ll see men who risk their lives just so people can have someone to root for, you’ll see men who’ve dedicated their lives to the ring, you’ll see men who’ve come from a rich tradition of talent and honor.

Wrestling’s not so much a sport as it is a way of life. I respect that. And I respect Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 because it perfectly emulates.

Just like the ‘sport’ itself, 2006 thrives on shine; from match-start to match-end, the experience persists. The motion-capturing is perfect, and its coupled by awesome detail, the kind of detail you’ll find in few games, wrestling or otherwise. You can see the little hairs from Rob Van Dam’s aftershave. The endless curves of Stacy Keibler’s legs. The missing teeth of Chris Benoit.

2006 walks the walk and talks the talk. The ring announcers do their thing; blab about government mules and puppies, over exaggerate moves (hitting someone in the nuts is hardly what I’d call a ‘textbook counter’), occasionally commenting on something too early or too late. A little annoying, but you miss them when they’re gone. A little humor never hurt.

But the strength’s in the season mode, taking your warrior of choice to the ring with a storyline as backup. Fighting for money, power, and the all-important titles. Fighting alongside or against the greats, trading blows with the Rock, a submission match against Bret ‘the Hit Man’ Hart in Canada, sipping beers with Stone Cold Steve Austin, even recreating the Mankind and the Undertaker’s legendary Hell in a Cell match with you in the middle.

The superstars talk in full, don’t phone in a single line, speak as if it were a real show with real cameras and real people watching. And when your match starts you can see those people, see the millions

AND MILLIONS!!

of screaming fans rise to their feet, wave signs, taunt and cheer and jeer and look like an actual crowd instead of cardboard cutouts.

A match in 2006 feels like an actual match. But it’s not just the style; the substance helps, too.

Start any match with a manly test on manlihood. Match strength with rapid button presses. Get into a counter-fest with a more precise touch. Or, hell, just get in each other’s faces and see who’s got enough testicular fortitude to take the first shot.

Pre-fight minigames, a little something to give you a head start. After that, it’s showtime.

The computer always puts up a decent fight; countering moves, targeting weak spots, even arguing with the ref when they miss a three-count. Body parts wear down over time, go from yellow to orange to blazing red, and the trick is to find where your opponent hurts and make him feel worse. Pick a bone and break it.

But you can’t just swing and swing and hope to keep knocking him down; even badasses need to breath. See, there’s this thing call the Stamina Meter. Everything takes away from it, and you’ll be warned when it starts to get low. Ignore it if you want, but if it hits bottom, your character will just…fall…down. Only for a few seconds, mind you. But when you’re in a tight match, when you’re up against heavy-hitters like the Big Show or high-flyers like Rey Mysterio, a few seconds make all the difference.

This is where the strategy comes in, this is what makes 2006 more than just simple brawling. Conserve energy. Take breaks. Hold the Select button to recharge your energy. Bide, gain momentum, unleash your finisher and tear your opponent apart. In slow motion. Or from a spinning camera. Or from three angles. Whichever you want.

Now that’s cool.

As are hardcore matches, as are Hell in the Cell matches, as are the new Buried Alive matches that dare you to literally put your foe six feet under. Great stuff, and the kind of things you want to book you hit General Manager mode; selecting main events, starting rivalries, managing funds and going to whatever length you need in order to prove which is the better brand: Smackdown or Raw. (Raw, it’s RAW!) A little micro-management for the technical side in you.

There’s almost always something for you to do, someone for you to unlock, some prize for you to win, some new match for you to try. 2006 keeps you busy.

Let’s review what’s been reviewed.

The presentation rocks.

What?

The gameplay rocks.

What?

The matches rock, the modes rock.

What, what?

And never has it been so damn fun to stomp a mudhole in someone’s ass and walk it dry. Some might say the franchise is getting stale, that its not doing anything new, but if they say that then I say they must not be playing the same game that I am. Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 is the total package, no wrestling fan should go without, and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Rating: 10/10

lasthero's avatar
Staff review by Zack Little (March 02, 2006)

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