WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW (PlayStation 2) review
"WWE SmackDown vs. Raw is the sixth entry for the SD series, and youíd never know it by playing it. Perhaps itís the fact that this series is done in a narrow time table (with this being the sixth game in under five calendar years), but the end results are always lacking in some ways. As a long-time fan of Yukesí games (dating back to their first wrestling game, Toukon Retsuden, also the first 3D wrestling game), this series saddens me because I know what theyíre capable of, and itís much bette..."
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw is the sixth entry for the SD series, and youíd never know it by playing it. Perhaps itís the fact that this series is done in a narrow time table (with this being the sixth game in under five calendar years), but the end results are always lacking in some ways. As a long-time fan of Yukesí games (dating back to their first wrestling game, Toukon Retsuden, also the first 3D wrestling game), this series saddens me because I know what theyíre capable of, and itís much better than this.
Other wrestling games by this talented group allow you to tell a dramatic tale in and out of the ring. whether it be with high-flying acrobatics or grueling submission wrestling. Here, youíre treated to a game that doesnít do any of those things well. Submission wrestling really suffers in SvR, despite there being three different submission types in the game, none of them really give you dramatic submission wrestling. The only one that comes close is far too easy to abuse, since it just has you pressing the X button when a blue streak appears in a meter. At least it features a nice array of submission counters that havenít been seen elsewhere, such as one for the figure four leglock where the move is reversed, and the pressure is placed on the person who originally did the move. This new style (dubbed the ďBĒ submission style in SvR) also features basic escape animations, something you donít see very often. Itís a shame all of these good aspects are wasted on such a wretched submission system, and the fact that three submission system arenít enough for this series to convey in-ring drama is also sadly telling.
Whatís even sadder is that so many ďnewĒ things have been added, while screwing up many of the very few things the series ever got right. Since the second entry, you could always count on a decent roster of wrestlers to play as. The game they were in might not have been all that good, but by God, you at least had a healthy variety of folks to choose from. Here, that isnít the case. Why isnít that the case, you ask? Well, full character voice overs were added to the game for the season mode, and if history has taught us anything, voice overs end up hurting wrestling games more than helping them.
16-bit gamers will recall hearing the tales of how much space voice files take up, and this game personifies the very worst that can happen when voices are used in a game. The season mode would have been fine without them, and the game itself is hampered by the wrestlersí dry delivery with their lines. Itís impossible to really blame them though, as they arenít given much to work with here due to the very generic storylines, and their schedules probably only allowed them to do one take. Some of the work appears to have been done over a very poor quality phone line, as there are all sorts of echo problems with them. This is something that a little audio mixing could have remedied to some degree, but that isnít the case. Continuing the trend of new things that end up really killing the game, we have the Legends of Wrestling-esque mini-games.
Yukes has seen fit (or was told to see fit) to rip off Acclaimís golf meter-based gameplay for a few elements, such as pre-match showdowns and chopping in the corner. The problem here is that everything using this meter ends up looking incredibly forced, and takes you right out of the game. With the chop battle, youíre limited to three chops, which not only defeats the purpose of going into the corner to lay into your foe, but ends up looking horrible as you just walk backwards after delivering them. What makes this worse is that the chop battle scenario takes up one of the four slots you were previously given for moves to do in the corner, leaving players with a fake-looking mini-game that accomplishes nothing and a downgraded aspect of the game. Yukes has done a much better job with this kind of thing in their GC games; Day of Reckoning in particular features dramatic chop battles that you have complete control over, with vicious sound effects accompanying them.
I really do wish that was it for the new game-killing stuff, but it isnít. The character models have been overhauled to feature many more polygons than before, something that ends up being worthless when you see how horrible the faces look, or how the fingers lack detail, or how there isnít any forearm hair for any of the characters. Plus, long hair on the head still looks atrocious, leaving us with spiffy looking attire (that appears badly painted onto the character bodies), chests, and very little else. In some cases, like with Mankind, people look much worse here than before. In his case, heís wearing a shirt that is ghost white, without a trace of grime and such that should be on it. With the emphasis placed on his lower arms due to the short sleeved dress shirt, the flaws with the hands and forearms that Iíve mentioned really stick out. It stands to reason that the key reason the roster suffered was because the development team could only render so many wrestlers at this high a polygon level, and if thatís the case, it must have pained them to do it. The new character models also cause created superstars to look even more out of place than before, since their models havenít been built up enough to resemble the in-game folks. Once again, this is the only series with this problem, and itís a jarring one. What weíre left with is a game that looks impressive in screen shots, but falls apart in motion. As someone who plays games, and not screen shots, this bothers me quite a bit.
These issues could be at least tolerable if the rest of the visuals held water, but that isnít the case since animation problems run wild in this game. For instance, when initiating a collar and elbow tie-up, you be treated to a very stiff animation that depicts one, and unlike Day of Reckoning (or WrestleMania XIX for the GC), you wonít see any in-between animation. So when you for a firemanís carry from this position, your charactersí arms will be near their heads, and then magically appear near their legs, whereas in DoR, youíll see them move from the head area, to the lower body. Itís a little thing that adds a lot of realism to the product, and is completely absent here.
Most of the move animations look good, but far too many moves have been removed from the fifth installment into this one. Iíd give a safe estimate at around two dozen moves being removed, at a bare minimum, and that isnít counting moves that were removed in the series before the fifth game, which adds even more to the number. What saddens me most of all about this is that Mankindís in-game character suffers greatly due to his double arm DDT being removed, and in its place is the ďStevie-TĒ, which looks nothing like it in execution. Plus, move set glitches are back, as is the limiting move selection system from the fifth installment that butchered being able to customize the move sets for the roster. Executing the moves is still pretty easy to do, thankfully. The responsive controls are one of the few consistently solid things about the series, and they shine here given how many problems other aspects of the game have.
Despite the many gameplay and visual problems, Iíd hoped that the new modes would at least make things tolerable. Sadly, as with many other elements, that hasnít happened. The new create a belt mode seemed great in theory, as no rendition of the mode had previously allowed you to have this much control over the actual creation of the belts. Things donít work quite as well in execution due to the limited number of actual straps available, and the fact that few of the plate combinations allow you to make decent recreations of real belts. Plus, the belts you can make have no depth to them, leading to every belt looking artificial. The execution of other aspects of this mode are also far worse than I ever could have imagined, as evidenced by not even being able to properly wrestle for your created title in single-player, and the unrealistically high amount of money needed to even make a good-looking belt.
Other new modes like the parking lot brawl donít really add anything to the game, as that mode ends up being far too predictable. You can literally win by just throwing your opponent into glass by pressing the circle button. Whatís worse is that the handful of other animations are also easy to do, although not quite as well, but look more far-fetched, such as the animation where you throw your foe into a limo, which always has someone inside it to beat the daylights out of them. Some of the secondary ones are nice, like the one where you slam a car door on an opponentís leg. Sadly, the sound effects donít really do much justice to the action, which is a recurring theme throughout the game. The generic licensed music doesnít add anything to any of the modes either, since it doesnít fit the action in any of them. Itís acceptable for menu music, but not for gameplay.
Some positive changes have been made to existing modes, like the special referee mode, which brings back the ability to use anyone as a referee, instead of only a handful of folks, something the last two games have been guilty of. The elimination chamber match, while still flawed due to some teleporting problems, and the horrid aerial move landing that features you landing on your head and neck no matter what move you attempt, with some not even connecting, still. At least the mode now features a War Games-style option, allowing for teams of three to duke it out until only one man from a team survives. While itís not exactly like War Games, itís the closest weíre ever likely to see in a game.
The elimination chamber, and really, every other match mode, is hurt by the fact that bleeding now occurs via a cutscene, something that was a problem in the GC games, and is now more of one since action continues on, despite you not being able to see what is going on. This is more of an issue in the cage-based modes as it can lead to some needless losses in the chamber, and in a loaded Hell in a Cell, as youíll be left helpless to stop a pin or submission you could otherwise prevent, something that isnít a problem with the GC games since the action stops when the cutscene begins.
Online play has been added, but since it only offers up two match types (single and bra and panty) that I donít enjoy playing, Iím not going to shell out $40 to play it. In spite of the enhancements made to some modes, most are still the same horrid representations that have always been in the series. Steel cage matches, for example, donít even allow you to slam your foes into the cage, and treat the cage as an afterthought. Yukes obviously understands why these modes exist, as evidenced by how well theyíre done in the GC games, but for whatever reason, that hasnít quite reached the SD series yet.
In spite of the many, flagrant gameplay flaws, and A/V flaws, the game is still fun to play. The problem is that while itís fun, itís also very hollow. Leaving you with something that is fun for a bit, but quickly grows tiresome, something made more noticeable by the few changes made as the series has progressed. I, as a fan of Yukes, wrestling, and games, hope that theyíre able to bring the positive aspects of their other games into this series. Until that day comes, Iíll keep shaking my head and weeping at the wasted potential of the series.
Community review by jpeeples (February 17, 2005)
Jeremy Peeples has been writing about games since 2000. GameFAQs was his first stop, and that led to a writing gig on Game2Extreme, then VGPub. In 2005, he was brought aboard Hardcore Gamer Magazine, and has been a regular Youtuber since 2006.
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