WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006 PS2 Review

To think that the SmackDown series started life as something you could most probably find in the arcades is a difficult task. The series has always been fast and physical, which resembled real life wrestling, although everything else was as far removed from the sport as you could possibly get. The last three games in the series have been writing a completely different story, and the latest is quite simply the best yet!

Yukes have somehow triumphed again with the visuals and pulled something out of the hat that we would never have imagined would have been possible on the PS2. The wrestler models are solid and large; whilst the pace has again been slowed down and the animations are mostly outstanding (moves such as clotheslines now appear to have plenty of body behind them). The only real blemish in the visuals is a stodgy animation, which sees legs lock up during movement, making the wrestler look like a statue on a conveyer belt.

As good as the visuals are, SvR 2006’s real achievement is in the excellent and improved gameplay. The series is certainly no stranger to improvements and additions, although this annual update puts the real “simulation” into the franchise thanks to a bevy of things that really work, thus making the game play even better than before!

Wrestling matches must be quite tiring for the competitors involved, and it’s easy to see during matches when they are having a well deserved timeout. This hasn’t been seen in a WWE game until now, and the introduction of stamina meters really enforces SvR 2006 as a wrestling sim. It’s no longer just a case of thinking about what move to do next, as your wrestlers conditioning also needs to be taken into consideration. When your wrestler is nearing exhaustion he’ll drop to his knees, therefore it’s best to avoid this whenever possible and choose the best spots in the match and recharge the meter via the select button when you find them. It ensures additional strategy during matches and makes it feel much more realistic than before. Day of Reckoning 2 attempted the usage of stamina, although it definitely didn’t hit the spot quite like this one.

Momentum is also a shiny new addition and the clean and dirty meters that were introduced in last year’s game have been spliced into this system. When the match is swinging in your favour, the meter remains high, and when you manage to keep consistently on your opponent you will be awarded with a finisher. Finishing moves can be used whilst the meter is flashing for maximum damage, or they can be stored for use later on in the match. The clean and dirty rules still apply; although as you can no longer play neutral it means that momentum is topped all too easily, meaning you don’t necessarily have to build a castle of momentum to earn yourself a finisher.

The season mode is great, but with the advent of voiceovers on the last game it still means that things aren’t as open as they used to be. The voiceovers are much improved though, and both shows have their very own storylines, which are poles apart from one another. The General Manager mode meanwhile has you taking control of either Raw or SmackDown! and trying to beat the competing show in the ratings war. You command all aspects such as the superstar contracts’, booking of matches every week, rivalry building, viewer stealing from the other show and more. All the major championships are vacant to begin with and you can either put some gold on a superstar’s shoulder of your choosing (a’la Eric Bischoff awarding the World Heavyweight title to Triple H all those months ago) or allow some select superstars to battle for and heartily earn it instead. It’s a rather boring mode to be honest, although it’s still early days and it could be much expanded on in the future. The online mode is also much improved allowing you to fight in any match type and even put titles on the line with support for up to four players.

The Buried Alive match is SvR 2006’s main event, and here the object is to bury your opponent alive inside a coffin. It’s a good match, but it does sometimes go on for ages. Also the improvements to the cage matches are most welcome, you can now crawl out of the door or climb the cage to escape it, a power struggle ensues much like that in reality.

Did we mention the new chain reversal system? The fact that you can now create Tag Team belts? Potential double KO’s? That certain wrestlers are better with weapons now? We could go on and on, but we’ll just wrap this review up by saying that WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006 might not be perfect, but it’s still a very good wrestling game, and if you are a fan of the staged sport you’ll most probably instantly fall in love with it, if you aren’t particularly fond of wrestling then you should still be open-minded and give it a try, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised!