Review By: Nick Arvites
|Developer:||Yuke's Media Creations|
|# Of Players:||1-4|
|Accessories:||Xbox Live (online play, DLC)|
I’m not a core wrestling fan. I occasionally will watch one of the weekly shows on cable, but I haven’t ordered a pay-per-view in my life, nor could I name off 10 “new” wrestlers that weren’t around when I used to watch wrestling in high school 10 long years ago. Yet, even though my wrestling fan status is questionable at best, I’ve always enjoyed wrestling video games. They usually combine fighting games with brawlers, and they usually provide great multiplayer sessions. Keep in mind that I’ve only extensively played one wrestling title since the N64 days, so Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 is relatively new ground for me. I’m not sure what the series has done or failed in prior iterations, so I’m coming into this on a fresh slate. On my fresh slate, I had generally low expectations. I found recent wrestling titles to have control schemes that were too complicated, and the matches themselves often lacked something, be it in the presentation, flow, or AI. Thankfully, Smackdown vs Raw delivered a great wrestling title with only a few flaws.
The basics are great. There’s a fairly large roster of wrestlers, and I’ve even heard of about half of them. There are no classic wrestlers here, as they’ve spun off the old-timers into their own game. There’s a good match variety...if you can think of a gimmick match the WWE’s used in the last few years you can find it here. According to the back of the box, the new match this year is the Inferno Match. Additionally, tag team dynamics have been improved from prior iterations. The controls are basic. You have striking moves, grapples, and strong grapples. The system feels like the proper evolution of the N64 style controls. They’re simple enough to where a new player can pick up the basics after three matches, yet complicated enough to provide depth and keep the matches complex.
My biggest qualm with the control scheme is with the small things. I found blocking and countering to be an exercise of random luck. There is a timing system involved, but I found more success just mashing and jamming buttons. There really isn’t any explanation as to how submission moves (and countering them) works, much like there really isn’t an explanation as to how you’re supposed to kick out of a pin. If there was a way to change who your character is facing, I couldn’t find it.
The big revamp to the game comes in the form of increased tag team dynamics. Smackdown v. Raw 2009 has more tag team special moves and allows you to perform “hot tags.” Hot tags involve your partner building up crowd support waiting for you to tag him. Once tagged in, the player enters into a quick time event where he has to press buttons to knock down both opponents. Successfully performing a hot tag gives you an instant special move, making it a powerful tactic that is often abused by players.
The best mode in the game is the Road to Wrestlemania. This is SvR’s “story mode.” You select one superstar (or the tag team of Rey Mysterio and Batista), and take them down a path that culminates at Wrestlemania. This mode allows you to experience a typical WWE storyline, complete with all of the betrayals and twists that one would see on the televised shows. Wrestlers involved in the story modes lend their voices, so you actually get to hear them go back and forth instead of getting stuck reading text. This mode gives you the plot turns and in-and-outs of a WWE storyline.
Posted: 2009-04-24 09:30:43 PST