by Brett Cocking
Since its conception, THQ’s WWE games have been the undisputed champion of wrestling games.
While this could be put down to the lack of any contenders to the title, THQ never disappointed with their games. With the release of TNA Impact however, many people, including myself, expected the WWE franchise to step up and deliver a chair shot to its opponents.
Corny wrestling metaphors aside, WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 (WWE SVR 09) boasts a fair amount of new features which promise to take the genre to new levels.
One of the main features to be added this year looks to rectify an aspect which has troubled wrestling games forever, a decent storyline.
Road to Wrestlemania is a mode in which you can take control of one the biggest names in the business and guide him to the wrestling showpiece, Wrestlemania. You can choose from, Triple H, John Cena, CM Punk, Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio or Batista. Each wrestler has a unique storyline, all of which are very well written and full of twists and turns. The detail of the storylines really gives you the feeling of being the part of a developing plot on TV. It even ends with the Smackdown logo at the bottom left of the screen as if the program was ending.
Apart from Road to Wrestlemania, there is a career mode which, although lacking any form of storyline is very engrossing and will have you wasting hours without even realizing it. The idea is simple; make it to the top by beating everybody in your way. You start with a series of matches which you wrestle in to gain a star rating, these stars then go towards unlocking the first contender spot and finally the title match. Once you win the title, you then move to the next title until you are the WWE champion. The one thing I found rather disappointing is that I wasn’t able to defend my shiny new title but rather forced to move on.
Gameplay-wise the game is close to perfect, because all your moves are executed using the right analog stick, you can do a variety of moves with ease. The moves are also a lot more fluid in that you can go from a high flying move to a suplex to a pin without seeing the wrestlers being pulled into animations. This makes the overall game flow better and adds to that TV experience. There is also the addition of a new match, the inferno match. In the inferno match, the parameter of the ring is on fire and it keeps getting hotter until reaching a peak, once at this peak your goal is to throw your opponent out of the ring through the flames. This is a lot of fun when playing multiplayer as both players are normally pretty beaten up by the time the flames reach peak heat.
One of the biggest improvements of WWE SVR 09 is the loading times; it was a problem that has plagued the series since its conception and really affected the flow of matches when you wanted to go to other areas. This year however, you can go between areas in about 2 seconds; this really helps the flow of the match and makes it feel as if they are just changing to a different camera to cover the action. The lack of loading times is even more impressive considering you aren’t required to install the game.
The introduction of signature moves makes a huge difference. Now, not only do you have finishers but you have each wrestler’s signature moves. The signature moves aren’t as powerful as finishers but they do more damage than regular moves fitting them perfectly in between. Signature moves also help with making each wrestler more unique and adding to the longevity of the game. Nobody wants to play with three different wrestlers who all have identical moves.
Graphically, the first word that comes to mind is stunning. The wrestlers look brilliant as do their entrances. The pyrotechnics are something to behold. I really enjoyed watching Triple H’s entrance when he blows the water in the air; it looks identical to the real thing.
There is only one gripe I have, the little man, big man aspect. If I am wrestling with Chris Jericho against Kane and I go to grapple Kane, Chris Jerocho will put his hands on Kane’s shoulders and Kane will put his hands around my arms in an attempt to break the hold. The problem however is that because Chris Jericho is so much shorter than Kane, Kane actually grabs above Jericho’s arms making an odd circle sign with his hands. The camera angles tend to do a great job of emphasizing this problem too. While this looks extremely odd, it doesn’t affect gameplay in any way and would be something really difficult to rectify.
On the commentary side, you have all the commentators for their respective shows and while they help make the matches more realistic they can say some really bizarre things. The script is also very short so while the commentary adds to the atmosphere in the short term, hearing the same lines every match tends to turn the commentators from realistic to down right annoying.
The annoying commentary is made up for with very good sound effects, hearing a chair crash over somebody’s head in surround sound brought a huge smile to my face. The mat sounds great, it even has different pitches depending on how hard your opponent is hitting the mat or what part of his body is hitting the mat first. This tends to bring the evil smirk out more often than it should.
There is a lot more to do this year, creatively. The create-a-wrestler mode is back with improved options, including the ability to add your own music playlist to your wrestler’s entrance music. Along with that is the new create-a-finisher mode which gives you about 600 different aspects which you can use to create the most evil, painful move you could possibly come up with. Lastly, the Highlight video creation system brings a whole new aspect to the way to impress your friends. It allows you to take videos from the matches you have wrestled in and using the in-game video editing system, create highlight videos which can be uploaded to the net for everybody to see. This mean that now, instead of doing 3 different moves repeatedly before doing a finisher, you are left trying various moves in an attempt to get the best footage for your highlights video.
All in all, WWE SVR 09 offers everything you could possibly want, whether you are a wrestling fanatic or just a casual gamer. There are a few annoyances but the good certainly outweighs the bad. The game sometimes feels more real than the actual thing. This is without a doubt the best wrestling game ever created. WWE Smackdown vs Raw is without a doubt still the undisputed champion of wrestling games.
Gameplay: 9.5/10 – As close to perfect as you can get
Presentation: 9/10 – Amazing but with its small glitches
Sound: 8/10 – Gratifying but spoiled by commentary
Value: 9/10 – Huge roster, various match types
Overall: 9/10 – Best wrestling game ever created
Last Updated: December 11, 2008