WWE Smackdown! vs. Raw 2009 Review (Xbox 360)
The SmackDown series has been around for about as long as WWE Superstar Edge. In that time, he has been on the bottom as a member of the Brood; he has won the tag-team titles multiple times; dropped Christian and worked himself up to Intercontinental Champion; and now he is the current WWE Champion. Can you say the SmackDown series has been as successful? Well, read the review to find out if SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 is the current title holder.
In The Ring
To be blunt, the gameplay is largely the same. If you played last year’s game you will be able to jump right in. If you are tired of 2008 and want something new, this is not the place to find it.
This game will be too easy for veteran players. I’m not the greatest Smackdown player in the world but I was beating down the computer with ease. It came to the point where the A.I. would hardly have any offense. I was surprised to find the game on normal difficulty. So, if you want even the slightest challenge, bump it up.
Players that want to use cruiserweights like Rey Mysterio and Chavo Guerrero should be happy. You’ll now be able to perform moves on the likes of Mark Henry and The Great Khali without them reversing everything. This is an improvement because in the past the game gave an innate advantage to the bigger wrestlers.
Extreme Rules matches are also still here. The weapon wheel is also back and as goofy as ever. Also, the developers did remove the ability to jump over the railing and fight in the crowd.
I fell in to a burning ring of fire, and it burns, burns, burns.....
For the first time ever in a WWE video game, we also have an Inferno match! To anyone who doesn’t know, the only way to win is to set your opponent on fire. This translates well to the game but it hurts that you can only do one-on-one matches (sure there has never been a triple threat Inferno match, but that's why I play the video game).
Legends have been removed to make space for the Legends of WrestleMania game due in March. It’s really a shame because I will miss being able to use three different Hulk Hogans. It did pave the way for a few more fringe guys to make the roster, most of which are hidden wrestlers.
Thankfully, the overplayed abilities system from 2008 is gone. You can just play the game without having to remember the dozens of mostly useless abilities.
You can no longer store finishing maneuvers. Instead, you will be saving signature moves. For example, CM Punk has his running knee in the corner, while Jeff Hardy does the Whisper in the Wind. Each wrestler has two finishers as usual.
Finishing moves are also less effective this year. It seems like the third time is the charm as sometimes two finishers are not enough to win a match. It cheapens their effect and I would like it to go back to where it took one finishing move to win a match -- only it took longer to acquire a finisher.
Tag team matches received a lot of attention this year. Yukes has added blind tags, hot tags and more double-team moves. The company has also added more things for the partner to do like grab the opponent, bring the rope down, and distract the referee. The team shares one special bar as well. It does make playing as a team a little more interesting, but it is not anything to go wild over.
Alternating attire for PPV matches is a nice touch. It makes a match all the more important when you know your wrestler is wearing his special tights.
Backstage areas are extremely limited. One backstage area is the space right outside the curtains, and the other is the locker room. If you remember being able to travel around an entire arena in the original SmackDown game for PS1, then this is a disappointment.
As usual the game shines in multiplayer. The vast array of match types just fits perfectly into a multiplayer experience and also removes the much maligned A.I.
This never ends the way you want it to....
I will amend something I said in August. I said that TNA Impact had the best looking wrestlers of any game on the market. I have officially changed that stance after playing Smackdown vs. Raw 2009. The wrestler models are spot-on, and they look incredible. If I ever wanted to see Big Daddy V in my house (which I don’t), this is as close as you can get.
The entrances are as realistic as can be, so you can enjoy staring at John Morrison’s flowing mane in slow motion. That is a delight for any night.
The arenas are well done, and on the PS3 version you can still check out the entrances in first-person mode. There would be riots if that feature was dropped.
The fact that weapons and blood still disappear instantly is silly. It would not be a problem if the weapons vanished over time or were kicked out of the ring by the referee. Also, the developers could just remove the dripping blood feature. It looks cool when a wrestler is bleeding, but it looks dumb when the blood evaporates into thin air.
The wrestlers do emit moisture as matches go on. So basically, if sweaty guys in their underwear are your thing, you are all set.
Comic book FTW?
The commentary is two-faced this year. That is definitely an upgrade over 2008 when it had just one face -- an ugly one. As you play the Road to WrestleMania mode you will hear specific commentary regarding your wrestler and his current feud. It really is refreshing to hear J.R. and King talk about the last match you had on Raw instead of how nice of a guy you are.
The other side comes into play when you are not playing the Road to WrestleMania mode. In all other instances, the commentary is just as terrible as last year. In fact, most of it is exactly the same. The only difference happens to be that Jonathan Coachman is in the booth on Smackdown instead of JBL. It would have been nice to have the current announce teams, but I understand that they were switched deep in the development cycle.
Yukes still cannot seem to get crowd noise down. It sounds like the chants are coming from a crowded basement and not a 12,000 person arena.
Some of the entrance themes are off (Chris Jericho for example), but that is not a big deal since you can change the entrance music to any track you want -- provided it is on your Xbox 360 or PS3 HDD.
The menu soundtrack has your generic rock songs that you’ll forget about when you turn the game off. I don’t mind hearing the theme music though some of them are grating.
The voice acting in story mode is solid. Some guys do a better job than others, but overall I didn’t have any issues with it. The only thing that needs to be fixed is that when certain characters are supposed to be delivering promos to the live crowd, it sounds like they are talking in the bathroom. It is only a volume issue so it is nothing major.
If only I had a jet like this one.
Menus are simple and easy to navigate. The most important addition to this game is the fact that the loading screens have been trimmed down significantly. This is exciting news for anybody that does not like watching paint dry. I downloaded the game to my Xbox 360 HDD and did not notice much of a difference in the load times. So, I would say it is not worth the six gigs.
This year the developers have added the WWE Highlight Reel. Here you can check out replays of your matches and pick out the best parts of each one. Then you can make a video of your greatest hits and post it online. A skilled editor can make it look just like the wrap-up videos at the end of a PPV.
The online portion of the game is what you would expect. You can play ranked or player matches in any of the major modes. You can take your created wrestlers online to face other people’s creations. The point of the game is to make the WWE Hall of Fame, which is something you can do only after you have proven your worth online.
The only major match you will not find online is the Royal Rumble. While it is only one match, an online Royal Rumble would probably be more fun than any other match-type out there.
Yukes promises downloadable content in the form of wrestlers and attires. There is a picture of Chris Jericho in his current attire floating around somewhere. So, if that is any indication of what to expect, the game should be fairly up to date.
Yeah....there's a lot of menus in this game.
Road To Wrestlemania
If you were expecting a season mode similar to last year's you will be surprised. We have all gotten used to a year long season in which you try and take your superstar or created wrestler to WrestleMania to battle it out for the WWE Title.
Instead of a long, generic story that can be used for any wrestler, Yukes put in five distinct storylines for five different wrestlers. It could be a problem, though, if you do not like CM Punk, Chris Jericho, Triple H, The Undertaker or John Cena. Also, the much talked about tag-team story mode features only Rey Mysterio and Batista.
I have two main gripes. First, while the six choices are well done, they are all fairly short. You start a few weeks before the Royal Rumble and get to battle all the way up to WrestleMania. That timeline counts for about twelve matches, give or take, which you can complete in less than two hours. I understand you cannot have an in-depth storyline for every wrestler, but five is not enough. There are plenty of big time wrestlers like Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, Edge and Randy Orton that are left out in the cold.
The second problem is that these stories are completely linear. If you lose a match the story will not advance and you will have to try it again.
However, the mode is fun. It used to get boring going through a year’s worth of television in order to reach your goals. Maybe two months is a little too short, so there must be a middle ground somewhere.
While the GM mode was removed, the developers have added a Career mode. This is something you have seen in games like WCW/nWo Revenge. All you do is win a certain number of matches to be awarded a specific title. You can pick any wrestler you want in this mode. There are no cut-scenes, but at least you will not have Bobby Lashley grunting to you on the other end of the phone.
Occasionally, you will be asked to perform something for a bonus, such as pinning a specific wrestler in a tag match. That is how you unlock the hidden wrestlers, arenas, attires etc. without using cheats.
That right hand looks to be on fire....
When I set out to create my first finisher, I wanted to accomplish two goals. The first goal was to make an exciting and effective move that I had never seen before. The second goal was to do that without spending three hours trying to figure it out.
My first finisher was something I called the HeliBomb. Very simply, I picked up the guy in a powerbomb position and held him on my shoulders while I spun him around seven or so times. Is that move effective? Absolutely, but it is not anything I have not seen before.
It seems that most of the moves to choose from are just variations of other moves. You can crotch up before you do a piledriver, but it is still a piledriver.
Though, it did only take me a few minutes and the interface is simple enough to use. This element has a lot of promise for the future, so I will give it a recommendation.
Something needs to be done about this series. While this game and the ones before it are solid, they are becoming more and more similar. Casual wrestling fans don’t need to spend $60 on this year’s version when last year’s offers basically the same package for less money.
When it comes to a series that has been in development as long as this one, you would expect an almost perfect game by now, but for every new feature the developers add, they take out two more. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 is the best current wrestling game, but only because there are not any worthy challengers. It might be a few years before TNA catches up, so hopefully in that time, THQ or whoever is holding the license can get its act together.
In the Ring: Gameplay is basically untouched from last year.
Graphics: Kelly Kelly never looked so good.
Sound: Stick to Road To WrestleMania mode if you want first-class commentary, otherwise turn your sound off.
Entertainment Value: The game is fun especially in multiplayer. If you are only a casual fan, get 2008
Online: Basically good, and DLC will help keep the game current.
Learning Curve: You will be an expert if you have played an earlier game in the series.
Overall Score: 7.5 (Good)
by Wil McCombs
Last year, I sold back Smackdown vs. Raw after three days. It was that frustrating. Despite being the same game at its core, Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 is for the most part, more playable and presents us with some hope for the series’ future.
Let’s be clear: With the exception of some new tag-team mechanics, the gameplay has not changed. SvR 09 employs the same thumbstick grappling system as previous editions. The system is polarizing among wrestling gamers to say the least. Thus, if you liked it before, you will enjoy it now. If you hated it before, save your $60 -- the same awkward collision detections and confusion-filled cluster fights are still present.
The main upgrade this year is most definitely the Create-a-Finisher mode. I have read many reviews that have dismissed the Create-a-Finisher mode because it is too confined; however, I applaud this new system. In fact, I will boldly claim that it gives the series a new level of replayability.
The system is simple, allowing one to create or modify a finisher in a matter of minutes. Although Create-a-Finisher has a building-block feel to it, which limits the animations you can segue into as you create, and some segues are choppy if not downright ridiculous, it does hold great promise for the future. For a year-to-year game, I did not expect this system to be perfect in year one. It is something that will add to the enjoyment of the game, and it can only go up from here. My glass is half full.
The Road to WrestleMania mode is impressive, though, brief. It is nice to see a storyline mode back in this year's game, especially after last year’s drab attempt at a career mode.
The separate Career mode lacks a storyline and serves as a way to improve created wrestlers' attributes and abilities. Although this is an upgrade from last year’s 24/7 mode, I would still like to see a free-flowing blend of these two modes in which you can take a created wrestler from the bottom to the top, choosing his path via intricate and dynamic storylines. I suppose I will have to keep waiting for that one.
All in all, an improvement over last year with signs of potential for the future.