SmackDown vs. Raw 2009ESRB:
Platform: PlayStation 2
570 kb save
PS2 Mulitap required for 6-player use
Dolby Pro Logic 2
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 attempts to uphold the franchise’s commitment to delivering the definitive videogame simulation of live WWE. The PlayStation 2 version of the game unleashes a brand new tag team experience, allowing players to build momentum and attributes to eliminate opponents with high impact double teams and finishers, as well as get the hot tag for the win. The franchise's renowned creation system offers a brand new and cool looking Create-A-Finisher option, while a new Road to WrestleMania Mode paves the way to WWE’s biggest event of the year and lets players experience co-op storylines for the first time.
The venerable and ageless PS2 is still pumping out some fairly nice looking games, as this year’s incarnation of SmackDown vs. Raw looks very similar to past releases.
The game really looks identical to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions aside from the obvious HD and horsepower upgrade. The game does show the PS2’s age in quite a few places. It is fraught with huge loading times, terrible clipping, and anti-aliasing problems from start to finish. It’s tough to watch for someone like myself who’s been spoiled by the higher horsepower consoles over the past few years. That being said, I’m not sure if this game could look any better for what it is. Most PS2 gamers can buy this version with the confidence that you’re not missing out on too much. The drop in graphic dependability is the only compromise. Remarkably the animation is quick and fluid throughout with a mostly consistent framerate. The new 2008 HD Titantrons are included and look convincingly imposing in standard definition.
One thing of note is the character models. Most gamers will immediately recognize their favorite wrestlers; they are done with excellent textures and are very nicely modeled after their real life counterparts. The men in the game look amazingly like the men in the WWE, unfortunately the women are not that pretty. The bodies are well in context as are their appendages, but the faces are nowhere near as good as the men’s. Not only can you not recognize some of them, they are down right scary looking, just my opinion though.
The entire soundtrack in Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 is encoded in Dolby Digital Pro Logic 2 surround sound. So good quality sound is a given whether it be the music, crowds, or commentary. Each match is intro’ed with some cool sounding hard rock, rap, or other music depending on the wrestler’s preference. Certain wrestlers have their patented music which we’ve all heard on TV, and some have generic knock off’s that sound similar. Either way it sounds great, the music matches the atmosphere quite well, and it feels very much like a TV or Pay Per View broadcast.
I‘ve never heard of the commentating team before but they sound every bit of excited and keep up to the action at good pace. Once again it sounds just like a TV production and gamers will appreciate the time and effort gone into producing the game with such high quality values.
But that’s not all. The dialog in the storylines is phenomenal. Each WWE superstar narrates his or her own virtual Road to Wrestlemania, and guest voiceover work is provided for the other characters throughout each story. There are all kinds of dialog and narration from the commentators from Raw and Smackdown which can get pretty hilarious at times. It does its job and makes the story mode entertaining to play as it is to watch. Even the messages you receive on your cell phone feature voice recordings from the stars that sent them. The amount of time put into making the Road to Wrestlemania is obvious, and the hands-on involvement of each superstar is a huge plus!
While I’m not much of wrestling fan at my age today, there was a time when it was all I knew. In the mid to late 80’s we saw the likes of Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper and countless others that really brought the sport of entertainment wrestling to the forefront. Over the years the sport has changed in many ways, but the entertainment factor is still strong as ever. We didn’t have video games back in the day to mimic our favourite wrestlers either, instead we played for real in the backyard or at school.
Smackdown vs RAW 2009 is on its third instalment on Sony’s PS2. While the PS2 has drawbacks, ridiculously long loading times come to mind, it is still a very viable gaming platform. New in SmackDown vs. Raw is the Road to WrestleMania mode and the Create-a-Finisher mode. The game also packs a plethora of new match types, such as the Inferno match and plenty more.
I had one glaring problem with SmackDown vs. Raw 2009. I am somewhat of a rookie in the wrestling video game world, but right away I found the absence of an in depth GM mode. Sports based titles have had some kind of GM mode for many years; it’s why I noticed the omission. I can only imagine how fun it would be to set pricing for the merchants of the venues, or ticket prices and mark-ups. GM Mode is one of the most enjoyable game modes I've ever played on any video game. It makes you feel like an official that can guide raise or sink any franchise. I missed it here.
The gameplay itself was quite enjoyable. I found the controls to be intuitive and it was fairly easy to learn the signature moves and combos. For me the game began to flow after an hour or so of playtime. I’m sure vets of the series are going to be able to pick it up even quicker. The PS2 controller is still one of my favourite dual joystick controllers of all time, and after some heated gameplay it fit like a glove. I did find grappling with the Reversal System pretty fun, but one of the problems is that wrestlers get stuck in animations you can't stop. If I'm in a table match with 3-4 people, why am I forced to watch my opponent putting my other wrestlers through a table with no ability to stop it? Why can I see my tag partner about to be thrown out of the ring without me being able to intervene? You see this kind of stuff all the time in real live WWE events; it is a cornerstone of their product. Wrestling is at its most enjoyable when all hell breaks loose. It is not a gameplay problem per se, but more of a realism and realization of what really happens in any WWE fight.
Road to Wrestlemania has some cool storylines for fans but it’s limited to only 7 characters. Unfortunately what do or don’t do doesn't always affects the path of your career. However outright wins over superior opponents are not always recognized and it can be frustrating as this should put you up in ranking, but for some reason it’s overlooked. The season mode in the game should be where you can simply pick a superstar, set his particular popularity, grudges, and alliances (sort of like the Nascar system), along with certain stats and the you would start your career. You should be able to start off as an unknown or as a star in making and go from there. However this is not the case. Instead you have a restricted set storyline you have to follow with each of your wrestlers. This does not do a good job in portraying the life a WWE superstar. The realism needs to be tweaked a bit here. Perhaps the addition of sliders to adjust the level of realism would work. Some gamers can go all out balls to the wall and live and develop like a real WWE star, or take the simple clinical way to achieve his or her goals. I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as those other GameBoyz staffers who reviewed different versions of this game, but to each their own. I figure most WWE fans should enjoy this mode, but I did have my issues with it.
The Create a Finisher mode is perfect fun and practice fodder for new players of the game. I happened to tinker with the mode quite by accident and found most my time trying to create that special killer move. Another are I enjoyed was the tag team aspect of the game, but I found myself sticking with one more than the other. If I knew the particular wrestlers moves well I would find that I would not switch off often enough. I did this so frequently that it would run down the wrestler and I would not be able to tag off and as a consequence lose. The new Tag Team features are not really all that new; most of it has been recycled from the last year’s version. Create a Finisher, Season Mode, and Road to Wrestlemania are really the core of gameplay and can be very fun and rewarding.
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