WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 - PS2 - Review
Smackdown Vs. Raw 2009 has some big shoes to fill. After the disappointment of TNA Impact! and virtually every other wrestling game not bearing the Smackdown Vs. Raw name, the world has been waiting to know if the 2009 edition can bring wrestling games back to their former glory.
On the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 front, the series is doing just that. But on PlayStation 2, SVR 08 was very much the expected rehash of the previous year. It still managed to be a good game though, with several specific fighting styles applied to each wrestler.
Unfortunately, you won’t find a greater degree of individuality in SVR 09. What you will discover is a large number of match types, as usual: Inferno, Falls Count Anywhere, First Blood, Hell in a Cell, Ironman, Last Man Standing, Ladder, TLC, Backstage Brawl, ECW Extreme Rules Match and a couple others.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding the Inferno mode, which replaces the usual goal of pin-the-loser (or the less common win-by-KO) with an unexpected task. In a strange twist of fate, the ring has become engulfed in flames. Consequently, you can’t leave the ring. You can’t win by any of the normal means either. Instead, the game calculates both players’ success by measuring the temperature of the ring. Every successful hit raises the temperature by a minimum of one degree.
After raising the temperature to 500 degrees, players must attempt to grab their opponents, drag them to the edge of the ring and throw them overboard – causing unimaginable pain as the fire burns through these superstars’ polygonal skin – before they’re the ones being thrown into the fire. This mode should intrigue players who don’t take wrestling too seriously. Those who do, however, may not be amused.
In addition to the Inferno mode, hype has also pushed the idea of creating your own finishing move. This is a cool concept but the execution only makes it half-way to the finish line. That’s because the finishing moves are not based on your own ideas. There is no way to animate a wrestler and make him or her do something completely unique. Players will have to settle for a list of 30+ moves already created by the developers, such as groin kicks, gut kicks, eye rakes, and the mildly devastating mid-section knee strike.
Up to 10 finishing connections (combos, if you will) can be made, but only if the game allows. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to how the game determined when a finisher was complete – it just did. Granted, my move selections were based on how cool they looked on screen, not on wrestling expertise. But since this is a game and not the real thing, there should be more flexibility in how deeply the game is willing to bend reality.
The modes, of course, are only as good as the gameplay that stands in front of them. If you loved SVR 08, you’ll probably love SVR 09 – just not nearly as much. Both games are identical in all the ways that count: the controls, the way each wrestler feels, the animation and camera presentation, and the overall graphic engine remains nearly the same – if not a full 100% – as last year’s game. PS2 gamers felt the burn in ‘07 when the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions were treated to a cornucopia of additions and gameplay enhancements; sadly, many of them cannot be reproduced with the same level of quality for Sony’s eight-year-old system.
If you’re going to play this version, there is one mode that all wrestling fanatics must check out: Road to WrestleMania. While not exclusive to PS2 (the other console versions have it as well), Road to WrestleMania is your first chance at a real story mode. This franchise has tried it before with unmemorable results; likewise for TNA’s first offering. SVR 09 improves on past mistakes by (1) ensuring that the pros are a major part of the story, (2) that common feuds and taunts are involved, and (3) that the real-time sequences and voice work are believable within the realm of entertainment-based wrestling.
Before embarking on this WrestleMania journey, players must choose which superstar to control: Triple H, CM Punk, Undertaker, John Cena, Chris Jericho, or the tag-team duo Mysterio and Batista. Rather than piece together one story to use for the entire group, the developers wrote specific storylines for each character. Ultimately their goals and big dreams do not differ that much. But you’ll see these tales unfold differently, with dedicated hype from the announcers (the Undertaker seems to be very loved. Maybe the announcers are just afraid of him?) and a unique spectacle for each.
Smackdown Vs. Raw 2009 doesn’t break new ground, revitalize the PS2 iterations, or do anything to make you want to stick with the previous generation. But if this console is all you have and you aren’t sick to death (or better yet – don’t even own) SVR 08, this new edition isn’t a bad buy. Just make sure you must have it before shelling out the full price.
Review Scoring Details for WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2009
Minor additions and changes aside, it's last year's game all over again.
We've seen these graphics before. Many times before.
SVR 09 may not contain fresh gameplay but it certainly offers a fresh soundtrack. No, that isn’t a reason to buy a game. But if you’re going to play it and enjoy rock music with an alternative flair, you will love this soundtrack.
The average exhibition match is more difficult than the introductory story (Road to WrestleMania) matches. Strange, no?
Smackdown Vs. Raw 09 is not much more than a modified version of last year's game.
This is a great wrestling series to play with a friend, no question. But the multiplayer aspect hasn't changed enough to reinvigorate those who played the last game to death.
Smackdown Vs. Raw 09 wouldn't be a hard game to praise...if the 08, 07 and 06 editions had never existed. It's really hard to look at this game, which is almost entirely a rehash, and tell wrestling fans to buy it. The diehard crowd will anyway. But if you're not obsessed with the series, wait for the next true evolution (which will likely occur on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3).