Monday, May 25, 2009
Game Review Series Volume 2
--Lace up Your Wrestling Boots and Grab Your Wii Remotes--
Sunday, November 16, 2008
It's that time of year again! Yes I'm talking about another "SmackDown! Vs. RAW" game.
Before you continue to read this, just take note that all opinions are based upon the Wii Version of the game...
I received my copy of "WWE SmackDown Vs. RAW 2009" yesterday and I have to honestly say that, I'm...mostly pleased. The controls are way better than last years game. The setup while it does not stray too much from last years game has some major improvements. You still swing the Wii remote to do a basic attack. A swing in any direction while holding the "A" button will perform a light grapple while a swing with "B" will perform an "interactive grapple". Interactive grapples are improved from last years game. In last years game the formula would be similar to "B + swing...lets say down, would equal knocking your opponent on the floor and then, you are cued to do punch motions to do, multiple punches on your opponent". In this years' game not only can you flick in a vertical or horizontal motion to activate a move but now you can twist the remote. For example, you start a match with a few swings then decide to do an interactive grapple, now you're presented with a few options. For the sake of the example we will say up, which would be a power slam, down would be a low blow and twist will be another move. Twist moves are normally used to perform moves like a quick twist of fate or a 180 degree move in a body slam.
Sadly, there are not many games on Wii that make use of the twist control of the Wii Remote. Just adding that level of control in this game is a breath of fresh air and something that I thank THQ for. Another major addition is the "action" button. Players will no longer automatically pick up a weapon when they walk near it. That helps a lot when you are in a traditional match and you don't want to pick up the weapon, your cheating opponent placed in the ring. While there are good control additions to this game there are still some issues. The lack of a run button still bugs me. Also pausing the game is more of a chore, to much so that I tend to use the "Home" button to pause my game rather than doing the tedious pressing of "+" and "-". To give THQ some advice, this could be solved by allowing "Plus" to be the pause button and "Minus" to be the run button. Something as simple as that will do this game a world of good.
Graphically, I will have to say that the game is a mixed bag. I have seen better character models on GameCube and that is not a compliment, it's tough love. The Wii, the GameCube successor is technically two times more powerful than the GameCube and yet, while the models do look good, they still have a PlayStation 2 look to them. If you need a visual reference of why I'm fussing about this, check out http://gamecube.ign.com and look at the pictures of "WWE Day of Reckoning 2" and then open a new tab and go to http://wii.ign.com and look at the pictures for "WWE SmackDown! Vs. RAW 2009". It is a crying shame that a GameCube game published by the same company back in 2005 has better looking character models than a Wii game published in 2008, especially since the coding language for both systems are almost identical. If you have the better option of having two televisions and both games, you will receive a shocking look at what I am talking about.
Hopefully, THQ will beef up the game in the graphics department in next years installment. As for now, the graphics do their job and it's not a total mess. I'm very tempted to talk about the audience but for the sake of time I'll just say that THQ should switch from a 3-D audience and use high res, pre rendered animations. If THQ needs any lessons, they should contact Capcom and ask for their "Resident Evil Zero" team to give them some pointers. The story on the other hand is where this game shines.
I will do my best not to ruin too much but I want to talk about how much I love the attention to detail in presentation. First off, each "show" (which is usually a cut scene followed by your match and maybe another cut scene depending on the situation) starts off with the traditional fireworks and theme song that you would normally see and hear every Monday, Tuesday and Friday night. While some things are slightly dated (that being WWE's fault), the feeling is very authentic. Wrestler intros are now interactive. You can (for the most part) do their signature poses, high five audience members or tick them off while entering the ring. Another interesting thing that THQ added was a new camera angle when you're outside the ring. Instead of the camera being over head, it's now beside the character, giving you a "in your face" view of the action that the show usually has. My favorite addition is the end of show logo and copyright info that appears at the end of every "show" in the game. Granted it feels like you just watched and episode of "RAW, ECW or SmackDown!" that had only one match and a promo, but it still feels like a show.
The final part of this review is the Nintendo WiFi mode. It's pretty standard. All the match types are playable, with up to four players max. One player per system. You can have "Friend Matches" in which you can play against someone in your friends roster (after receiving that person's 12 digit friend code). Random matches can also be played and you are also ranked. There are also two leader boards, one for your friends and a worldwide board. THQ has announced downloadable content for this game but at this time I do not see anything in any of the WiFi menus showing any proof of this. It is more likely that the downloadable content will be hosted from the Wii's "Shop Channel"
In the end, with the exception of the flaws stated, the overall package of this game is a great one. I am having a total blast playing this game! if you own a Wii and are a wrestling fan, this is definitely a pickup. If you own multiple gaming platforms, I would still say pick this game up. The motion controls and overall feel still makes this game a great party game to play when you have friends or family over.
After review note...
Sorry to say that THQ's plans for downloadable content on the Wii version was eventually scrubbed. A very shameful move if you asked me, considering that Guitar Hero, Rockband, Mega Man 9 and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (WiiWare) and Samba De Amigo, all support Downloadable content. Maybe we will see the inclusion of DLC in "SmackDown vs. Raw 2010".