Title: WWE Smackdown! vs. Raw
Company: THQ Inc.
Platform: Playstation 2

The latest, and possible last THQ video game release for WWE has set video game consoles on fire, as Smackdown! vs. Raw invades PS2 consoles across the world.

The newest title in the Smackdown series looked quite promising from the preview information and commercials, despite Stacy Kiebler and Torrie Wilson. There are a lot of new features in the game and a bunch of changes from the last title, Here Comes the Pain, so let’s look at each, and we’ll rate the game based on a plus, minus, or equal scale for each feature.

  • Online Play: This is a definite plus. While this review did not incorporate online play, this feature has been left out of a wrestling game for far too long.
  • Voice-overs: We’ll give this one a plus as well. The technology here is absolutely incredible, with some decent recordings from superstars and commentators mixing pretty accurately with the speaking animation. The commentary by JR, Jerry Lawler, Michael Cole and Tazz does get repetitive, but it’s not enough of an issue to detract from the game.
  • Pre-Match contests: This one an equal. Most matches will start with either a shoving match or test-of-strength as a way to establish early control. While this is a pretty cool feature, it can get very repetitive and boring.
  • Chopfests: A definite plus here. This has become a big part of WWE matches (particularly with Ric Flair, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit), so it adds a bit more of an actual match feel to the game.
  • Storyline: Big, big minus here. After finishing one season, the second season started out with the same challenge from Rene Dupree. This is totally unacceptable and should be adjusted. Plus, there are way too many storylines that center around the Divas, especially ones that aren’t appropriate for younger gamers to see.
  • Clean/Dirty meter: This one gets a minus. These meters fill throughout the game as your babyface does high risk moves or taunts or your heel tries to cheat to win. Once the meter is full, your grappler is powered up for a few moments. This system is somewhat flawed, since a heel should theoretically get more “dirty heat” for taunting than a babyface should. It’s an interesting feature, but not one that has been developed enough to warrant being part of the game.
  • Expanded moveset: A plus here. There’s a couple new moves that come with the new sitting position, lifted perfectly from No Mercy a few years back. The only real problem is the reality that 90% of the roster already have a smaller moveset than their digital counterparts, so a bit of realism is lost.
  • Escape submissions: This is most definitely a plus. While it will take some time to get used to the new format for the hardened gamer, the new escape/reverse bar is a very well done feature.
  • Create-a-belt: Minus! While the idea of creating your own belt is very cool, the belts can only be used in the PPV mode, and more importantly have to be bought with money earned from the season or challenge modes.
  • Challenges: Another one for the plus side. Accomplishing tasks at four different levels gives you extra cash to spend in the Shopzone, which is another plus since you can now repeatedly buy points for your created superstars.

So when we total up the points, there’s five plusses, three minuses and one equal. Not entirely a good score, but it could be a lot worse.

When you look at the game as a whole, there is a lot to like about Smackdown! vs. Raw, but ultimately the question is as it is every year -– is it worth buying the new game when the older game is already in your collection or can be had for a cheaper price? In this case, there’s enough reasonable doubt that an immediate purchase can be held off, though ignoring the game completely is not necessary. Best bet is to pick this one up for a weekend of trying before buying.