Saturday, January 10, 2009

WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009, By Greg Miller - Good Gear Guide - 11th November 2008

Rating 4 stars

Price $99.95

Reviewed on Xbox 360


WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 is a good game but one that falls short of its potential. The Roster Editor is a welcome addition, Create-A-Finisher could be deeper but is a great first effort, the Inferno Match is over-the-top but fun, and Road to WrestleMania is one of the best story modes I've seen in a wrestling game in years. However, I can't shake the feeling that I'm playing last year's game when we get down to the nitty gritty match mechanics.

ON paper, it seems like WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 should cruise to wrestling game greatness.

The title packs more than 60 wrestlers, 14 one-on-one match types including the new Inferno option, the promise of downloadable content before the holidays, a new story mode, better AI, a focus on tag teams and the ability to save replays and create/share your own Highlights Reels.

However, when you get into the punching, grappling, and slamming that make up the game, the world begins to feel like well worn territory. In the end, we have a game that improves on last year's outing in a number of ways but falls short of putting on the five-star bout many were expecting thanks to a noticeably stale feeling.

Don't get me wrong, SVR 09 is a fun game. The solid controls from last year are back – left stick to move, right stick to grapple, reversals via the shoulder buttons, and so on – and come with a few minor touches such as the game flashing "Signature Move" when you can set off a stored special as well as the ability to enter the ring via the steel steps. These are welcome additions, but it's pretty much exactly what you saw last year. Still, there are a handful of other bells and whistles to grab your attention.

For starters, the AI in SVR 09 doesn't suck for a change. On Legend, the computer's still going to be reversal heavy, but it's also going to store Finishers, break up pins in tag matches, and basically give you a run for your money. If you're not happy with how the AI is acting, SVR 09 finally gives us sliders to adjust the game's thinking. You can make Finishers more or less powerful, you can adjust how much the computer reverses, and you can even modify momentum rates.

Customization like the sliders is a theme in this game. While you're messing with menu, a smattering of entrance music is playing as a soundtrack. If you don't like a particular song, you can press in your left stick and skip to the next track. Via the game's Roster Editor, you can mold the WWE as you see fit with a few button clicks – change what brand people are on, give and take away championships, decide who is clean and who is dirty. There are alternate attires for the likes of CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho, and others; there are 19 arenas; and you can unlock the WCW brand and classic championship.

Of course, this wouldn't be a professional wrestling game if it didn't add some new gimmick matches. The Inferno Match is an interesting bout that looks good but always ends a bit silly. You and your opponent duke it out in a ring where the edges are set ablaze. As you pull off moves, the flames leap and the temperature in the lower left corner rises. When the magic number reaches 500 degrees, you're supposed to drag your opponent to the ropes and toss him into the fire. When one of you is successful a body flies over the ropes and that guy's clothing is set one fire.

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