STAFF REVIEW of WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 (Xbox 360)

Saturday, November 22, 2008.
by Rick Wallace

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 Box art THQ powerslams the latest version of the WWE Smackdown vs Raw series onto the Xbox 360 console. Over the year this title has increased in quality and its safe to say that the 2009 version of the game has once again raised the bar in the series. With the addition of create-a-finisher along with tag team partner interventions and all new superstar abilities the game keeps getting closer and closer to what you expect to see every time you watch a WWE presentation. Oh did I mention the Hell in a Cell matches? The game ships with 54+ wrestlers on its roster from all 3 show brands. Each championship belt will be present and in the hands of the current champion when the game was developed.

The graphics are superb and the character models resemble their real life counterparts completely. It really is amazing when you look at the amount of small detail that is put into each character model. The Divas look amazingly beautiful as well with each and every detail of their....well...lets just say they are very life like as well. Jerry ?The King? Lawlor would be in puppy heaven. The arenas are well done and the amount of unique crowd members is pretty high which makes for a non repetitious crowd that seems to move independently. One of the standout features when it comes to the graphical nature of the game is the player entrances. As I said earlier the game has gotten better each year and that is completely evident in the entrances. You'll get that same anxious feeling from the entrance of The Undertaker as you would watching it on TV or even better in person.

The sounds in the game are in depth and it looks like a lot of voiceover work was done by all of your high profile characters in the WWE business from announcers to the wrestlers themselves. The ring announcing is spot on when it comes to match commentary and the JR/King combo is thankfully still in this game. They must have done all the recording before JR made the move to Smackdown earlier this year. All of wrestler musical entrances are true to life, well at least for the time when the wrestler was of the persona portrayed in the game. We all know how wrestlers love to change identities and theme song entrances.

There are plenty of game modes to keep you busy for quite sometime. You'll be able to jump into exhibition matches by yourself or with a buddy. Or maybe you'll want to take one of 6 predetermined Superstars on the ?Road to Wrestlemania?.You'll also have your typical career mode where you can take any wrestler of your choosing and guide them to championships throughout their wrestling career. There is a ?Create? option that allows you to create your own finishers, superstars, entrances and move-sets. And of course you have your Xbox Live option which includes Ranked Matches, Player Matches, and the Highlight reel where you can upload or download screenshots and user-created highlight reels. I'll go into the game modes in a little more detail in a bit.

For you know what to expect when it comes to game modes and options so let's talk about the gameplay for a bit. The controls are fairly simple and just take some time to learn which button or button correspond with each maneuver. All buttons on the controller have some sort of use to them including both analog sticks. Different moves will require different button combinations such as holding the right bumper and moving the left stick will cause you to run. You will quickly notice that the buttons are extremely responsive and that means everything in a wrestling game.

Most of the time the collision detection seemed to be very well done and right where it should be. I ran into a few instances of wrestlers running through a boot to the face. I also noticed a few punches that I threw which I thought I had landed had no effect on my opponent. But these instances were far and few between. I would easily say that the collision detection is right where it should be 98% of the time. Tagging in and out of matches seems to work almost flawlessly and frustration doesnt set in all that much as it has in the past. Again, I think that goes hand in hand with the fact that the collision detection is well done and the controls are very good.

THQ has also included some all new abilities and maneuvers for you to take advantage of in your matches. A total of 21 to be exact are included and set each wrestler apart from one another giving each an advantage over opponents in certain situations. Each wrestler will have the special ability listed in their attributes like Referee Shield where you hide behind a referee while shoving him into an opponent or being a certain type of match specialist. Of course all these abilities are predetermined and can be found when viewing a wrestler's details.

One other thing I wanted to mention was the inclusion of illegal tag team moves. Your partner on the outside of the ring waiting on the tag can now intervene in the match illegally such as distracting the referee, pulling down the top rope to allow for an opponent to fly over the rope, or even forcing a tag from your partner by slapping them on the back. These maneuvers put a whole new spin on things and really allow you to play as the real life tag team partners would such as DX.

So lets talk about the game modes a bit. In Exhibition mode you can take and wrestler or wrestlers and pit them up against anyone you like. You'll have the standard one on one, two on two, triple threat, fatal-4-way, 6 man, handicap and royal rumble matches to choose from. Each of those option has multiple conditions or match types you can set . In all the total numbers of unique matches you can create is 56. How is that for variety?

The Road to Wrestlemania is a really neat option that allows you to play through a storyline as one of 6 predetermined superstars - Triple H, CM Punk, Undertaker, John Cena, Chris Jericho, or Batista and Rey Mysterio. The Batista/Mysterio combination can be played as alone or co-op with a buddy. Your goal is obviously to progress through the story and ultimately meeting up with your opponent in a Wrestlemania Match. You'll face off in various matches along the way against various opponents all connected with the storyline in one way or another. Typical WWE creative juices are flowing in this mode and the storylines are actually quite good and enjoyable as you progress from show to show. Now some will probably be upset that you can only choose from 6 superstars in this mode and you cannot use your own Created Superstar or other favorite wrestlers. While I would love to see a Road to Wrestlemania option for every wrestler on the roster this would really be a whole new game itself. And truthfully most folks will want to play with their created superstar anyhow in the other modes, so to me this is no big deal.

Career mode allows you to take any wrestler from the roster and run them throughout a career in the WWE. You can use a real life wrestler or use your created superstar. There isn't much different This mode is where you'll increase your created superstars rating by selecting them as your character and progressing through the mode. You'll have the opportunity to win all the belts, but watch out because your same goals of obtaining gold are the same goals of everyone in the WWE locker room. Form alliances and enemies as you make your way to legendary status.

In this year's game you can now create your own finishing moves. You'll have up to 10 slots to piece together moves to create your overall finisher. With each manuever the list will deplete in options mostly due to your final positioning after the last move which makes complete sense. You'll string together your combo and finally select your finishing maneuver. You'll see a preview of the move and once you are satisfied with the final result just click finish and save it. Once saved you can apply this manuever to your created wrestler. The option is very basic and easy to use and really does work well. Its agreat start and I am looking forward to how they will evolve this option in future games.

Xbox Live of course is included and you'll be able to play with up to 3 others in tag team bouts or go one on one in ranked or player matches. You'll have the option to include created wrestlers and created finishers in the match if you like as well. Online player seemed very smooth and very little lag was experienced during my online time. I did notice a little issue with collision detection at times but that could also be the product of different connection speeds and not necessarily the game itself.

While playing any of these modes you will come across the new Inferno Match that THQ has included with this years game. In an inferno match you primary goal is to throw your opponent out of the ring through the fire that surrounds it. The temperature of the ring increases with every blow, and will increase to its maximum temperature if a finisher is hit at any point during the match. You'll have to knock the sense out of your opponent and then grapple them, dragging them to the edge fo the ring and then throw them through the flames over the top rope. The match type is very well done and is a lot of fun to play. Any new match types are always a welcome addition to the game for sure.

Overall, WWE Smackdown vs Raw definitely lays the smack down on its predecessors and opposition. While the game may not be perfect, it is however a very good game and great representation of the WWE. All of your favorite superstars are included and all the match types you want are there for your enjoyment. The addition of all the new features is welcome and definitely adds to the spice the game already has for wrestling fans across the video game world. I would highly recommend this years title for anyone out there that enjoys wrestling. Each year the title has gotten bigger and better and they have really done well raising the bar this year and setting a higher bar for 2010's game. Some may feel the game is just a rehash of last year's game but I really feel the game has made plenty of steps forward making it a must have for wrestling fans.

Something I would love to see in any sports game is a spectator mode of course. The ability to watch other matches online while they are taking place would be absolutely huge and would only expand the fanbase of the series. Something else I would like to see is the ability to scan you own face into the create a wrestler mode where you could create a real life representation of yourself to take into the career modes or online against other opponents.

Overall: 8.1 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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