Review: WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 (Wii)
Posted 22 Nov 2008 at 22:47 by Franklin Hughes
|"The camera can also be a bit troublesome at times, often panning in too close to the action cutting off the tops of characters heads like an amateur photographer."
As the end of the year approaches everyone starts to get into their Christmas and New Years routines. In the gaming industry this also means the customary yearly updates on sports titles. This time N-Europe (well just this reviewer actually) takes the new instalment of WWE Smackdown vs. Raw to the virtual squared circle and begin the soap opera beat downs of "sports entertainment".
Now unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I did not get the chance to sample the 2008 edition on the Wii so I can't make any personal comparisons but from what I have been told by people who have, 2009 is a vast improvement on every aspect from match type choices, roasters and gameplay.
As far as match types go you have almost every possible choice available, from the standard one on one, to Hell in a Cell, Money in the Bank, Gauntlet (unlockable) and even Royal Rumble. The only things missing are the Inferno match which is present in the PS3 and 360 versions and Bra & Panties matches for the Diva's (ed: Admittedly a guilty pleasure when I played Day of Reckoning 2 on the Gamecube). And while there is a 6-Man Elimination option there is no Elimination Chamber, with the popularity of this match in the actual show and the ability to have 6 wrestlers in the ring at once you would think constructing a specialised cage around the ring would have been a no brainer.
Also while TLC (Tables, Ladders, Chairs) is present and accounted for, oddly the rules have been altered. As wrestling fans would know TLC is just a Ladder match with added weapons where the objective is to climb a ladder and grab the belt hanging above the ring. However in SDvsR09 there's nothing hanging above the ring, while you still have all three objects you only win by pinfall or submission. This created much confusion for this reviewer having climbed the ladder only to find nothing to grab. One wonders how the developers could have made such an oversight? These few niggles aside you'll still have plenty of options for different match settings.
Control your anger and let loose.
In the presentation department the character designs are solid, with all characters accurately representing their real world counterparts, although these models do not seem to be much of an improvement over those used in Day of Reckoning 2 on the Gamecube they still do their job nicely. Wrestlers will also enter arenas wearing a belt if they hold one and will be announced as that champion which is a nice addition. What is disappointing however is the ugly crowd with each model made up of very low poly counts. This isn't so bad during matches but when the camera zooms in on them during an entrance sequence you wonder why the developers would want to highlight such poor quality models. This is only made worse when you go back to DoR2 and realise the crowd models there on a last generation machine actually look better than they do in this game. The camera can also be a bit troublesome at times, often panning in too close to the action cutting off the tops of characters heads like an amateur photographer. With no option to alter the camera angle either this can get annoying quickly.
Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 has a number of modes to choose from. Starting with Exhibition which allows you to choose from any of the match types available to jump into a quick fight either solo or in multiplayer. If you choose to pick a wrestler who holds a title you also get the option to put that title on the line to spice things up. Then for the season mode there is actually two options. "Road to Wrestlemania" is the "Story Mode" and then you have a secondary "Career Mode". In the story mode you choose to be one of six WWE Superstars and start 83 days before Wrestlemania and well do as the title says, make your way down the "Road to Wrestlemania". To choose from your have Triple H, CM Punk, Chris Jericho, John Cena, Undertaker and a special tag-team story with Batista and Rey Mysterio which can be played solo or co-op. Each character has their own unique story tailored around them and not all of them involve titles just a good old fashioned feud that needs to be put to an end on the grandest stage of them all.
The stories are all pretty good, a few even better than some of the ones WWE have been churning out on the TV lately too. Including some strange ones to boot, like Santino and Finley teaming up with an unknown figure to feud against Undertaker while calling themselves the "New Skool" or MVP giving up his US citizenship to start his own country within the WWE ring called "Better-Than-U-Topia". Everything plays out as if you were watching the TV show. With each show starting like it does on TV, an opening fireworks display and introduction by the commentators as they give a quick recap on what happened "last week" and what the current show could have in store. All focused just on your storyline as if you are the main event. At the end of each match it is also made out to look like the end of the show with the shows logo appearing in the bottom left corner as whatever celebration or event plays out, just like on the show. Add to this voice-overs done by the actual wrestlers for the various scenes, story specific commentary during matches and some stories offering a branching story for more than one ending you will enjoy them all, even if it's only just to see what happens. Unlockables are also obtained in this mode by fulfilling certain conditions during matches, you are told these conditions before the match so need to worry about guessing what needs to be done.
Escape the cage by going over the top, hope your not afraid of heights, if you are you can use the door also.
The only down side to the story mode is of course the limited choice in characters. This is where the Career Mode comes in allowing you to pick any character from the roaster or your own created wrestler (CAW). Chances are you'll be using your CAW's here as it is the only way to alter stats. More on that later. The other difference between this and Road to Wreslemania is there is no story line involved. You pick your character and are thrown into the Intercontinental Title race and given a choice between four wrestlers for who you want to fight. At the end of each fight you are rated on your performance and awarded stars between one to five. In order to challenge for the title you must earn the set number of stars (usually 15) by fighting the four wrestlers your presented with. Achieve that and you must then fight one of the same four (your choice) in a number one contenders match under a special condition (eg: Cage match), win that and you get your title shot. Win the title and you unlock two more title paths, choose one and repeat. For Tag titles you choose your partner from one of the people you've already beat in previous title paths.
What is odd about this is you take the title you just won with you to the next path. And it's not until you've unlocked the final two title paths that you are given the option to defend a title you currently hold. And with this being an option you can continue on to the remaining titles and by the end you alone will hold every title in the WWE (with the exception of Womens Championship), which is a bit strange. A better model would have been to copy the No Mercy story mode, have a generic storyline for each title using subtitles/speech bubbles to tell the story since voice overs would be nigh on impossible if you can pick any character from the whole roaster.
So what did I mean about the CAW's stats earlier? Well while you have a plethora of options while creating your own superstar, or trying to re-create wrestlers not in the game, from different companies or other famous faces which should be no problem for those creative enough. The one thing you can't do is alter the stats of your CAW. Where in previous games you would be given a set amount of stat points to distribute as you wish amongst the various attributes you have no such option here. Instead you can bring your CAW into the Career Mode and at the end of each match you will also be award stat points which the game will add to the various stats based on how you fought. For example to increase your speed use a lot of running or top rope attacks, to increase strength use a lot of strong grapples and strikes, etc.
Use the nunchuck and wiimote to controls punches, use both at the same time to headbutt.
This is a nice idea but this means having to go through Career Mode with every CAW you make to alter their stats… unless you just finish it once with one, copy him and then alter the appearance of the copy. But this will leave all your CAWs with similar stats, but it's better than them all being super weak.
To go along with the CAW mode you can also "Create an Entrance", this is a feature that THQ pushed heavily as a feature for the Wii. But I found it very lacklustre as all you can do is choose what moves your character can do as they enter, the music and video displayed on the titantron. You get no control over camera angles, lighting or fireworks (unless the firework is attached to a chosen action like Kane's in ring action). Considering these options were available in the DoR games on the Gamecube to see them missing here is highly disappointing. No SD card support to allow for custom entrance music for your CAWs is another disappointing omission that would have been a welcome new addition.
The real draw of the entrances in the Wii version is they are turned into a little mini game, allowing you to use motion gestures to get your character to do various actions. Performing these right can partially fill your momentum meter before the match even starts. After matches you get something similar where you can choose to either taunt the opponent, grab a weapon and continue the beat down, lift them up and shake their hand or get the ref to raise your hand (with the option to clothesline him then if you want).
Online is also present which is a first for a wrestling game on the Wii. You can play in any match type with up to four players (but only one per console) with either friends (yes friend codes galore) or random people. Points are awarded after matches with friend and overall online leaderboards available for viewing. Play experience here is dependent though on the possibility of lag, like Smash Bros. sometimes it's good sometimes it's not. The interactive match endings can make things interesting here too, to get an insight into random peoples mindset. I've heard of people who like to be cruel and continue beating you after the match, but I was surprised that every time I lost I seem to get the nice people who shake my hand (I do the same if anyone is wondering).
The top of the ladder is not a safe place to be fighting.
Finally we come to the controls and motions are the order of the day. Basic striking is done by swinging the wiimote, light grapples by holding A (with or without a direction on the nunchucks analogue stick for different moves) and swinging the wiimote. Strong grapples are done the same but with the B button, when doing strong grapples at certain points (eg: opponent in headlock) you'll be given a few motion prompts with each one giving you a different move. The controls work well with the motions being recognised most of the time (for arguments sake lets say 90% success rate). Prompts also appear during Finishers and if your movement is timed right you deal more damage. And irish whipping is done by swinging the nunchuck and holding a direction you want to throw the opponent. The only issues I have is with the grapples. I see no need for the "button plus swing" or the two different buttons for light and strong moves. Again going back to previous games like DoR, grapples should be initiated by a quick press of the A button for light grapples and holding it down for strong grapples. With motions used for the various prompt points during a strong grapple. This would then free up the B button for something else, like RUN. Yes there is no run button, the only ways to run are by swinging the wiimote while too far away for a normal striking move which then makes you do a running strike or while outside the ring and continually moving in one direction turns into a run.
The actual gameplay then is very arcadey which will be a let down for fans of games like No Mercy and DoR2, leading to fights that don't last very long with little technical depth. Characters have a basic health bar and a momentum meter and that's it. No "body" meter which means targeting a particular limb to continually damage makes no difference. To win simply beat your opponent until their health is depleted and they are in "danger mode" perform a strong move to knock them down (preferably a finisher) and chances are a pin or submission is certain. With an inability to counter finishers and no "momentum shift" moves (again both seen in DoR2 already) to keep things interesting the gameplay seems to have taken a step backwards since the Gamecube days.
SDvsR09 is overall a good game but with a few downsides that see it falling short of being the main event. A great story mode and decent enough career mode mode will keep the single player entertained, though wrestling game vets might want to up the difficulty to Hard or Legend to get a challenge out it. Exhibition while having a ton of match options is best played in multiplayer and online is great when the lag doesn't get in the way. With controls that work well for what they are, if the few faults were to be addressed in next years installment and hopefully motion plus is added to improve on the motion controls further we could, dare I say finally have a game to challenge No Mercy.
N-Europe Final Verdict
The story mode is great even if the character choice is limited. And while the gameplay is very arcade like it's still enjoyable by either upping the difficulty or playing with mates. Online is fun too unless your unlucky enough to get bad lag.
Motion Controls work well
Interactive Entrances and Post Match scenes.
No SD Card Support for CAW music.
“Create an Entrance” far too basic for the hype it received
No Run Button!!