WWE Smackdown vs RAW 2009 - PS3 review

We’ve long been fans of wrestling on consoles, giving that unique combination of comedy fighting and multiplayer action, where literally anything can happen. But can the latest installation of WWE action on the PlayStation 3 deliver?

Smackdown vs RAW follows the recent trend of uniting wrestlers to give a wider variety of characters and match types, bringing together Smackdown, RAW and ECW, a combination that equals a whole lot of fun. As this holds the official franchise license from WWE, it also means you get the characters true to life, all their trademark moves, entrance tracks, and bonus content straight from the TV coverage you know and love.

First up there are plenty of modes of play to keep you entertained, from exhibition bouts of all types, from individual, through tag teams and up to a 30-man Royal Rumble. This gives great scope to those looking for multiplayer action, as you can fight with four friends and plenty of options, so you don’t get bored. Fighting out of the ring, or popping in for a bit of illegal action when your partner is having his ass kicked. You can do this on single player tag modes, but it’s pretty tedious when the computer hogs all the action.

Graphically Smackdown vs RAW 2009 is something of a mixed bag. You do get some great aspects worthy of next-gen gaming, but then you get occasional elements where things are a little blocky. This doesn’t blight the actual gameplay, however, but does make it feel as though some of the connecting pages were a little rushed. From a sound point of view, however, it is great to hear all the official tracks, but the commentary does run a little dry after a while – but doesn’t it in real life? Some more meaty punches would go down a treat, but then the less said about punching in WWE the better.

You get a huge roster of wrestlers, which are a current crop of characters, including plenty of divas for those who like a bit of lady fighting. The great thing about all these characters is that they bring with them all their signature moves, which is great the fans, and hilarious for every one else. There is also unlockable content, including extra wrestlers, different costumes, venues and the like, which gives some motivation to keep at it, unless you find the commonly-available cheats.

Not that you’ll need my motivation, because Smackdown vs RAW 2009 is great fun, even in single player mode. In terms of difficulty, it doesn’t suffer the same fate as some games where you can never get a pin; by contrast it is verging on too easy. Taking the career path, we had won two belts before anyone managed to even slap our character. But this does make it eminently playable, as you can just dive in and pound some guy into submission.

But this 2009 version really does feel like it circles around WrestleMania XXIV which may excite or bore in equal measure. Road to WrestleMania picks up on the storylines and you get to play through the action with your fights laid out, and various twists that await your chosen character. It adds a little more purpose to playing, with grudge matches and locker room action coming to the fore as you get on TV.

You also set-up tournaments on the fly, which is great if you have a bigger group of people and want to take it in turns to wrestle for some greater purpose. There is a range of creative options too, from the basic Superstar creation, through to creating finishing moves, entrances and customising move-sets. Be careful though lads, the diva creation can be a bit of a distraction and once you’ve selected underwear, there seems little point in adding anything else...

Things really come together in the ring. Long gone are the days of button mashing, with plenty of moves at your character’s disposal, all needing to be timed and perfected, although they are not too difficult to pick up. The great thing though is that you’ll suddenly hit some bizarre move even after days of playing, and never be able to do it again. The trick however, is to keep up the momentum and keep your character on the offensive so your opponent can never get the upper hand. Creative use of the ring too adds some flavour, and taunting from the top rope before diving in glorious slow motion is a sight to behold.

Other creation options allow you to go through a step-by-step process to get those perfect finishing moves down, make the perfect entrance, including custom music and the like. Great fun for when you get your mates over to show off just how much time you’ve spent fiddling with your diva’s settings. Of course you don’t need your friends to come around to your house because there is plenty on offer online too, where you’ll find that the matches are much tougher and if you lose the advantage you’ll be on your back in no time.

Verdict

With no shortage of variety, both in terms of wrestlers and versions of gameplay, Smackdown vs RAW 2009 is sure to entertain. However some of the age old problems are still here, like frequent loading screens, especially in the Road to WrestleMania sections, where each scene seems to need a loading screen – a shame if you just want to get on with the fight. Sometimes too you'll find the camera disappears behind the corner, so you can't see the action, or you'll be on the other side of the ring.

Overall, WWE fans get a real treat here, including some bonus content from WrestleMania, but there are laughs aplenty to be had for those who just want a change from driving or shooting.